We sailed on the Explorer of the Seas on January 25th through February 3rd. There were a total of 8 of us in our group. 4 of us have been on 8 or more cruises, 2 of us were only on one other cruise, and 2 this was their first cruise. This cruise had a large group of Poker players, Ladbrokes, from England aboard the ship.
The 8 of us arrived at Bayonne at 11:30AM. We parked at the lot which cost $144 for the 9 night cruise. The parking lot did accept credit cards. Since some of us were diamond members, we waited to board the ship in the priority lounge. The sign stated boarding would begin at 12:15PM. The first bus was there about 12:30PM. We ended up on the third bus going to the ship. We were on the ship at 12:45PM. We were able to go into our room at 1PM. The rest of the group were on the ship around 1PM.
Our muster drill was at 4:30PM. We were directly in the sun and it was not too cold outside. Our ship did not depart until 5PM (not sure why the late departure) but our paperwork stated departure time was 4PM. We did go outside to watch the ship go under the Verrazano Bridge but it was extremely cold and windy.
This was our first cruise in a hump room. We had room 7318 which was a great location. I usually get seasick on cruises and I wear the patch. I think I would have been able to do this cruise without the patch. The room location was great. I hardly felt any movement. My previous rooms were interior staterooms on decks 7 and 8, Royal Family Suite on deck 8, Balcony room on deck 9 and Grand Suite on deck 10. I think being on deck 7 towards the middle of the ship was a great location. My brother in law and sister in law were in the room right next door.
Two of our group were in the last oceanview stateroom on deck 7 right before the aft rooms. I thought it was a little noisy in their room and I did feel the motion back in their room but they stated they did not feel it was noisy and only felt the motion once in awhile.
The last 2 in our group had a promenade room. There room overlooked the metal structure in the Royal Promenade directly across from Guest Services.
Our room steward, Remy, was great. We only saw him maybe 3 or 4 times during the cruise but our room was always done. No complaints.
Since this was our first cruise as diamond members for 4 of us, we received a key for access to the lounge on the 9th floor. Again our hump room was a great location to the lounge. We only had to go out our door and up 2 flights of steps (or elevator). We also had a letter stating the overflow lounge would be in the Cloud Nine bar on the 14th floor. We only used Cloud Nine on 2 occasions when the regular lounge was too crowded. The concierge was Nicky Fernandes. He was very personable and friendly.
We had second seating dinner in the Da Gama Dining room on the 4th floor. We had table #416 for the 8 of us. Our waiter was Nengah and the assistant was Jethro. We were very pleased with our service. I would have to rate the pair as one of the top 3 were ever had on a cruise.
We had an excellent bar server in the dining room, Anthony, aka Doctor Feelgood. He was awesome. The one night when I ordered a drink he came out from the back with the drink on his head.
On Wednesday (Day 6), 4 of us ate at Portofino's. Our waiter was Victor and the assistant was Augustino. Again we had excellent service. This was our 10th cruise but it was the first time we ate at Portofino's. The meal and service were wonderful.
Cruise Director Staff and Activities
The ice show was called Spirit of the Seasons. I think I saw this same show on Adventure of the Seas back in 2006. The show still was great. We also had the Invitation to Dance on this cruise.
The cruise director was Dave Chapman. He really was not visible much during the cruise but he was funny at the Quest. I have read on Cruise Critic our cruise was his last cruise. We did not go to the last show where that was announced.
We played a lot of trivia with Simon and Christina. They were friendly and made the games enjoyable.
We did notice they did have a few new activities on the Compass. They had a game called the Liars Club Game show and Make Me a Millionaire. One of us was chosen to play Make Me a Millionaire.
We did notice on the days at sea there did not seem to be a variety of things to do on board the ship. I have been on other cruises where we had to make a decision on what to do since there was so much being offered. We thought the cruise staff may have been understaffed. Two new employees to the director's staff joined the cruise during the cruise itself.
We did not do an excursion at this port since we did not get into port until 3PM and we have been at this port previously. We took the free trolley and went to the Castillo San Cristóbal. We then boarded the trolley again and went by the El Morro but we did not get off the trolley to tour El Morro. The forts close at 6PM. We got off the trolley in Old San Juan for shopping. We did stop for a Piña Colada and appetizers at Barrachina Village. . We then walked to the Hard Rock Cafe for a shot glass. We went back on the ship around 7PM and had dinner at 8:30PM.
Six of us used Godfrey's Tours. We were told he would meet us at our ship at 9AM. I was beginning to get nervous but he did show up at 9:05AM. We then had to go to the Carnival ship next to us to pick up 2 additional couples. We went downtown for shopping. Godfrey told us to meet him near the Post Office at 12:15PM for a 12:30PM departure. We arrived at the bus at 12:10PM. When we left the shopping area, it was past 12:30PM.
We then made a stop at an overlook and then we proceeded to Mountaintop. Godfrey did a wonderful job explaining the area. We were under the impression we would have a choice of Megan's Bay, Coki or Sapphire. Godfrey decided to take us to Secret Harbor. The beach was ok but we arrived at the beach at 2:45PM and we had to be back on the ship at 4:30PM.
At 4PM, we went to the parking lot to look for Godfrey but he was not there. His other driver, Vince, took us on his cab and started back to the ship. The taxi met Godfrey on its way back to get a package from Godfrey (someone in our group left the package from shopping in Godfrey's cab for safe keeping).
We had to take the long way back to the ship since there was so much traffic on the local route. We arrived back at the ship at 4:45PM. We were lucky since the NCL Gem was anchored behind our ship. Our ship could not leave until the Gem left. We finally left St Thomas at 6:30PM.
The other two in our group did the BOSS. They enjoyed the BOSS ride and also enjoyed being able to snorkel.
Casa de Campo
Three of us did the Country Safari Adventure. We went on a safari bus to a sugar cane plantation. The guide on our bus spent the whole time driving to the plantation on his cell phone. Once we stopped at the plantation, he did talk about the sugar cane business and everyone was offered a piece of the sugar cane to taste and we were offered a sprite and rum drink.
After the plantation, we made a stop at a nursery. We really did not understand why we stopped there except to use the porta pots. We went into a greenhouse to view some of the plants but that's about it at that stop.
We then went to a cigar factory. It was a small store with 3 people rolling cigars. The store was extremely hot and the smoke was unbearable. The guide gave everyone the opportunity to purchase cigars. We thought he said everyone would receive a free cigar but we did not. I did purchase a small bag (1/2 pound) of Dominican Republic coffee. When we got back to the bus, the driver and guide were pouring rum and cokes for everyone.
We then drove through La Romana. There are a lot of motorcycles in the city. Some of the motorcycles had 3 passengers on them without helmets weaving in and out of traffic. The trucks had passengers standing up in the beds of the trucks also weaving in and out of traffic.
Our last stop was for shopping. In the excursion description, it stated we would be greeted with a drink and would have time for some shopping. The place we were taken to was horrible. You could not look at anything in the store without being hassle from the workers. They followed you around the entire time. The prices were extremely high in the store and it was very hard to negotiate.
When we left the store the driver had a hard time backing up in the parking lot. The guide on the back of the bus was on his cell phone and we almost hit a car trying to get out of the spot since the guide was not paying attention to alert the driver when he got close to the car.
The driver missed the turn to get us back to the ship. The driver did try to back up so he could make the turn but the traffic was so bad he had to go a few blocks out of his way to make a U turn. The guide on the back of the bus was acting like a monkey climbing on the roof of the bus and doing flips. We did file a complaint form when we arrived back on the ship.
We were so happy to get back to the ship. I don't think I would ever take another cruise that stopped at Casa de Campo.
Two of our group did the Self Drive 4 x 4 Wrangler Expedition. They enjoyed it but were a little disappointed that they never got a chance to put the jeep into 4 wheel drive and did not go to the beach. They had the opportunity to go to a local elementary school. The children there sang a song to the people on the excursion. Their guide did explain a lot of information to them.
Two others from our group did the Higuey Pilgrimage City tour. They enjoyed the tour.
We met other people during the Meet and Mingle who mention when they come to places like Dominican Republic they bring candy for the local children. We definitely will try to remember this next time.
Two in our group went on the parasailing excursion. They loved it.
We met a couple during the meet and mingle and during one of the excursions. We spent the day at the beach with them. The husband did the zip line and loved it.
We went to the Dragon's Breath beach first. It was extremely rocky. There were a few areas where the rocks were cleared. It was neat watching the people on the zip line.
The BBQ lunch was okay. We did have a funny occurrence at lunch. When we were walking over to the food lines, we noticed an entire table of photographers. We stopped and took their pictures and told them they would be on display on deck 5 later today. The photographers thought it was funny.
Five of us did the wave runner excursion in Labadee during the afternoon. I ended up hating the ride but I am glad I did it since it is another bucket list item I can now cross off. The views were beautiful but I was afraid to go fast on the wave runner. I ended up being last in our group with Pedro from the ship watching out for me. At one point during the excursion, we stopped and several kayaks with locals approached us selling items right from the kayak. I was so afraid to leave go of the wave runner I could not look at the items. After we were done on the wave runners, we went in the water at Columbus Beach. This beach was shady and a lot easier on the feet.
On the way back to the tender, we stopped at the Artisans Market. You cannot negotiate prices in the market. We tried to go into Haitian Flea Market but the vendors did not leave you alone.
Disembarkation We received pink luggage tags for priority departure. We were in the dining eating breakfast when they called our color. We were off the ship by 9:00AM but we did not leave the port until 11:30AM. One of our pieces of luggage was missing. We walked through the warehouse several times trying to locate our luggage with no luck. We completed a missing luggage form and were told Royal Caribbean would be in contact with us. We received a phone call from them at 2:30PM stating our bag was located. Royal Caribbean would send us the bag via UPS. We did receive our luggage on Thursday (4 days after our cruise ended). The wheel on our bag is broke and I now need to go to a luggage repair store for an estimate for Royal Caribbean.
We enjoyed the cruise and 6 of us booked the "Next Cruise" while on board.
I enjoyed traveling with a group of 8. I loved the fact we did not have to pay for airfare. I would probably take another cruise from Bayonne in the future.