We are married and in our early 50's. This was our 5th cruise with RCI in the last 3 years and our 3rd on the Explorer. We are also booked on a 15 day Hawaiian cruise on the Serenade O.T.S. in October 2008.
The itinerary. This was a 12 day cruise to the Southern Caribbean visiting St. Maarten, Antigua, Dominica, Barbados, St. Kitts, St Thomas and San Juan PR. The itinerary was the best we have had and we will go on this cruise again. Each island had something different to offer and we were never bored. This is a great cruise and the 12 days is not too long.
Cape Liberty Cruise Port. Not a pleasant experience. It is hard to get in and out of, always has issues with moving people and the staff on the ship hate it as it always causes the passengers to complain. Work needs to be done to improve the facility. That said, the terminal is not really a part of the cruise and even having to use Cape Liberty Cruise Port would not be enough to prevent me from going on the Explorer again.
Muster drill. The cruise started on February 24th and the muster drill was held outside. It was cold so dress appropriately for the weather.
Verazanno Narrows Bridge. The sight of the ship going under the bridge is a "must see". Get up as high as you can and take your camera. The Cabin. We were in cabin 1394 which is an Aft Junior Suite. The room itself is quite large and was well laid out. There was more than enough storage space in the room. The walk-in closet was large and held everything. The bathroom is somewhat small, but adequate. It has a bathtub that is quite high which may give the elderly or physically challenged a bit of an issue getting in and out. It is also quite a hike from the aft to the nearest elevator. The balcony is large as it is approximately 12 ft X 12 ft, and comes with 2 lounge chairs, 3 chairs and a good sized table. There is a superstructure somewhat blocking the view but not enough to deter me from booking the cabin again. This balcony, as well as the balcony in J.S #1694, gets almost no sun. The sun is blocked out by the overhang from the Windjammer, so if you must have a lot sun on your balcony do not book this room. The aft balconies on the lower decks get a lot of sun but provide absolutely no privacy. Anything you do can be seen by everyone above you. We never heard any noise from the Windjammer or deck 12. This room was quiet. Some people talk about feeling vibrations in the aft rooms. We, at times, felt slight vibrations but only occasionally and nothing to worry about. If this room is available take it. The new bedding is excellent. There were some nights I was so tired that I barely made it back to the room and when I crawled into bed the new bedding was lovely.
The Ship. This was our 3rd cruise on the Explorer in three years. It still looks in great shape. For those that really care about cosmetics there are some carpet stains and some areas of rust visible. For a ship in use 7 X 24 X 365 the ship is in excellent shape. We always saw staff cleaning and maintaining the ship. This was, by far, our best experience with staff. We did not encounter a single person on the Explorer staff who was less than friendly and caring. Our wait staff was excellent as was our state room attendant. We wanted for nothing and everything we asked for was brought promptly and correctly.
The Food. We ate all of our dinners in the main dining room and the food was excellent. On this cruise I deliberately tried items I never would have had at home (Thai Pad Noodles, Asparagus and Brie Tart) and everything was excellent. My wife and I had no complaints nor did our table mates. We ate most of lunches and breakfasts in the Windjammer and as buffet fare the food was good to excellent. There were lots of choices and the food was tasty. People need to remember that the windjammer is a buffet and not a prepared to order restaurant. At times it was difficult to find an empty but the Windjammer staff were on hand to assist and they cleaned up empty tables in a timely manner. A few times we had to share with others but this was fine as you met new people.
We ate one dinner in Portofino's and it was fantastic. The night we went as the Murder Mystery event and it was a lot of fun. The cost was $49.00 each rather than $20.00 but well worth it. The food was tremendous. Eating at least on meal at Portofino's is now a "must do" on every cruise we go on.
Entertainment. There were 2 different ice shows and each was excellent. DO NOT miss the ice shows. We only went to about half the shows and we enjoyed every one of them. We missed some because we didn't think we would enjoy them such as the pianist and classical singer. The people we talked to spoke very highly of these shows but we just chose to do something else.
Overall. After 5 cruises in 3 years this was still a "WOW" cruise for us. If you choose this 12 day cruise you have chosen well. Enjoy and happy cruising.