Boarding: The car dropped us off at the pier and we left our luggage with a porter. This was very confusing, there were two lines and a porter at only one line. We left our luggage at a bin and started to walk away when the porter yelled we had to wait for him. So we waited 15 minutes and he walked over to us and asked us what ship we were on. We said, "Explorer of the Seas" and he held out his hand and said, "Okay throw them in here." He wanted a tip and we were the ones that had to throw them in the bin. Did not make sense to us. Oh well, we waited in line to go inside the terminal and saw a sign for Platinum, Diamond and Diamond Plus members. Waited in line for about twenty minutes to be checked in. While waiting we met some cruise critic posters and talked to them. Got through check in and had our picture taken for the badges then took two steps and had our Welcome Aboard picture taken. After that, we went outside and a bus was getting ready to leave so they rushed us on and we were on our way to the ship! Got off the bus and walked right up to the ship and pinged our card for the first time and we were officially onboard! Fairly easy.
Room: Okay I have to admit it. I think we got the best room on the ship. An aft JS is everything that is roomy. The bathroom is still small but the shower is larger since it has a tub. There is a couch and two chairs plus the two desk chairs. There are two drawbacks to the room. First is the long walk to the stairs. Believe me when I say it is long. The other drawback is the motion. For the first time on any cruise I did get sea sick due to the constant motion. Small price to pay for such a great room.
Food: I do not go on cruises for the food and am generally pretty happy with the choices presented. To me cruise food is the same quality as an average steak house meal. Either I had a bad cruise food time or the quality has gone down to buffet quality. Portofino's was good. I loved the tiger shrimp risotto and seafood skewer and for dessert, the sample platter had the best of all worlds. Windjammer confused me. It had the smallest choices of any Windjammer I had been in and only half of it was open anytime I was in there. The food quality met my expectations of being buffet style food. I felt the Windjammer and Dining Room basically had the same quality of food, which I felt was a disappointment. Disappointment Dining Room wise. Johnny Rockets was Johnny Rockets. My arteries clog just thinking of it. But there was a waiter in there that enjoyed his job so much he made you smile every time you saw him.
Public Areas: The public areas were all well maintained. What surprised me was the lack of sanitizers going into the eating areas. I have become used to the hand sanitizers and missed them. Also, the handrails on the staircases are usually kept pretty clean and I am used to seeing the people wiping down the handrails all the time. This cruise not once did I see a person wiping them down. The Promenade was great especially the Cafe Promenade. Love the little sandwiches! Dizzy's was a great place to watch sail a way, especially going under the bridge. Yikes! What a tight squeeze! The Chamber was intimate and cozy for a small group of friends. For some reason RC put us in there for our Meet and Mingle and that was not a good fit. We were 93 strong and it was too much like a maze to enjoy each other's company as much as we would have liked.
Service: Dave was the CD and he was a fun loving guy and trained us all to say Gday Dave! The Captain seemed a little on the quiet side but looked like he enjoyed his job. Guest Relations I felt needed a few lessons in smiling and even if they could not help you, do not be snippy about it. It seemed they felt they were right and how dare you question them about anything. Room Service was awesome. We had the same two gentlemen bring us our coffee and tea every morning and we enjoyed seeing and chatting to them. Room Steward always had a smile when she saw us and greeted us in the hallway. Pretty much every time we saw a room steward when we walked down the hallway they all had a smile and a good morning or good evening for us. That was very nice. Waiters, we had Barry at table 354, with Mr. Prado as our assistant waiter and Caesar as our headwaiter. Best group of guys there were. Caesar and Barry kept us in stitches and Mr. Prado the assistant waiter put us back on track and on time. Too many laughs to count. My husband had his bar waiter that was always there waiting to help him. There was a bartender in the casino from Serbia. Great friendly guy who had all the fancy moves while making the drinks. A joy to watch even when the ship was rocking and rolling.
Itinerary: St Maarten - did not get to see much of by the time customs was over and we could depart it was almost 4:15pm. Stores close at 6pm. Plus it was dark so you could not see the island very clearly. Antigua - did a private tour which took us all over the island. Enjoyed Nelsons Boatyard and Devils Bridge. Dominica - another private tour and did enjoy the falls and the rain forest with Emerald Pool. Our driver Joseph was the best. Great tour. Barbados - Definitely a come back to island. Did the plantation and rum factory tour. The plantation reminded me of the old movies you see on TV, really takes you back to the times. St. Kitts - Okay I have to admit between this and Dominica my two favorite islands. St Kitts is still untouched for the most part and we took the Peninsular Safari so was able to go off road and saw some of the most spectacular scenery ever. Stopped for an hour at a beach Cockleshell Beach. A friend found all sorts of sea shells so she was extremely happy. St Thomas - Rain all day our shore excursion was canceled so we went shopping. It was a wet but fun day wandering around the town. San Juan - So many people say they stay on the ship when going here. Why? We found it to be so intriguing. Especially the tunnels in the forts and wandering around old San Juan. Very nice place to just sit back in a park and relax.
Departure: We had originally been scheduled to be last off the ship and after some haggling with Guest Relations, we were bumped up to first departure due to flight times. We departed right after express carry off. Be prepared. Even departing first after carry offs we still did not get off the ship until 10am. Thankfully, we called our driver and told him which slot to pick us up at and he was there under 5 minutes since he had been waiting for us to depart. Onto the airport we went. Fairly easy to depart once your color was called.
All in all we had a nice cruise and will recommend this cruise to others. Maybe not in the winter though when you have no sun days for the first two days and then again on the last day.