This was our first cruise out of Cape Liberty. We have left out of NYC, Brooklyn, Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, San Juan, and foreign ports on other cruises. This was the best overall departure experience for us. This being that we live in North Jersey. The total time from our home to being on board in our room was less than 1 ½ hours.
True, there is some need to improve the traffic flow at the port, the passenger security screening could be improved, but we had little delay once into the check in lines. We are Diamond Members and our service was superb. Having your SetSail Pass completed and your credit card and passport on hand when checking in will greatly improve the flow for everyone.
The ship - We have sailed on the Explorer three times. It remains a beautiful vessel but there are signs of a much needed refurbishing both in the rooms and common spaces.
The accommodations - The room and storage space was sufficient. The balcony was passable. The one problem was that this was an adjourning room. There was a closed doorway between the rooms that did not do a very good job of keeping the room noise out of the next cabin. We will avoid this in the future.
The staff -They very friendly and helpful at the desk. One person in the shops was extremely helpful in helping us resolve the problem of getting some glue to repair my wife's shoe. I'm sad to say that the room attendant and the maintenance crew were unresponsive to our plight and request for some glue. (It should be noted that the maintenance crew repaired a loose railing that I had reported in the hallway right outside our room with glue.)
The wait staff for breakfast and lunch in the dining room were mostly super excellent to a few just good. When you consider that these people do not get a direct tip at this place, you really appreciate this exceptional service. The dining room waiter was very good. However, our assistant waiter had sustained an injury and was unable to work our table after day one. It took three days for the head waiter to get an assistant capable of properly helping our waiter do the job.
The room attendant did an adequate job in keeping up the room. He did an exceptional job making the towel animals (The best I've seen.) Unfortunately, we being season travelers, did not allow us to really appreciate his efforts. I am sure any first time cruiser would have been much more appreciative of his service.
The food - We did not use the Windjammer buffet except for lunch upon boarding. The food was very good. We choose to eat both breakfast and lunch in the dinning room. The eggs benedict were consistently the best I've seen on any cruise ship. In the dinning room, we tend to eat less than at the buffet and enjoy being seated to meet other new guest. The dinner meals were all very good with some being exceptional. If you need it, there are twenty-four hour snacks on the promenade. We also ate at Johnny Rockets. It was a fun experience.
The entertainment - Overall it was quite good in the Palace. There are also the Promenade shows that will add to your enjoyment. There are so many other things to do on the ship - the casino, the entertainment bars, the demonstrations, the art show, Quest, and much, much more. If you can't find something then either you haven't looked or need to examine your needs.
The pools - There were large enough to handle the needs of this cruise.
Overall, in the winter months, plan on having your first two and last day at sea limited by the weather when sailing out of New Jersey. But, this is a big ship with lots to do to keep you enjoying your vacation at sea.
We were blessed by mostly very good weather which added to our enjoyment. But, I always enjoy cruising and this was another very good experience.