History: This was our sixth cruise. Our first cruise, in 2004, was on the Explorer. We've sailed on three Radiance Class ships since, and it was interesting to go back to the Explorer.
Embarkation: We drove from Vermont and arrived at the port at 11am. There was not a problem with traffic, at all. My husband dropped me off with the bags and went to park. Unfortunately, the parking area is not well marked and he missed the turn. It then took 25 minutes to go back around to get to the parking area, again. It's within 50 yards of the drop-off area. Don't miss it! We were given bus number 14, after checking in. They began to call people to board the busses at noon. We were on the ship by 12:45. The cabins were open for entrance at 1:10pm.
Cabin: We had our first aft cabin, 1690. It is about 5 feet longer than a normal D1 cabin and the balcony is about 12x14 ft. Though we have had "bigger than usual" balconies before, this cabin was perfect in every way. Yes, there is some vibration in the aft, but it didn't bother us. Sometimes the bed felt like those old motel beds, where you put in $.25 and the bed vibrates! I would not have an aft cabin on a Voyager Class ship, lower than deck 10, as I find the metal superstructure to be very detracting from the view. In our location though, it was not an issue.
Dining: We had table 345, which seated 12 and was right in the center of the Magellan Dining Room and right next to the Captain's Table. There never was a more perfect location, with a more perfect Head Waitress. Wilma, from Lithuania, was an out-of-this-world head waitress. She brought desserts that she had the chef make, just for our table, not once, but twice! She seemed to be all over that dining room! First time I have ever tipped a Head Waiter more than the suggested amount, but boy did she earn it.
Dining room food was good. The only thing I didn't care for, was the lobster bisque. So, out of 9 nts, that's pretty good. The best thing I had, was a tilapia dish. They served lobster on the last formal night, just like usual.
I hated the Windjammer with a passion. I thought the food was mediocre. It was always crowded and the way they have the stations set up is retarded. We ate more breakfasts and lunches in the Dining Room than any other cruise. One of my favorite things when I cruise, is having soft serve ice cream, regularly. Well, much of the time, the machines in the Windjammer were not on. There was one machine, tucked way out of the way, near the pool, that was on sometimes. Thus, I only had soft serve twice...a very sad state of affairs for me!
They had buffets two nights. The first, was a pool party. The food was beautiful but I only had ice cream, so I can't comment on the taste of anything. They had some kind of a buffet on the last formal night at midnight, but I did not go, so can't comment.
Activities: I did far fewer activities this cruise than ever before. I enjoyed my balcony so much, I spent quite a bit of time there, reading and resting. My husband found a group of Chinese Canadians to play basketball with everyday and he LOVED the full-court. We had cruise critic group activities....slot pull, cabin crawl and pub crawl. Those were all very fun. We loved Gordon as a Cruise Director. Definitely the best we've had.
Entertainment: First production show, which was Invitation To Dance was very good. They had a new cast come onboard and did the second production show. I did not see it, but it was generally reviewed as TERRIBLE by everyone I spoke with who had seen it. I suspect it will get better as the cast has a chance to fine tune it. There was one comedian/singer/impressionist that was fabulous.
Spa: They had several spa specials available during the cruise. I had two massage combos and my hubby had one. No hard sell for products, as I had written on my form that I didn't want that. We enjoyed the hot tub that's in the gym and also the sauna and steam room in the locker room area.
Overall Ship Condition: New carpet in many places. Some new couches in cabins, but not ours. Our couch had several stains. There was obvious dirt or rust particles in the toilet water. This was the first time I was not comfortable drinking the water from the bathroom tap. There was a distinct sulpher smell from that tap. Yuk. Evident rust in many places on deck. Our friends' cabin had paint chips all over the floor of their balcony. They went to Guest Services to ask about having it repaired and were originally told it would be done during drydock, but two days later, they came and fixed it.
Ports: We walked Old San Juan and did El Morro. We did a six-pack sail in St. Thomas on the Island Girl. Highly recommended. Didn't get off the ship in Casa de Campo. Our friend went into town and enjoyed it. We LOVED Labadee. It's just beautiful there and there is plenty of shade, which is a plus for us pale folks from the Northeast!
Debarkation: Best ever. Self-debark was called at 8am. We had beige tags, as Platinum members, and were called at 9:10. Our luggage was right there, as soon as we entered the baggage area. It was very organized in there. We were in the car and driving out of the parking lot at 9:25am. Just beautiful. I will never say anything bad about cruising from Bayonne and would do it again in a heartbeat.
Overall: A pleasant cruise experience. We really prefer the Radiance Class ships, but would do this again just to be able to drive to the port. Our service was wonderful from all the crew and we came home rested, and relaxed. Get Out There!!!