10/21 Bermuda-10/26 Caribbean Back to back
RCCL history, 6 cruises on the Explorer of the Seas
We arrived to port late for us at 2:30 on 10/21. We normally arrive about 12:30 so we were afraid there would be a lot of traffic. It was perfect! Plenty of spaces to unload, we breezed right in and thru priority check in and were on the ship in about 20 minutes from arriving in Port. We went right to our cabin and than grabbed a quick bite to eat in the Windjammer.
Our first cabin was JS 1612 which is on deck 10 on the end of the hump. The cabin was in excellent condition with new carpet. The balcony was a bit odd as it had a pipe wall that split the balcony and the one of the balcony tapered to a narrow end. Some passengers may consider this balcony an obstructed view but it actually worked out well for cooler sailing out of NY in Oct as it blocked more of the wind. Muster was at 4:30 and was the same as always except we were on deck 4. Depending on the JS we have sometimes it's on deck 4 and sometimes we are put in a dining room.
We had a perfect sailaway at 5pm with beautiful weather and calm seas. We always watch sailaway from our balcony on 10 and we can even hear the pool band!
The ship is in great condition with new carpeting in over 500 cabins, new pool carpet, new weatherproof pool greenery for winter cruises out of Bayonne. It is very well maintained and you will see crew painting and cleaning constantly so the Explorer stays in great condition. The one area that needs a facelift is the mini golf course but as we are now going into winter we probably will not see that updated until spring but it's still fun to play a round of mini golf as it is now!
Many new shows and activities are planned for the 12 night cruises and other winter cruises. We were told blankets, hot drinks and soup will be available on pool decks for first cold days out to sea and we look forward to sailing this winter!
Bermuda was a smooth sail with perfect weather. We took the ferry to Hamilton the first day and the second day we enjoyed Kings Wharf. We shopped and went swimming at Snorkel Park which has now become very popular. It had been the best kept secret for awhile but more people know about it now.
We arrived back in Bayonne on time on 10/26. Our favorite concierge, Ricky, had us fill out a custom form a few days before and give it to him and he took care of the transfer perfectly. We were also contacted by Guest Relations Brian Clarke to be sure everything was arranged so that we could remain on the ship instead of having to get off in port like we did in June. Hotel Director Terry Lunden met us that morning at our cabin to be sure the move to owners suite 1608 went smoothly and it did. We were very pleased that RCCL now has a smooth transition plan in place for back to backs and the process was very easy now. I received a phone call from RCCL on Tuesday evening checking to be sure all went well on our cruise this time with the B to B transfer and I thought that was very nice that they were concerned enough to call.
1608 is just forward of the hump and it was one cabin away from our JS 1612 so it made the move easy being so close. 1608 is a very pretty cabin and overall in very good shape. We enjoyed the spacious area and the amenities. Both 1612 and 1608 are close to the stairs and elevators which makes it easy to get around the ship. Our steward for 1612 was Gerald and Berrington was our steward for 1608 and both men did an excellent job of taking good care of our cabins.
Speaking of back to backs we met one couple who were on their 4th cruise and another on their 3rd cruise in a row as back to backs and there were 6 others like ourselves that were doing 2 cruises. We have future B to B's also booked as we enjoy the 14 nights onboard.
10/26 was a cold dreary day and we sailed into rain on our way to the caribbean. Our itinerary was planned to be Labadee, Dominican Republic, St. Thomas and San Juan. However we ran into tropical depression Noel that caused heavy rainfalls and wind damage in Labadee and the Dominican Republic and due to the storm it was not safe for us to go into these ports.
Captain Erik announced that due to Noel we would be going to St. Maarten instead which was a huge bonus as far as we were concerned as we love St. Maarten. A word about Captain Erik. He did an excellent job of keeping us safe both thru the time when Noel was just a tropical depression to sailing back home when Noel was now a hurricane. Captain Erik kept us informed and also gave a detailed explanation of the weather and our course from the bridge throughout the cruise. We have had the pleasure of speaking with Captain Erik several times and we are very impressed with how experienced and dedicated he is as master of the Explorer. We are very comfortable sailing thru any weather conditions with this Captain as we have full faith in his abilities and we are glad he is one of the Captains of the Explorer and look forward to sailing with him on many cruises.
We had very nice weather in St. Maarten where we spent the day at Big Bay Beach which is on the boardwalk a short walk away from the shops in town. The beach offers lounge chair rentals at 5.00 a piece, umbrellas and waiter service and it's a short ferry ride from the ship. Ferry passes are 5.00 a person for round trip for ferry service. It was an overcast day when we arrived in St. Thomas so we decided to spend some time at the Havensight Mall to shop. This is really a nice place to shop as there are just tons of stores and the area is huge yet easy to walk around. We found the town is just too congested with traffic anymore and Havensight is a short walk from the ship.
Next stop was San Juan and it was very hot as usual and as we've been there before we decided to just stay on the ship and relax by the pool.
During our Bermuda cruise the CL had a comfortable amount of people in it but on our 10/26 over 200 Diamonds were expected onboard plus all the suite guests so they opened the Balboa room on deck 3 which is the Magellan Dining Room Annex. This room worked very well for the CL overflow and we liked it much better than Cloud Nine that they've opened in the past for overflow. Ricky was our concierge and as always he did an outstanding job and we will miss him on our 12/2 cruise as he'll be on vacation.
We dined in Portofino's' 3 times and our service was excellent as was the food. If you have not been to Portofino's yet I really suggest you try it as it's outstanding. Just to note Portofino's was booked solid by the second morning of the 5 night Bermuda so if you plan to dine there reserve as soon as you board.
We had 8:30 seating in the Magellan and we had the best headwaitress we've ever had on the Explorer and her name is Vilma. All the tables in her section were commenting on what a wonderful job she did all week and everyone was very impressed with her. Our waiter and assistant waiter were very good and we enjoyed our meals the evenings we dined there. We spent several evenings in the Windjammer as we prefer the food there in the evening as they offer many more selections than found in the dining room. A favorite of many passengers is the Jade section that offers a wide variety of asian dishes. Fresh stir fry made with your choice of meat is popular with many. You will see people dressed to the nines on formal night as well as others dressed casually all dining together in the Windjammer. It seems to become more popular for dinner on each cruise I take. We find the atmosphere much more relaxing then the dining room in the evening as you can eat when you want and take as much or as little time to enjoy your meal.
Breakfast and lunch is also very popular in the Windjammer but at times it was impossible to find a table. A few times the headwaiters made announcements that if you were done eating please leave the table for someone else and this worked well and kept the tables available. Headwaiter are present to make sure things go smoothly so do not hesitate to ask one to help you find a table. Service was very good with waiters asking for your drink orders and clearing plates. Sometimes we skipped lunch and just enjoyed the items they put out from snacks in the late afternoon. Food is subjective on any ship but I will say that with all the different areas to dine on the Explorer there are enough choices of food onboard to please everyone.
Room service was very good as always and it's always a great way to start the morning with a pot of coffee or tea. Hurricane Noel was just tiring and we had been in it once already but you can't control the weather and we just chalk it up to the adventure of cruising!
Cruise Director Allen Brooks did a great job with adding new activities each day to be sure our time inside out of the storm was alot of fun! The days Labadee and Dominica were canceled and became sea days, additional compass papers were printed detailing all the extra activities. All the staff did a fantastic job at keeping the guests happy in the bad weather!
Entertainment was good and the new ice show Spirts of the Seasons is EXCELLENT! Live music everynight in several lounges was very good.
We had our Meet and Mingle for the 10/26 at 2pm in Portofino's and it was so nice to meet everyone for the first time in person. The staff raffled off a few prizes and we had soft drinks and snacks. Portofino's really makes one of the best places to hold a Meet & Mingle as it's such a nice bright room. Some people did not receive invites or notification the time had been pushed back and hour so I suggest CC members check at the Guest Relation Desk of the time and place of their M & M as they can change after you board.
The welcome back party and Diamond party were nice as always. We also attended a cocktail party for Suite Guests that was nice where we enjoyed the company of some of our fellow roll call members.
I know it's a hot topic on CC but one recent change that should be mentioned is on a 9 night the Explorer now offers one smoke free night on a formal night in the casino. I did go in that night but I did not play and I did notice attendance was down from other nights. There are limited designated areas in most bars where you can smoke on the Explorer and of course the vast majority of the ship including all public areas and dining areas remain smoke free. You can smoke on the starboard open decks, cabin and balcony and in Jan. 1 2008 smoking will no longer be permitted in cabins but on cabin balconies only. One bar will be designated smoke free and I believe the Champagne Bar is already smoke free and smoking areas will remain the same in all the other bars and outside starboard decks as normal. I think RCCL was very fair as non smokers will have non smoking cabins now and smokers will still have the use of their cabin balconies so book a balcony cabin in 2008 if you are a smoker.
We were suppose to arrive back in Bayonne at 7am on 11/4 but due to Noel we were forced to slow down to stay out of danger so this delayed our arrival until 3pm. We were in the first group off the ship and we were off about 4:20. We quickly found our luggage in the terminal and with the help of a porter we pulled out of port about 4:50. We did not see any sign of people trying to board at the terminal so not sure what they did about the new passengers but it was very easy getting out of port that day. We did see a long line of traffic coming into as we pulled out.
Many pictures and other info can be found on the Explorer LIVE Now and Then thread and I plan to continue that thread with live posts from the 12 night southern. I do use Cybercabin for Live posts and availability is limited and it is 80.00 for a 5 night cruise, 125.00 for a 9 night cruise both for unlimited access. Expect dial up type speed. You may also buy packages of time to use wifi or the internet cafe onboard the ship.
We had a wonderful cruise on the Explorer as always and we are looking forward to our cruise for the new 12 night southern Caribbean itinerary on 12/2/07.