12/2/07 12 Night Southern Caribbean Cruise. Many pics posted on http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=493964&page=519 Itinerary St. Maarten, Dominica, Barbados, St. Kitts, Antigua, St. Thomas and San Juan This was our 7th cruise on the Explorer from Bayonne We arrived on 12/2 in Cape Liberty about 12:30pm and waited in traffic about an hour & 1/2 to come into port due to the cruise before us being delayed. When we arrived at the terminal it was a quick process to unload and we boarded quickly about 2:30. We have sailed the Explorer many times and it was funny to see her coated in snow! Our muster was at 330 and luckily our JS 1640 put us in the dining room for muster as it was cold out on deck.
We had our first unofficial M & M at 4pm at Dizzy's and it was so nice to finally meet many of our roll call members in person! As of this review we have 22,436 posts on our very active 12/2 roll call and it continues to grow as we share info about our cruise and other cruises we plan to do together in the future. We had named our group The Insanity of the Seas ( IOS ) and the group continues to grow as we plan future cruises on the Explorer! I have to really take a minute out of this review to thank CC for the Roll Call threads as we've met so many good friends on all our roll calls and they are all made our cruises so much fun especially on the 12/2!
We loved the 12 night Southern itinerary and we are booked for the same in 2008! We had a smooth sailing out of NY and we were delayed leaving due to the cruise before us being delayed. We had our second unofficial M & M at the Aquarium Bar the first evening and met many other great people from our roll call! We had late seating in the Magellan Dining room and the ship was beautiful and all decorated for Christmas and pictures can be seen on the thread above. About 3am we were woken up by very rough seas and we had hit a severe storm. This continued all night and thru the next day with very heavy seas and high winds. Once again Captain Erik did an exceptional job of keeping us all safe and he also make frequent announcements to give us weather updates which all the passengers appreciate. The second night was the first of 3 formal nights and the sea had calmed down and we were invited to dine with Captain Erik and we had a lovely dinner and enjoyed the evening!
We arrived late into St. Maarten our first port of call due to the storm and the poor Explorer was coated with salt and other debris from the severe storm and it took a few days to clean her up. We took a water taxi, 5.00 each round trip to Big Bay Beach and walked around the town to see all the shops decorated for Christmas. The sunset was spectacular that evening and many of us took pictures on our way back to the ship.
Our next stop was Dominica which was a complete unknown to many of us so we didn't know what to expect. We arrived and it was very cloudy with several rainbows appearing thru the clouds as the sun peeked thru. We saw so many rainbows while in Dominica they should rename it rainbow island and they were really wonderful to see! We walked around the town on the waterfront and then walked on the outskirts and visited a couple of historic churches that had beautiful sculptures, art work and stained glass. We found the people to be very nice and we felt safe everywhere we went. There are several shops on the waterfront by the ship and also a few artist studios and a small museum. We really enjoyed Dominica and look forward to returning next year to explore more of this beautiful unique island.
We arrived on time in Antigua and we walked around the town and then over by the docks. The area by the docks was very nice but we did not care for the town itself. This was our least favorite of all the ports this time and we will plan a beach/water excursion when we return next year as the beaches are supposed to be fantastic so looking forward to seeing them! We arrived in Barbados and we loved it! We had day passes to the Barbados Hilton which is something we did on our own as the ship does not offer this and we spent the day in the beautiful resort! Beautiful pools on the beach and white silky soft sand to the ocean was the order of the day and pure relaxation! We enjoyed a nice lunch poolside also at the Hilton. Returning to the ship we walked thru several shops at the terminal and we rate Barbados as our favorite island on this cruise!
St. Kiits is a beautiful lush green island and we did the train excursion to tour the island. It was a good excursion that was narrated the entire time and they offered rum punch drinks and sodas and also cookies. We were driven to the train a short distance from the ship on a small bus and each bus corresponded with each train car which was nice as there was plenty of room on each car. You could move freely about the car and choose to stay on top in the open air or go downstairs and sit in the air conditioned train car and there was a bathroom on each car. When the train tour ended we were met by our bus again to take us on a 45 minute narrated tour back to the ship. The local residents put on a wonderful dance show for us before we boarded. The cost was about 98.00 a person for the train excursion and you really got a very good tour of the island and also a video of the St. Kitts Train Tour to take home. We had planned to visit the sister island Nevas next year in St. Kitts but unfortunately the port has been replaced with Tortola instead on the 11/30/08. We were delayed leaving St. Kitts due to repositioning the ship when we arrived due to strong wind gusts so we were able to stay longer.
We were invited by Captain Erik to do a bridge tour before we sailed and that was interesting as always! I love the views from the bridge and always enjoy my visits there. We then went to St. Thomas and spent the day at the Marriott Resort located close to where we dock which we did on our own. Beautiful pools and lush landscaping and views make this resort a wonderful place to spend the day. We stopped at Havensight to do a little shopping on our way back to the ship. Our last stop was in San Juan and it poured rain that day as we were catching part of Tropical Storm Olga but as we'd been in San Juan many times we planned on making it a ship day anyway. We had a great party for sailaway on our friends aft balcony but we were delayed leaving in order to put safe distance between us and the storm. We still experienced rocky seas and severe lightening later that night but the seas were calmer by the next day.
We had two beautiful warm sea days on our way home but the delay caused by Olga did delay our arrival back in Bayonne. This delay did cause confusion in port as we were also delayed on the ship quite awhile after docking. As we park our car at the port we did not have any real problems leaving port but those that needed rides to get home or to catch a plane did have problems as buses, taxis, and rides could not get into port as they were stuck in traffic with people coming into board for the next cruise. I foresee this situation occurring during the winter as the Atlantic can see some rough winter weather so people will have to be prepared for possible delays both coming and going on winter sailings as no one can control the weather. Cape Liberty is a very busy working seaport with many cargo ships in and out also so it is not a dedicated cruise port and people need to realize that also. I suggest for winter sailings if you do drive your car that you put a shovel, ice scraper and gloves and warm clothing in your car in case you need to clean off your car if we have snow in our area. I also suggest that people leave warm clothes out to dress in for the day we arrive in port and to keep carry ons light and to put soda or water in carry on and a book so they can have those things as they wait to depart the ship. Find a comfortable place to wait if there are delays and you will have a more pleasant experience if you are prepared for delays either due to weather or delays in port. I've sailed out of Cape Liberty many times and I've never seen the problems in port that we did see on 12/2 and then on our return on 12/14 but it was weather related also like it was when we were so delayed returning because of Hurricane Noel.
Basic info on the Ship The ship is in very good condition and is constantly being maintained. Our JS 1640 was in good condition with new carpeting. Only important announcements such as those from the Captain are now being heard in the cabins due to complaints there were too many announcements being heard so that was changed. The ship was beautifully decorated for the holidays and so were all the islands. Christmas music played constantly on the ship and on the islands and it was a very festive cruise! Once again we did not find the food in the dining room to be the best on the ship although the service is excellent especially from our headwaitress Vilma once again! We usually eat the first and last night in the dining room and the rest of the evenings in Portofino's and the Windjammer. Food is one of those subjective issues and all I can say with the dining rooms, Portofino's, Windjammer, Cafe, room service and Johnny Rockets onboard, you can always find something you enjoy to eat. Our official M & M was held in the Chamber which is not a suitable place to hold it in my opinion as it's too dark. Large M & M's like ours are held there as they say it is a big space but it's really not as the bar and dance floor take up a lot of room and there was not enough seats for everyone but we still had a great time. we had such alarge roll call that the ship's photographer took several pics of the group to promote the success of the M & M's! A word about it being so dark though, there are several areas in the Chamber where you step up a step and one of our roll call members did take a fall as the lighting is too low. So for those that have M & M's there in the future please be careful. As we boarded late on 12/2 due to delay I did not get a Cybercabin but opted for wireless and could use the same account in internet cafe so I purchased 2 packages of time for 35.00 each during the cruise and used 20.00 coupons in our Diamond books so total cost was 50.00 for 12 nights which worked for me. Cost for the Cybercabin had they had one available and working for the 12 night was 150.00 they said and they strongly suggested wireless was the best option to use as they had been having problems with the Cybercabin modems. Nicky was our concierge assisted by Allen and both did a wonderful job and were good sports by taking numerous photos of our group! Allen Brooks was CD and as always kept everyone laughing at the activities he does! Captain Erik sailed us safely thru 2 storms once again and did an excellent job as always. There were 3 formal nights on the 12 night altogether although our docs said 2 so just note that for future 12 night cruises. We had been warned about the changed by CC members who did the 12 night before us. There are two ice shows on the 12 night, Spirits of the Seasons and Blades. Both are wonderful and Seasons is NOT TO BE MISSED! Fantastic show with several special effects! Several production shows and comics, live music every night in several lounges, the new Invitation to Dance competition and show, several new fun game shows, the Chefs special luncheon and galley tour that you must sign up for is getting huge raves and well worth the extra charge, parades, many many activities. It's a ship that always has something for everyone no matter what the weather! The casino was kind to us on this cruise also! It's a longer review then normal but if you can only do one cruise, do the 12 night itinerary as it really is outstanding! Once into the islands go out on your balcony or out on deck at night to watch the lights of other islands and cruise ships in the distance as you sail by. This is something we do not see on a normal Eastern Caribbean from Bayonne and it's a beautiful view at night I've seen many beautiful sunsets at sea in my travels but none that came close to what we witnessed in the Southern Caribbean! The big question I'm asked is when does it feel warm on a winter cruise. We felt warm temps on the second night at sea and coming home it was still pretty warm on the last day and many people were at and in the pools. The island temps were about 80-85 which is much more comfortable then cruising in the spring and summer so temps were very nice and we did not have that high humidity you can find sometimes in the warmer months for cruising. It was by far our favorite cruise due to the wonderful friends we met from our roll call and also because of the fantastic islands we were fortunate to visit. Looking forward to a repeat on 11/30/08!