Just recently got off the Explorer. Our cruise was March 28th for a 9 nighter doing the Eastern Caribbean. The was our first time on Explorer but not our first time with Royal Caribbean. We are platinum members and had a suite for this cruise so we go priority boarding.
Arrived at the port around 11:30 am, a bit of confusion with the parking attendant and we ended up going around the block a couple times before we caught on and just stayed in the right lane to unload luggage and THEN go to the parking lot. Parking I believe is a bit steep at 16.00 a day (144.00 for a 9 night cruise - let's hope some of these funds will start being used to improve the port area. Once luggage was dropped off we went through a security check and were greeted by a RCCL employee who was handing out numbers for the bus - she gave us a 5- we had priority boarding so didn't need the number and gave it back to her. Oh for those of you who worried that you have priority and your friends/family don't DO NOT worry we had a couple traveling with us that did not have priority boarding, once they checked in on the "regular" side they were allowed to come sit and wait with us on our side. Very nice waiting area, but not large enough for all the suite, platinum, diamond and diamond plus members that's for sure. They had cookies out and for drinks coffee, tea, water, and some kind of juice. The only problem was the bathroom was a LONG walk away. I did notice they did not take any of the "before you board" pictures this day, they had the backdrops all covered up, and even when we did board the ship there were no sail-a-way pictures being done. They were having a coast guard drill and made the announcement around 11:30 that we would not be able to board buses at noon. They did keep us pretty well informed as to what was going on. I found embarkment very pleasant even with the extended wait and people coming off the same time we were dropping off luggage.
We boarded the ship a little after 1:00 and you could not get into your rooms until 1:30 due to the coast guard drill, so we headed for Windjammer to have a little lunch. We did not have a problem finding a seat and putting our carry ons down and then going to get a bite to eat. Someone was walking around filling drink orders so you didn't have to worry about carrying a drink and a plate and silverware, etc.... At 1:30 we headed to our room to drop off carry ons and then explore the ship, our luggage was in a our room we got there, so we decided to unpack - DO NOT do this - head straight to the promenade as they have little raffle tickets out everywhere, and by the time we got down there (3:00) the drawings had all taken place, which I thought unfair as people were still boarding the ship when they did the drawings, but I'm sure they are on a schedule, so..... Sail a way was amazing, a bit chilly but the rain had stopped for us and it was very clear out - going under the bridge you really need to be outside up high watching that, WOW!! First night they had a parade on the promenade, simply wonderful, I would advice you get there early get an outside seat at one of the pubs and then your right in the action.
We had fairly smooth sailing. The first sail day I didn't notice too many bathing suits, but people were out on the pool deck in shorts. Our CC group had arranged a cabin crawl for this morning, we had a blast, going from cabin to cabin, and the crew would just look as our group passed them in the halls. I would strongly recommend a cabin crawl if you have a good CC group. After the cabin crawl some went to lunch together and then we all met up in the chamber for our M&M. Our M&M was very well represented by ship staff, the CD (Gordon) was there, the activity director (Phil), and a few of the officers (food and beverage) (hotel) etc.... I was very pleased to see such a turn out of RCCL staff and they DO read this CC site. It was mentioned by several of the staff, so we ARE being heard!!
I tried to post live while on board but the internet was so slow that it just was not worth it. I did hear a few say about the cybercabins that they returned them because they just did not work correctly. But not being able to get on the internet at high speed was not a priority for me and surely did not sore our trip.
Sailing days were wonderful, a bit a rocking from side to side but nothing that you really noticed, it made sleeping feel like you were in a hammock. The bedding in our room was excellent - asked for an egg crate right away and by the time we returned to our room after exploring the explorer it was on the bed. Our room stewart was Joel, what a wonderful young man. At first I thought I would have a problem because he wore his cologne a bit heavy, but it was not a problem at all. Oh and I must say we did not have any problems with smoke blowing in our faces while on our balcony or in the promenade and even the casino was not too bad. Now of course there were some smokers that lit up where ever they wanted but a few times I saw staff telling people they must put out their cigarettes. For a smoker who recently had quit this was WONDERFUL no temptation.
Our ports of call: Labadee - DH and I are not much a beach goers but we did get off the ship and walked around the island, took pictures and checked out the market area. The people putting out chairs were a bit pushy but we did not want a chair and they would move on to the next people quickly when you said no thank you. The market place is a pushy pushy place, I did not end up spending much time there or even buying anything as I got frustrated with the people trying to grab my arm and drag me towards their stalls. The island is beautiful with lots of palm trees for shade and watching the zip line was something. NO we did not do it. Dragon's Breath is a site, the first formation of rocks looks like a turtle and the next formation looks more like a dog to me then a dragon, but if you follow the rocks you can see it's pointed tail and all. The sound through the coral is amazing, just like the beast is breathing. Weather for Labadee was GREAT, sunshine and not too too hot.
Dominican Republic - we got off the ship and bought a round trip shuttle pass to Altos Chavon, what an amazing village. We spent a good 2 hours just walking around talking to people there and taking lots of pictures. But I personally would not get off the ship again if we hit that port - I've seen Altos and I'm not inclined to see their marina or the beach so.... Weather for Dominican Republic was rainy at first and then just hazy.
St. Thomas - we just walked about and took a bus trip to the top of the island to look down. What a site. The view of Megan's Bay was wonderful and I'm glad I'm not a beach goer, it was very packed from what we saw. St. Thomas was very crowded and traveling from downtown to the ship by taxi took us about 1/2 an hour because traffic was so bad. But it was a set fee of 4.00 per person one way, so you can't really complain. It was too far to walk, so sit back and relax. Weather in St. Thomas, we got poured on a few times, but then it would stop and the sun would shine and then it would pour again and then the sun, back and forth all day.
San Juan, Puerto Rico - again we opted to just site see on our own. Took in the fortress and we had a good time there. We decided to take a horse and buggy ride through Old San Juan, 35.00 for 50 minutes (not bad at all) and we got to see things we wouldn't have seen just walking around. When we first got off the ship we were hit up by taxi drivers for 20.00 for their tour, problem was they wouldn't leave until the bus(taxi) was full and there was only 2 people on the bus - didn't want to waste our time we were not in San Juan very long. We did not know you have to take a ferry to get to the Bacardi Rum factory, so we never made it there as time was running out. They were filming the movie "Great Escape" while were where there, right across from where the ships dock - big signs saying that if you walked there and were caught on camera they could use it and not pay you for it. The movie is set in Hawaii - I thought that was funny, the movies police cars and everything said Hawaii on them. We walked out of a store and were talking and were immediately hushed because they were shooting a scene. Interested to watch for a moment but it blocked the whole street, so we moved on. Weather in San Juan, it poured and was very windy almost all the time we were there.
Sailing days back, again the seas were very kind to us.
Shows on the ship - we went to the first show and arrived about 15 minutes before the start and could not find a seat so we watched it standing up. We learned very quickly if you wanted a sit for any show, game, etc... you MUST arrive VERY early, this kept us from attending alot of the shows, games, etc.....
The food - to me the food was good. I am not a fussy eater, so I was happy enough. We did do Portofino's for our anniversary and I just do not have an expensive italian restaurant taste I guess, because I did not like the food, it had strange flavors to me. But the atmosphere was wonderful. We were actually having a good time there, very quiet and peaceful for a dinner. We did do Johnny Rockets twice and would have done it more except the wait to get it was a killer. Yummy hamburgers and onion rings. Windjammers we did for dinner a few times and it was very nice, the food was good, make your own stir fry, pizza, and pasta - which was fun for a change. We did room service a few times but you'd get put on hold for a good 30 minutes and then once your order was taken it was another 30-45 minutes before the food arrived, so I tried to T.V. ordering system - that's worse, make the order and 45 minutes later they CALLED the room to verify the order and then 45 minutes later the food arrived. So if you want room service just make sure you have plenty of time. We did do the order the night before breakfast and it was always on time.
There were not many children on this cruise but alot of elderly. I got my toes run over a few times by walkers or wheelchairs :(
We played mini golf and the course was fun, not very challenging and showing alot of wear. We did not partake in the rock wall but we did watch others.
The highlight of our trip was a bridge tour - if you ever get the chance to do this no matter what else you had planned "DO IT". It's amazing to see how many buttons, handles, phones, pulls, charts, cameras, t.v.s, etc... there is on the bridge - both my DH and I really enjoyed our bridge tour - first one ever!!
Debarkment - we had one of the first colors and numbers to be called off and not all the luggage had really been sorted yet. They had very small isles between the luggage, so you could barely walk between the luggage to try to find your own. I think the worst part of this was the porters, most of them were VERY VERY rude. We did find all our luggage, found a porter, loaded our luggage on his cart and heading out the door. We were in our car heading out of the parking lot at about 9:30 am, we docked a little after 8 am. So even with the confusion it did not take us long to get off the ship, find our luggage and get moving. I would say those porters definitely need to learn manners though, and who ever is sorted the luggage really should remember we have to walk through to find our luggage so the isles between should be wide enough to walk while dragging your luggage behind you once you find it.
All in all this was a wonderful cruise and a great way to celebrate our 25th anniversary. I want to thank my follow cool cruisers, who made the cabin crawl and M&M lots of fun. Seeing them from time to time on the ship or in port was alot of fun, knowing someone a little before you sail and then meeting them face to face is a great way to make new friends and have people to chat with while you wait in line, etc. We truly did have a good CC group and I hope I get to cruise with some of these people again.
Well this review has gotten very long, and if I hadn't covered something you would like to know you can always go to the all things explorer of the seas thread and ask and someone there will surely get the answer for you. I visited that thread several times in the year we waited for this cruise, lots of helpful people on that thread.