Explorer of the Seas Cruise Review by pvmkmyer: Explorer of the Seas - Canada/New England
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Explorer of the Seas - Canada/New England
Background: We are a married couple in our 50's. We traveled with our two adult daughters, who are 23 and 21. We have been on at least 12 cruises. This was not our first RCI cruise, but it has been at least 10 years since we sailed with this company. We planned this family vacation and chose this itinerary because no one in my family has been to this area (except me).
Embarkation: We arrived at Newark airport the day before and transferred to our hotel, the Grand Hyatt Jersey City. I got this hotel for $60 per room on Priceline and highly recommend it. The view alone is worth much more than I paid, with a spectacular view over lower Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty. The next day we left our hotel at around 11:30 and we were at the port in about 15 minutes. Embarkation was easy. The porter filled out the baggage tags for us, we completed the paperwork and pictures in about 10-15 minutes, and were directed to the waiting area to board our bus to the ship. My wife uses an More electric scooter so we didn't have to wait for our numbers to be called, and we had very little wait. We were on board in less than 45 minutes from our arrival at the port, and went to the Windjammer Cafe for lunch -- along with seemingly everyone else.
Cabin: We had a balcony handicapped cabin on deck 7 and our girls had an inside directly across the hall(room 7301) which overlooked the central Promenade. This is a great inside room because it has a small sitting area in a bay window which overlooks the central atrium of the ship, so you don't get claustrophobic like your typical inside room. Our cabin was very large, about 50% larger than the standard balcony because it was handicapped equipped. I was disappointed with the balcony. As soon as we arrived I opened the door to the balcony and went out. There were paint chips on the floor and furniture which I had to dust off in order to sit down. The plexiglass which is between the railing and the floor was so filthy you could barely see through it, and it was never cleaned during the length of the cruise. The bathroom had some tiles that needed some work. Aside from that it was a good cabin, and actually had enough electric plugs. The bed is high enough so you can store the suitcases underneath--a nice touch. Unlike Princess, there is no fresh fruit delivered to your room each day. I suppose it could be if we had asked.
Public Rooms: This is a huge ship. Maximum capacity is about 3800 passengers. Our waiter told us there were about 3100 on this cruise. The ship rarely felt crowded, except the casino. The overall decor is not my taste, a bit too garish, but that's just me. It all seemed a bit "over the top" for my taste, but others I'm sure will feel differently. The central promenade arcade is a great idea. Our favorite spots on board were Dizzy's, in the Viking Crown Lounge on top of the ship, and the Schooner Bar. My daughters were trying to stop us from comparing this ship to Princess, but it was hard not to. On Princess I always noticed that someone was constantly cleaning and painting. I didn't notice this on the EOS.
Entertainment: We saw only one production show, which was pretty good. I always feel that most of these shows have a somewhat amateurish quality, but this show was better than most. The ice show should not be missed. The skaters can't do the really complex multiple jumps you'd see in the olympics, simply because the rink isn't that big and they can't get up as much speed. But what they can do in the limited space is amazing. We had no problem getting tickets or getting in to the show and did not have the problems with crowds noted in other reviews. We spent most nights after dinner in the Schooner Bar listening to the piano bar music. One small sore point: since this is an ice show it is obviously chilly in the arena, yet you couldn't get any hot coffee drinks from the bar, which wasn't equipped with a coffee maker or espresso machine.
In-room entertainment was lacking. They showed the same movies over and over and over again in several different languages. I can practically recite Casino Royale in my sleep. The same tennis match from the US Open was shown multiple times. I thought those guys would never break the tie! Seemed like they were at it for days. It was almost impossible to get information on the ship. The "Cruise Compass" channel was invariably selling the shore excursions, and it was next to impossible to get a weather report. For some reason the Cruise Compass reported the same weather almost every day--partly cloudy and 87-- even though it was only 70 degrees in Halifax, St. John, Bar Harbor, and Portland. I think they were using the Caribbean weather reports and someone forgot to tell them that this St. John was in New Brunswick, not the Virgin Islands.
Casino: We went once and never went again. For anyone using a wheelchair or scooter (and there were a lot of them on this cruise) the casino is impossible to navigate. It is so tight you have to ask virtually everyone in front of you to move their chairs. In fact, it was such a problem that when we had to traverse the ship we always had to make sure we weren't on deck 4 so we could avoid the casino.
Dining: We were seated in the Da Gama dining room (deck 4) at a table for 4. Our waiter was very good, the assistant waiter not so much. In fact, our waiter ended up doing a lot more work because the assistant never seemed to be around, including refilling water glasses and breads, clearing plates, etc. I was never able to get my coffee refilled after dinner the entire time. The dining room food was okay. If you like vegetables, be sure to order a double portion so you'll get a decent amount. I would say there were only a couple dishes that really stood out as being better than mediocre. There were a couple dishes that were barely edible (my Grand Marnier souffle had no taste and was undercooked), but mostly it was just okay, not bad but not great. A few nights steaks or roast beef were offered either medium rare or medium well--no other temperatures were available. We all thought the selection of entrees was very limited. The appetizers often seemed more interesting, and tasted better, than the main course. I don't expect a gourmet dining experience, but other cruise lines, especially Princess, are able to turn out much better banquet-style food than on EOS. Most food and desserts are pretty bland. I think RCI purposely does not use much salt in cooking and it shows. It's not a problem for other courses when you can use a salt shaker, but you can't add salt from a shaker to desserts, and they simply didn't taste like anything. The food in the Windjammer was good, with lots of selections. Not everything was great but there was so much that you could always find something pleasing. The omelets at breakfast were made-to-order, which is a nice touch. We ordered room service a few times. Again, breakfast was okay, nothing special. The pancakes, both in the dining room and at the Windjammer, are inedible. Both my daughter and I had to order something else. Our favorite dining experience was lunch at Johnny Rocket's -- much better than any Johnny Rocket I've been to on land.
We didn't use any ship excursions, so I can't comment. We enjoyed the ports and were not disappointed. We did not have any problems waiting to disembark the ship in any port, even at Bar Harbor when we had to use tenders. The tender operation was very efficient.
Disembarkation: This was a disaster. We were in the third group called, even though we had no flight to catch. All handicapped people were directed to gather at one lounge to be escorted down in an elevator. Only one person could accompany the handicapped passenger due to space concerns, so our daughters exited with the other passengers. The ship had one elevator for this process, and as I previously said, there were a lot of handicapped people on this ship. It took 40 minutes to get on the elevator and it was starting to get ugly. The lounge wasn't big enough for all the passengers needing assistance. The ship required everyone else to walk down the stairs between decks two and one in order to exit, so if you were handicapped you had to wait for the one available elevator which was controlled by the crew with an electronic passkey. Why they only had one elevator available, when there were 4 elevators at the location, is beyond me. Our daughters were waiting for us with the luggage and they had been off the ship for at least 30 minutes before we finally showed up.
Overall: The EOS is a large ship and this does cause some challenges. Communication was not good. At Halifax we were told 2 different arrival times by the Cruise Compass and our waiter, (the waiters give you an update for the next day's events after dinner). We went to guest relations to verify the arrival time since we had hired a driver for our day in Halifax. They didn't know the correct time either and had to call the bridge to verify the correct arrival time. Apparently there was a large snafu at Bar Harbor, when the ship had to clear immigration and the officials were late. The ship had all passengers using the ship's shore excursions report to one deck with all the non-citizen passengers. This apparently became a huge ordeal and I heard some people say they saw very little of this beautiful port because it took up to 4 hours to disembark the ship. Fortunately we did not have that problem, and although there was a long line for the authorities, it moved quickly once they started the process. The passengers on this ship were middle-aged to seniors. There was almost no one our daughters' ages and very few in even their early 30's. There were almost no children. I'm sure this was due to the ship leaving on the Friday of Labor Day weekend, when kids would be returning to school. The sailing prior to this one, to Bermuda, apparently had 1200 children on board!
My overall impression is that RCI is good, but just a tad below the standards I'm used to on Princess, and the Princess food is much better, at least compared to this particular ship. I don't think I'll be taking RCI again any time soon. Less
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