We left our house in Eastern CT for Cape Liberty, NJ Friday morning at 9:30AM. 95 to NJ Turnpike to Bayonne NJ took about 3 1/2 hours. We pulled up to the terminal which we decided driving in would make for a good movie scene. It looked deserted. We pulled up to a tent area and left off our luggage with a jolly longshoresman. We went to the secure lot about 500 yards away and parked our car for $14 a day. A shuttle picked us up immediately and dropped us off at the tent. We got in line and 10 minutes later were through the security check and on a shuttle to the ship terminal check in. We are diamond members and check in took all of 5 minutes. We had our picture taken and were on board in seconds. It was 12:15 and we went straight to our cabin. I traveled with my 17 year old daughter (Her birthday was sail day). We had an aft cabin 188 sq ft with a giant balcony. I had an aft cabin before and knew it was going to be larger. We had 3 chairs, 2 recliners and a table looking out the back of the ship. Sitting aft and looking at the ships wake into a sunset is probably one of the most incredible sights I have ever seen. Whether over the Caribbean or Greek Islands...incredible!!! We checked out the dining room and discovered we had a table for two as requested. Our dinner service was impeccable the entire trip even though I felt the food was mediocre at best. Portofino's, the speciality restaurant that we ate in two times, was wonderful as always ( this is my second trip on the Explorer). Service was flawless and the food was perfect.
This year was the 6th year that I have traveled with my daughter on a Royal Caribbean Cruise. One year I took her on the Norwegian Dawn out of New York City. Never again! She will only cruise on Royal Caribbean. This year was the last year before she turns 18. She had 6 years of teen centers and Johnny Rockets and this year in her words was "the best cruise ever" There were in the ballpark of 330 kids in her age bracket and I had the pleasure of meeting a few of them and their parents. My daughter is driving about 2 1/2 hours this weekend to stay with a friend she met on the cruise. (Don't worry I have met the parents and confirmed all by phone). She also had had friends visit our home from past Royal Caribbean cruises. (Rhapsody of the Seas, Voyager). Most of the kids were respectful and acted great on the cruise contrary to the grumblings of other passenger. To them I say, do your homework and don't travel on the biggest travel week in New England!
Since becoming a diamond member a highlight of my trip is the Concierge Lounge on select ships. The Explorer has such a lounge. Ricky is the Concierge and I had the pleasure of meeting him on a cruise before. He helps you with everything imaginable. The lounge has morning Continental Breakfast with Lox and Bagels, sweetrolls, fresh fruit, etc. Also a giant espresso,cappuccino, hot chocolate machine. In the evening are complimentary appetizers and an open bar. A beautiful room to mingle or just sit and enjoy a book being attended to by Ricky the wonderful Concierge.
The karaoke and the ice skating and the comedians, the art show, the promenade, the sports deck, THE SPA, the balcony, the casino, the lounges, the wonderful cabin service, Johnny Rockets, the Windjammer makes it all worthwhile. My daughter and I definitely had the best vacation together. This is the first time she walked down the promenade with her arm through mine or brought her friends over to our chairs on Labadee. WOW!
Shore Excursions....St. Thomas-We took an open air cab outside the ship to Mountain Top for a nice little ride, a little shopping and a great view of Megans Bay. We then took another cab downtown to Charlotte Amalie to eat at Gladys Restaurant for a 4th year in a row. The owners Gladys and her husband CJ are really cool. Gladys sings and serves great jerk chicken and pork and cold beers. We then took a cab to a beach near the airport. A Best Western. We got out at their lobby and walked straight through to the beach. We rent beach chairs and umbrella for $5.oo each for the day. There was a restroom, restaurant and beach beverage service on a beautiful sandy cove.
Dominican Republic... We took a cab ($10) to Casa De Campo Beach Resort (Lobby). We asked for a day pass. We paid $60 each and then a porter took us by golf cart to the beach. It was a beautiful drive through gorgeous homes to the beach...about 15 minutes. The cart left us at a gate where we were given towels and then allowed to enter the beach. We were given chairs on a beautiful stretch of beach. Out passes included banana boat rides or kayaking. It also included lunch with an appetizer, main course, dessert and beverage and tip. We did tip more because the whole experience was wonderful.
Labadee...this was our 6th time to Labadee and by far our most exciting thanks to the zip line. The last words I heard before throwing myself off the tower was "Mom, don't cry". I'd do it again!
San Juan..the zip line wasn't enough so we did the canopy tour. Beautiful rain forest and great guides for our flight through the tree tops.
Our ship did a rescue of 3 men lost at seas for several day which added to the excitement of it all. I hope the men are well!
As always sailing with Royal Caribbean was a Royal Time and we are already planning next years. I don't have many teen years left and instead of Optix next year it will be the Chamber.