February 2008 - Royal Caribbean - Explorer of the Seas - Southern Caribbean Cruise - Noreen & Paul Chin
WHO ARE WE?
Noreen - 39 years old; First Vice President at an Investment Banking Firm in New York City. I will be the author of the report. Paul - my husband; 39 years old; former small Business Owner
Kim and David - 32 years old. Kim works with me. She's the one who introduced me to cruising in 2003. She has been on many cruises. David is her husband. Kim ended up having to cancel her cruise and she wasn't very happy about not being able to go.
Pete, Lilly, and Kirsten. Pete and Lilly are friends of ours (approximately 40 years old). Kirsten is their daughter (approximately 5 years old). Pete works in Auditing. Lilly is a stay at home mom. They have another daughter Cassidy who is only about 1 year old so she is staying home with Lilly's parents and not coming on the cruise. Pete & Lilly ended up having to cancel their cruise too.
So it's back to just Paul and I going on the cruise.
My husband Paul and I went on our first cruise in May 2003 on Royal Caribbean's Voyager of the Seas. Prior to that, I was leery of cruises thinking I'd feel trapped on a boat and bored. I love to be busy all day and our trip on Voyager proved that there are tons of things to do on a cruise. We booked a balcony cabin for that cruise and upgraded at the pier to the owner's suite. We had a great time and decided we definitely want to cruise again. In October 2003 Paul and I went on our second cruise on Royal Caribbean's Serenade of the Seas. Once again, we had a great time and confirmed that we enjoyed cruising.
Paul bought a small business in early 2005. He worked 7 days a week and wasn't able to take any time off. He did not want me to miss out on taking vacations so I spent several vacations in 2005 going to Disney World with various friends and family members. I also spent several vacations in 2006 going on cruises and to Disney with friends. Paul is out of that business so can now vacation with me again.
In March 2006, my friend Cathy and I cruised on Royal Caribbean's Mariner of the Seas. Paul couldn't get away as usual, but still wanted me to go have a good time.
In May 2006, my friend Kim (that convinced me to go on our first cruise) mentioned a great deal she found and booked for herself and her husband on the Explorer leaving out of Bayonne NJ in February 2008. That's such a stretch since I like to book things spontaneously and just go - I can't plan a cruise for almost 2 years away. But the prices were great and no airfare involved so we went for it. At the time I didn't know if Paul would be able to come, but since he's out of the business now he can. On 5/3/06 I booked it on Royal Caribbean on line. We're in a Junior Suite - #1634 on the 10th deck. The cost was $1,639 per person for a junior suite for 12 nights (not including taxes, port charges, insurance, etc). Since we booked within 45 days of the cruise being available we got an additional $99 off the price (not each just $99 in total). We received a postcard for that promotion for the $99 off.
I mentioned this cruise to our friends Pete & Lilly who were interested and also booked it. They booked a regular balcony room.
I also mentioned it to my sister, but she hemmed and hawed about it and couldn't decide if she could go so didn't book anything.
In August 2006, Paul and I cruised on the Explorer of the Seas out of Bayonne, NJ on a 9 night cruise. He took some time away from the business finally to go away.
In September 2006, my friend Cathy and I went to Disney World and then cruised on Royal Caribbean's Enchantment of the Seas. Paul couldn't get away as usual, but still wanted me to go have a good time.
The Enchantment cruise was my 5th Royal Caribbean cruise, making me a Platinum Crown & Anchor member. Kim told me that once it shows up on the Royal Caribbean website to call and they will take $200 off the price of the cruise for 2008. It showed up and I called so we've saved another $200 (not per person, just $200).
Mid November 2007 there was an announcement that all cruises after February 1, 2008 would be subject to a $5 per day per person fuel surcharge if your cruise was not already paid in full with a maximum of $70 per person for the surcharge. Unfortunately, although I originally thought my deadline was earlier this month and would have paid in full, I realized it wasn't due until the end of the month so held off. Now we'll have to pay the additional $120 (12 night cruise at $5 per day per person). I understand the need with the cost of fuel being so high, but I think they could have done this a little better by either having it start with new bookings or giving people an opportunity to pay in full if they already had a deposit on a cruise to avoid the surcharge.
On November 20, 2007 I added the insurance and made my final payment. If I had done so a few weeks sooner, I would have saved the $120 fuel surcharge, but it is what it is. The cruise is now all paid for.
In December 2007 I bought 100 shares of Royal Caribbean Stock. Once I was able to print my 12/31/07 statement, I faxed it in to Share Holder Services. I later confirmed with them that they received it and that they see my OBC for owning the stock. We will receive $200 on board credit for owning 100 shares of RCL stock.
Update… March 2008 regarding Fuel Surcharge. I read that Royal Caribbean has Revised the Fuel Supplement and any cruises booked prior to the Fuel Surcharge Announcement (November 16, 2007) will not have to pay the surcharge. For those that have already paid it and sailed, we should get a refund. So now I'll wait to receive the $120 back. I'm glad to see Royal Caribbean is doing the right thing.
The Explorer Itinerary is as follows: Sunday - Leave from Cape Liberty Cruise Port, Bayonne New Jersey Monday - At Sea Tuesday - At Sea Wednesday - St Maarten - 3pm-11:30pm Thursday - Antigua - 9am-5pm Friday - Dominica - 7am-5pm Saturday - Barbados - 7am-5pm Sunday - St. Kitts - 12pm-6pm Monday - St. Thomas - 8am-8pm Tuesday - Puerto Rico - 7am-1:30pm Wednesday - At Sea Thursday - At Sea Friday - Return to Cape Liberty Cruise Port, Bayonne New Jersey
Kim was initially involved in organizing this as a group cruise as there were a bunch of people that wanted to go so I left the planning in her hands. It turns out the group fizzled out so our booking was direct with Royal Caribbean and not part of a group.
Transportation We live Northern New Jersey (Bergen County) so can just drive down to Bayonne for the cruise and park at the pier.
Excursions We spent a decent amount of time reading through the various excursions to figure out what we wanted to do in each port. We aren't beach people so prefer to find excursions that offer something other than hanging out on a beach.
On 11/15/07 we booked the following excursions: St Thomas - Duck Tour - $50 per person so a total of $100. We went on a Duck Tour in Canada once and really liked it. We wanted to do the Duck Tour in Puerto Rico in 2006 but weren't able to since the timing didn't work with when we had to be back on the ship. We were very excited to see a Duck Tour on the RCCL website for St Thomas.
St Kitts - Scenic Rail Tour - $99 per person so a total of $198.
Barbados - I heard that the Harrison Caves have reopened and have been checking daily to see if Royal Caribbean has added an excursion to the caves - so far nothing. Maybe when we get on the ship there will be something. If not, maybe we'll be adventurous and take a cab to the caves.
Although I looked through the excursions many times, I didn't book anything else in advance.
DAY BY DAY - Unfortunately I didn't keep up with my notes as well as usual so some details will be missing since some had to be done from memory later on. Note to self - keep up with note taking!
The week before our trip The week leading up to the trip was a fairly normal week. I wrapped up some things at the office knowing I'd be gone for two weeks. The months leading up to this trip were crazy at work. I work in Human Resources for an Investment Banking firm. The end of the year is our normal busy season so going on vacation when it's over is always a good plan. This year was especially tough with the issues in the market. On top of our normal busy season, we laid off a huge amount of people. For weeks we worked practically around the clock.
I sent a reminder email to our dog sitter, Jeannie, to make sure she had the dates we would be away.
I started pulling out the suitcases and getting our stuff ready for the trip. I tried to be very sneaky with pulling the suitcases out and getting the stuff together. Kiki (our dog) doesn't like seeing the suitcases - she must know we're going away when they come out. So I would sneak one at a time downstairs to the basement. I would also sneak clothes/shoes/toiletries/etc down to the basement. I would do all this while Kiki was sleeping. I did all the packing in the basement. She heard me with one of the big giant suitcases since I banged into a wall accidentally and she came running downstairs and jumping all over. Paul and I are both overpackers so I know we'll have tons of stuff. So far we're up to about 5 or 6 suitcases to check and will each have our rolling carry on. I also packed almost a whole medicine cabinet for this trip. Any kind of over the counter medicine you can think of, I've probably packed it.
The day before our trip - Saturday 2/2/08 When we first booked the cruise, I thought it was a waste of a Saturday that we weren't leaving until Sunday. However, as the cruise got closer I appreciated having Saturday to do things that need to get done before we leave. We spent Saturday doing some more laundry, packing, etc. I even had time to run out to the mall and buy a new formal night outfit to bring on the trip.
Sunday 2/3/08 We left the house around 12:30pm. We had to run a few errands before driving down to Bayonne but once we were done we drove down. It took about 45 minutes or so to get to the pier.
Paul dropped me and the luggage off and then went to park the car. We tipped the porter $10 for our 4 checked bags. I managed to consolidate our luggage down to 4 checked bags (one with an empty duffel in it) and each of us with a rolling carry on. Paul was back pretty quickly and we headed through security and to the area for check-in. We were able to go to the Suite/Diamond/Platinum embarkation area. We overheard numbers being called for the shuttle bus from the general boarding area. However, once we checked in, we had our picture put on our seapass card as well as our embarkation photo right in this area, then right onto a waiting shuttle to the ship. There was a little bit of a backup getting on the ship because once people got on they were waiting for the elevators. Paul said let's walk. We got on the ship on Deck 1 and our cabin is on Deck 10. Paul said he would carry the carry ons so off to the stairs we went. After a few flights, Paul heard the "bing" of an elevator so we jumped on and rode up to the 10th deck. In total I would say it probably took about an hour from the time Paul dropped me off until we were on the ship.
We dropped off our carry ons in our cabin - Room # 1634 - a Junior Suite. The cabin is very nice. The décor is just like the regular balcony rooms, but it's a little wider. There is a walk in closet and plenty of storage space throughout the cabin. There is a bathtub in the bathroom rather than the shower tube. We also have robes hanging in the closet.
We left our carry ons in the closet for now and headed up to the Windjammer to have lunch. It was about 2:25 when we went up to the Windjammer. Paul bought a soda card. I tried the Honey Stung chicken which was pretty good even though a bit dry. I also had a roll, some corn and green beans. Paul had a nice selection of various things he tried. I was a vegetarian (no chicken, meat, or fish) for the last almost three years. Recently, I started to eat some meat, chicken, and fish. So I am eating things I haven't eaten in years. Announcements were already being made that the Windjammer would be closing at 2:45 for the muster drill which is at 3:30.
After eating we went back to our cabin to get our life preservers for the Muster Drill. Our muster station was the dining room on the 4th deck and we sat with a nice couple so chatted with them and it went very quickly.
When we were dismissed from the muster drill, Paul and I got separated in the mass of people leaving. I figured I'd meet back up with him at the cabin since we had to drop off our life preservers anyway. The elevators were jam packed so I took the stairs - I walked 6 flights from Deck 4 to deck 10. When I got to the room, there was Paul, he got onto an elevator and turned around thinking I was right behind him.
We met the room steward and asked him to empty the refrigerator since we brought on some bottled water and some cans of soda. He put the stuff from the refrigerator in one of the shelves in a cabinet. He asked which cabinet/shelf we wouldn't need and that's where the items from the refrigerator were stored.
Sailaway was at 4pm. We went out on the pool deck. It was chilly and windy so not many people were out there. We walked around outside for a while but it was cold so we went back in.
We stopped at the promenade café because Paul wanted coffee to warm up and he got a coke with the soda card. We tried the coconut ranger cookies. They were OK
Even though we're at sea, nothing is open yet. I guess we're not far enough out. We wandered around the ship starting at the top and working our way down.
At 5pm we stopped at Guest Relations to inquire about the On Board Credit (OBC). They said it would probably show up in another day or so.
We stopped in the Concierge Lounge. Ricky is the concierge and he is very nice. We received tickets to the first Ice Show - Blades for Tuesday at 5pm. We don't spend much time in the concierge lounge but will stop in once in a while. We aren't big drinkers so the draw of free drinks isn't a big deal to us. I like it for the convenience of picking up ice show tickets or sometimes just some general questions.
Checking back in the cabin, our luggage still hasn't arrived so I haven't been able to unpack and get settled. I like to get everything put away in the closets/drawers/etc and then I feel like I'm really on vacation. Paul would be happy to live out of the suitcases. However, as much as he says that, I think he is pretty happy that he can easily find things once I tell him where everything is.
At 5:30when the shops/casino was listed as opening, we went into the Casino and waited for them to turn the machines on. They had to wait for the OK from the bridge. We wanted to play a few nickel slots even though we didn't have much time since we have early dinner at 6pm. I sat at this cute Fortune Cookie machine and Paul said at a Wild Taxi machine next to me. They turned on the slot machines around 5:45. We both threw in $20. At 6, I cashed out $35 and Paul cashed out $270. Yes, he did really well on the nickel machine in 15 minutes.
There was a line to get into the dining room. Since it's the first night it takes a bit longer for people to get to their tables. We're at table 507. We were seated with a mother and father (Julie and Buck) who are in their mid 40's and their adult daughter and her boyfriend (Jess and Joe) who are in their early 20's. They are from Connecticut. The other two people at our table are Luis and Wallys and they are from NJ and in their mid 40's.
We, along with many others, went to dinner wearing our clothes that we got on the ship with. Our luggage hasn't arrived yet. We saw many people in jeans, sweatshirts, sweaters, football jerseys, etc. I think it's more or less expected at early seating the first night since many people haven't received their luggage yet.
The Super Bowl is tonight (NY Giants vs New England Patriots). Kickoff is at 6:30. There is a big set up in Studio B. Also, at various bars around the ship, they will show the Super Bowl and have things like hot dogs and chili set up for people to snack on.
We met our waiter and assistant waiter - George and Javier.
I had sprite and Paul had Iced Tea. For appetizers, I had the Vidalia onion tart. I wasn't crazy about it. It was too mushy. Paul had the Tuscan tomato soup. For entrees, I had the shrimp ravioli which was OK. Paul had the prime rib. For dessert I had the Ivory Chocolate Fondue and Paul had sherbet and the Savarin.
Paul popped out of the dining room and went up to a nearby bar to catch the score of the game a few times.
Dinner took longer than expected, again I'm guessing it's because it's the first night.
7:45 was the Welcome Aboard Show. There is only one show tonight for both early and late seating so I expected it to be packed since we didn't get out of the dining room until 7:45. With many passengers otherwise occupied at the Super Bowl there was plenty of room. Paul stayed at one of the bars on the promenade to watch the Super Bowl and I went to the Welcome Aboard Show. Gordon is the cruise director. We saw some dancers perform and then an act by Rick Novell who juggles and rides a unicycle and was pretty funny.
After the show, I found Paul and we spent some time wandering the shops now that they are open. I was disappointed in the logo shop that they don't have the photo albums that say "Explorer of the Seas" anymore. They had a generic Caribbean photo album. I also was looking to see if they had a sweatshirt but didn't find one of those either. We spent a little time in the casino.
Paul wanted to see the rest of the Super Bowl so I left him at the bar on the Promenade and went up to the cabin to see if our luggage had arrived yet. It was in the room so I unpacked. I like to unpack and get everything all put away. We both overpack so had tons of stuff. However, everything fit with plenty of room to spare. I'm a big fan of the Junior Suite so far for the storage alone.
Paul came up after the game. I showed him where everything was so now that things were organized he would be able to find his stuff.
I have a bit of a sore throat. Paul wanted to go back to the casino, but I stayed in the cabin around midnight while he headed down. He wasn't there too long as they closed by 1am.
It's definitely an older crowd on this sailing than what we're used to. This isn't a complaint just an observation.
Monday 2/4/08 - At Sea I had trouble sleeping and was up by 4:30. I took some Dayquil since I still have a bit of a sore throat and was able to go back to sleep for a little while.
I showered and got ready. We went to breakfast in the Windjammer around 9:30. It was packed. I had some yogurt and granola with fruit and a ½ piece of French toast. Paul had a bagel with cream cheese and lox, some bacon, and some fruit.
At 10am I went to the Port and Shopping talk. It was all about shopping. I was hoping to hear some information about the ports not just about stores to shop in. Paul stayed in the casino while I went to the port talk. Everyone who attended received a cardboard pass to go to Diamonds International to pick up a free charm bracelet and then a charm on each of the islands. There are little boxes for each island and as you pick up the charm for that island, the hole gets punched out. It's for a lot of islands/places, not limited to those islands we are visiting during this cruise. I've never gotten into collecting these although on one of my cruises in 2006, my friend Kim gave me her card and asked me to pick up several of the charms for her.
We went up to the Concierge Lounge and I tried some Cappuccino. Since my throat is bothering me, I had hot liquid. Normally, I don't drink any hot liquids (coffee, tea, etc). We were laughing when we overheard this man saying to his friend that he needed to go up to his room around 2:30 to start getting ready for formal night. Wow - that's a long time to need to get ready. Even more surprising was hearing that comment coming from a man.
We wandered around the ship some more. Since it is still pretty cold out there aren't many people outside so everything inside is more crowded.
1PM was the Meet and Mingle. I was not very active on this roll call, but wanted to go. We both went for a little while. It was a very nice turnout.
Paul signed me up for the Slot tournament. These are kind of silly but there was a huge crowd playing. There is no skill involved, just keep hitting the button. I didn't make it to the final round.
At 3pm we went to the Wine Tasting. We tried 2 white, 1 blush, 2 red, and 1 sparkling. I still haven't found a wine I like, but the second white (a German Riesling) was OK - it was very light and fruity. Paul left the wine tasting a bit early to go play Bingo, but he was too late to play. When the wine tasting ended, I found him in the casino when I didn't see him in the Palace Theater (where Bingo was being held).
We wandered around some more and then headed up to our room to get ready for formal night. We're pretty quick and got ourselves ready in about 15/20 minutes. It helped that it wasn't a hot sticky day where we needed to take another shower since we were still clean from our showers earlier.
There was a long wait for the elevators. Normally, we would have just walked down but with heels on I didn't want to walk down the stairs. When we got down to the dining room, Wallys and Lou were at the table but the 4 people from CT weren't there yet. After 15 minutes of them not showing up we ordered and received our appetizers. They eventually showed up almost an hour late. The waiters were pretty quick about taking their orders and getting them their appetizers. The waiters worked very hard to catch them up to us so we were delayed a bit.
The assistant waiter brought sprite for me and iced tea for Paul pretty quickly tonight.
For appetizers, I had the shrimp cocktail which I didn't like. Paul had the escargot which he said was good. I dipped some bread in the garlic/butter sauce from his escargot. Paul had the lobster bisque soup which he wasn't crazy about. For my entrée I had the truffled mushroom linguine which I had the last time I cruised and really enjoyed. Today, unfortunately, it wasn't very good. It wasn't even linguine but maybe spaghetti. Paul ordered the Duck which he liked. Paul also ordered the Sea Bass when he saw I wasn't eating my pasta for us to share. I had a little of that, then he finished it. For dessert I had the Grand Marnier Soufflé. The soufflé was good. Paul had orange sherbet.
After dinner we wandered around the outside decks - it was finally getting nice outside and not too cold.
At 9pm we went to the Show - Wild, Cool, and Swinging. Some parts of it were very good, but others were a bit slow.
We went to the Finish the Lyrics game show in the Maharajas Lounge at 10:15. This was done in teams. We helped out a team we were sitting near.
Karaoke started around 11pm. There were a lot of singers and we were there until about 12:15.
I was hungry since I didn't eat much of my dinner so we stopped at the Café Promenade and I had some pizza.
When we got back to our room, we had an invitation to the Crown and Anchor Welcome Back party tomorrow at 5:15. That conflicts with the Ice Show tickets we have for 5pm. I will see if I can switch my ice tickets to the 3pm show tomorrow.
Tuesday 2/5/08 - At Sea I was up early having trouble sleeping again so I showered and got ready. I went up to the Concierge Lounge and was able to switch my ice show tickets to the 3pm show.
I stopped at the Windjammer and brought back some Danish for Paul and also some yogurt and granola for me. After this light breakfast on the balcony, we stopped at the Concierge Lounge for cappuccino. I asked Ricky (the concierge) about Harrison Caves in Barbados. He didn't have any information but said Barbados is a safe place and there is a tourist stop right near where we dock so we can ask them.
We looked at some more of the excursions trying to figure out what we want to do on the other islands.
We went out on the pool deck for a while. It's finally nice and the sun is out. The water in the pool is still freezing.
At 11am, Paul signed up for the Blackjack tournament and I went to play Bingo. Neither of us won. Paul was the "bubble boy" - the last one eliminated before making it to the final table. I think normally "bubble boy" refers to the last one eliminated before winning any money in a regular poker tournament, so he adjusted the meaning slightly for the Blackjack tournament.
I used my free slot coupon and won a key chain.
We went to lunch in the dining room around 12:30. They sat us with 3 older couples. They were very nice and we talked mainly about cruises. Most of them ordered special things like a hamburger with no bun, just soup, etc. One lady made a comment to us about how she misses having a young/healthy stomach where you can eat what you want. I had sprite and Paul had iced tea. We shared the fried calamari appetizer. I had the vegetable pad thai. Paul had the honey barbecue ribs. We shared the caramel banana split for dessert.
We went back up to the room and I started typing up some of these notes. Our friend, Ean, let us borrow his laptop so I wouldn't have to hand write all my notes. It was very nice sitting on the balcony typing. However, there was an odd sun glare so I couldn't see anything I was typing. I was just looking out at the ocean and typing away. Once the battery ran out, I headed inside where we plugged the laptop in and I was able to see the screen. Unfortunately, I wasn't this diligent about note taking throughout the trip and my entries get less detailed as time goes on since I had to do much of it from memory.
At 3pm we went to watch "Blades" the first of the Ice Shows. There was a standby line but we went right in with our tickets. The show was good. The competition part was not really necessary. It was freezing in there. It is an ice rink so not surprising but we were cold.
We wandered around outside for a while since it's warmer out. Then we went back to our cabin to change since the C&A (Crown and Anchor) party has a dress code; you are supposed to wear your dinner attire for the evening.
At 5:15 we went to the C&A party in Maharajas Lounge. It was packed. Waiters were circulating with trays of drinks (a rum punch, a pineapple punch, and champagne.). I asked one of the waiters who offered me a drink if he had any frozen drinks. He was a bit hesitant and said he didn't. So I asked if he was going to be bringing any later. He asked what I wanted so I asked for a BBC (Baileys, Banana, Colada) and he said he'd bring it for me. He made me my BBC and brought it out just a few minutes later. It never hurts to ask. We hung out with the couple from CT from our dinner table (the parents). They told us that their daughter Jess (also at our table) worked on Norwegian cruise line (NCL) for 6 months as a waiter in Hawaii.
There was no mention of any possible changes to Crown and Anchor levels. A couple on their 40th cruise received a bottle of champagne. The Loyalty Ambassador talked about Azamara cruises. She also talked about the Next Cruise program.
We went to dinner at 6pm. Everyone was at the table tonight.
For appetizers I had the Caprese (fresh mozzarella and tomato) and Paul had the Scallop Risotto. For soup Paul had the roasted garlic soup. For entrées Paul had the lamb shank. I asked the waiter to have the scallop risotto as my entrée. I was planning to pick off the scallops and just eat the risotto. He told me it's too small for an entrée so I asked him to take 2 of them and just combine them into one plate. He ended up bringing me the little appetizer serving. Then a bit later another one. He said the chef didn't want to mess up the presentation by putting it on one plate. For dessert I had strawberry ice cream and Paul had Tiramisu (I think).
The assistant waiter brought sprite and iced tea without being asked. He's even remembering to bring straws. I know it's childish but I like to drink out of a straw.
At 9pm we went to the show in the Palace Theater - Lenny Welch. He is an older performer; probably in his mid 60's. The audience loved him. We never heard of most of his stuff. He was very energetic and a good performer. We sat with Lou and Wallys.
At 10:15 the four of us headed down to Studio B for Invitation to Dance. We were kept waiting outside until 10:30 before we were let in. It was rather boring. It was try outs to be in the show later in the week. We enjoyed the parts where the professional dancers performed. I had trouble staying awake.
He hung out some more with Lou and Wallys.
We went back to our cabin at 11:45.
Wednesday 2/6/08 - St Maarten We had breakfast in the Windjammer. I made my own fruit and yogurt parfait with granola. Paul had an assortment of breakfast items. While we were eating it poured for a little while.
There is a sense of excitement around the ship since we'll be docking in St Maarten this afternoon.
We went to bingo at 11am and didn't win anything as usual.
We walked around outside and it was sunny and warm. Then suddenly there was another torrential downpour. We went into the card room and played a few games of Othello.
We had lunch in the Windjammer.
We docked at 3pm and got off the ship. The line for the water taxi was really long. We took a regular taxi van for $3 per person to downtown.
We wandered through many shops. We stopped at the Guavaberry Emporium to get the 6 bottles Kim asked me to pick up. It was too late to order and have them deliver to the ship (since our ship docked so late in the day) so we decided we would wait until we're ready to head back to the ship rather than lugging them around.
We went to the Belgium Chocolate Shop and bought some chocolates - $19 for 16 pieces. I wanted to pick my own pieces or it would have been $16 ($3 less to take the pre-made box). I want to know what I'm getting.
We picked up the free Diamonds International charm bracelet that we received a form for when I went to the port and shopping talk.
There was an open air flea market that we walked through. I bought a cute little bag that says St Maarten / St Martin on it. It's beige with black writing and designs. There is also an attached change purse in it. It's really cute. And it was only $7. I didn't haggle at all - that's the price the woman said. I probably could have bargained with her and said "How about $5?" but she probably needs the extra $2 more than I do and I don't like to haggle. I don't mean that in a negative way at all, but all of the vendors have basically the same stuff so there is a lot of competition to get the customers. She was friendly and not too pushy so I'd rather give her my business. If I like something and think it's a fair price, I'll buy it; if not I won't. Of course as we kept wandering I saw a lot of bags for cheaper than $7 so I guess haggling is expected.
We stopped in a few jewelry stores, I was looking for a cigar band ring, but had no luck finding anything I liked. Since we are just about to celebrate our 10 year wedding anniversary, I wanted to get something with diamonds. Listen to how corny we are…When we were engaged and registered at Fortunoff, they gave us this list of the different gifts you are supposed to buy for your various anniversaries. I guess that's their way of ensuring you are buying stuff even after you are married. There was one side that was traditional and one side that was modern. Depending what was on either side of the list, we would choose whatever we preferred. Each year, we would buy whatever we're supposed to buy based on this list. For the past 9 years it has been things really for both of us - for example the first year was a clock. For your 10 year anniversary it's Diamonds - so this year it's really for me. Originally, I wanted to get a Diamond Eternity Band - the ones that have diamonds that go all around your finger. I have pretty skinny fingers so a few months ago, before we went on our cruise, I tried several on in different jewelry stores and most of the ones I liked just overwhelmed my little skinny finger. However, in one store I found this ring that the jeweler called a Cigar Band ring that I also liked. Once I told him I'm looking for something for our 10 year anniversary, he was pushing me towards the eternity band (it was also more expensive than the cigar band). Still undecided, I figured I have some time to decide. I was talking to my mother about how I wasn't having any luck finding an anniversary band and she reminds me that she has an anniversary band that was my great grandmothers and it is for me since I was named after her. It fits, has diamonds all around, and is really pretty. So why am I still looking at other rings? I don't know, I guess because I feel like we didn't buy something for our anniversary from the list so I thought if I found a cigar band ring I liked we could get that too. I'm not making myself crazy over the cigar band ring. If I find one great, if not, no big deal.
After going off on that tangent, I will get back on track of our day in St Maarten…
We went through a few smaller casinos - usually we just used them as a bathroom pit stop while we were walking around.
On the boardwalk there was a liquor shop selling Baileys at 2 bottles for $30 and you get a free bag. We bought 1 caramel and 1 chocolate mint flavored. The bag is really cute and Paul wants to carry that instead of the knapsack tomorrow. We bought a postcard in one of the shops.
I like to buy a postcard at each island I visit and I put them in my photo albums to show which island the pictures are from. I used to try to find a landmark that had the islands name on it. Finding a postcard is a lot easier and often they are much prettier since I'm not the best photographer.
We sat by the beach on a bench for a while just hanging out and people watching. Paul dipped his feet in the ocean.
We walked back to Front Street to go back to the Guavaberry Emporium to pick up the 6 bottles for Kim but they were now closing.
We walked back to the ship. It was nice out with cool breezes. The walk was quick - maybe about 15 minutes.
We stopped in the Duty Free shops by the ship. They had Guavaberry there for the same price as the Guavaberry Emporium so I picked up the 6 bottles of Guavaberry for Kim.
Hanging out near the pier we had a Guavaberry Colada for $8
We met an older (early 60's) couple while hanging out by the pier who were on the Mariner of the Seas. They rented mopeds and had a great time driving around the island. They went skinny dipping at a beach. They also got in an accident on their moped but were OK. I was so impressed - here they are in their 60's and look how much fun they are having. Next time we're in St Maarten we may rent a car or moped.
We got back on the ship around 8pm. The gangway crew took the box of 6 bottles of Guavaberry and 1 of the bottles of Baileys. They missed the other bottle of Baileys and we didn't complain.
While dropping our stuff in the room, we saw that the room was made up but there was no ice. The room steward was in the hall so we asked him for ice. We're pretty easy and all we asked for is ice and he forgets to refill it unless I leave the ice bucket open.
Since we got on the ship late, we had dinner at the Windjammer. There wasn't much I was thrilled with but I found a few things to eat.
The 9pm show was Colleen Austin. We arrived about 9;15. She was pretty good. Paul took a nap during the show.
10:15 was the Majority Rules game show. It was cute.
At 11:15 we stayed for Karaoke. Paul wanted to sign up but someone was already singing the song he likes.
At 12:15 we went up on the Pool Deck for the party. They had a buffet set up which wasn't very good at all. We stayed at the party for a little while, then headed back in and went to the casino.
At the casino, Paul wanted to play the electronic poker table (instead of a live dealer, it's all electronic). I was going to go up to the cabin but Paul wanted me to play the slots so shoved a $20 in my hand and says go play on a poker machine - you'll have fun.
I found one in the corner. I hit 4 5's pretty quickly so had about $60 but I just started and didn't want to cash out yet so kept playing. Of course, I lost it all back and I was down to the last about $3 and playing 3 quarters at a time and hit 4 Aces with a 4 and won 1200 quarters ($300). I played some more - a little up and a little down, and when I got back down to $300 hit cash out. The bells rang and the lights flashed and an attendant had to come pay me. While waiting, Paul showed up. He lost a little at poker and was looking for me and heard the bells and was very excited to see it was my machine ringing. I played a little more and threw in another $20. I hit 4 Kings and played some more and cashed out $30. The casino was about to close so we went back to the cabin.
We watched Spiderman 3 on TV and then went to sleep.
Thursday 2/7/08 - Antigua We didn't have any tours booked for Antigua. We had breakfast in the Windjammer.
We got off the ship and walked around. We bought a postcard and a magnet. We probably spent a few hours wandering around town. We probably should have done an excursion and I'm sure we missed out on seeing the real Antigua by just staying near the pier.
We went back onto the ship late morning and went to the pool for a while. The water was cold.
We had lunch in the Windjammer. Then we went back to the pool for a little while.
We headed up to our cabin to shower then went to Bingo at 4:30. There weren't enough people playing Bingo so the money we paid for our cards was refunded and we just played for fun and some prizes. We didn't win anything any prizes.
One of the guys on the cruise director's staff, Phil, is very funny and likable. His official title may be something like activities manager. He usually ran the Bingo games. He was also at the Meet and Mingle the other day and was very funny and told a story of how he found out about Cruise Critic when another cruise director was sick and everyone was asking about her. He couldn't figure out how people even knew she was sick and they told him it call came from cruise critic. He also joked around about how everyone talked about "Rubbish". He said it in a funny way, not a condescending way. We went to the Excursion desk and booked a tour for Dominica. There were two we trying to decide between since they both sounded very similar. I asked the woman working there if she has heard one is better than the other or if she recommends one over the other. She didn't have a clue. She basically said Oh I've heard good things about both. Then she proceeded to read the brochure to me telling me where they both went. So we picked the Falls and Pools Nature Adventure; it cost $62 each so a total of $124.
We went to dinner at 6. For appetizers I had the fried shrimp and Paul had the duck. Soup - Paul had the Vidalia Onion and I skipped the soup. Entrée - I had the Salmon in Rice Paper. I didn't like it. Paul had the Osso Bucco. For dessert I had the low fat peach cobbler with vanilla ice cream and Paul had Tiramisu. My peach cobbler with ice cream was very good
The show tonight at 9 was a piano player - Glenn Smith. It was OK but we weren't that crazy about it.
At 10:15 was Battle of the Sexes. They tried to recruit me and Wallys to be part of the woman's team but we both got out of it. It was fun to watch but we didn't want to participate.
When we went back to our cabin tonight, there was a note that our Duck Tour in St Thomas has been moved to 2pm. We'll have to stop at the Excursion desk to see about changing the time since that's smack in the middle of the day. I would rather do it earlier so we have the rest of the day to do whatever else we want to do.
Friday 2/8/08 - Dominica We were up and ready to be on the pier by 8:15 to meet our tour - Falls and Pools Nature Adventure.
Paul and I were put in the front with the driver. It was nice and cool with the air conditioning blowing right on us but we were a bit squished since it's really a seat for 1 person.
Our first stop was called something like Morne Bruce and it was a nice overlook where we can see the ship. There were also some vendors selling various trinkets. Paul bought a little beaded type of bracelet. There was a dog there that looked like he was someone's pet since he seemed well cared for. I gave him some of my granola bar. I'm used to our dog that eats out of your hands and never bites you so that's how I fed this dog. Luckily, he didn't bite either.
Paul took a little nap on the bus on the way to our second stop which was Trafalgar Falls. There were some brief rain showers when we arrived and some people bought plastic ponchos. We didn't since it was just a sprinkle. We used the bathrooms and had to pay $1 to do so, but it was clean and well kept. We hiked up to the falls. It was very pretty - very lush and green.
We got back on the bus to go to our 3rd stop which was at a hotel area. They gave us free drinks here. The bathroom was free too. Paul tried their local beer. There was a pretty overlook here where we took some pictures. We didn't stay here too long and then it was back on the bus.
Our fourth stop was the Emerald Pool. We hiked through mountains to get to the Emerald Pool. It was quite a hike up to get to the Pool. There were many people swimming in it. We just took some pictures by it. Paul put his feet in. We hiked back down. It was pretty hot by now. Bathrooms were $1 to use here.
Once back on the bus, we appreciated being right in front of the AC on the way back even if we were a little squished. Paul napped for part of the bus ride back. The driver was very nice and did a nice tour of the island telling us what we were seeing. When we got back we tipped him an additional $20.
We wandered through the shops near the pier. They had a coffee store that had green lettering that looked like Starbucks but it had a different name - I think it was Rituals Coffee. We stopped in there but then Paul saw an ice cream truck that said Mr Whippy so we went there and he got a cup of ice cream - I think the flavor was called something like sosop. It was vanilla with a hint of citrus flavor. I found a postcard and a magnet.
We got back on the ship around 2:30 and had a late lunch in the Windjammer.
Then we went to our cabin to shower.
At 4:30 we went to Bingo. Well Paul went down to Bingo and I waited on a huge line for ice show tickets to the second show - Spirits of the Seasons. By the time I made it to Bingo they were just about at the final game. There really should be a better way to hand out the ice show tickets. There were two different ones shown on this trip (Blades and Spirits of the Seasons). Of course, once I got to Bingo and met Paul, he said "Why didn't you just get the ice show tickets from the concierge?" I didn't even think of it.
We stopped in the casino after Bingo and lost a little. Then we got ready for dinner. It was another formal night. We had three formal nights this cruise even though the documents we received from Royal Caribbean said two formal nights.
We stopped at the Concierge Lounge to see if we could change our Duck Tour time. We were able to change it to 12 noon. There were no morning ones.
At dinner everyone was there. They did a good job matching us up as we all get along well. For appetizers Paul and I both had the crab cake For soup I tried the chilled apple which I didn't like at all, it reminded me of watery apple sauce. Paul had the New England Clam Chowder. The salad was a spinach salad for the table. For entrées I had the risotto primavera and Paul had the pork chop. For dessert I had the apple cobbler with vanilla ice cream and Paul had chocolate mousse
We went back to the cabin to change out of our formal clothes after dinner.
The 9pm show was Fast Forward.
At 10:15 we watched Make me a Millionaire. We hung out with Lou and Wallys and they decided they wanted to come to Harrison Caves with us tomorrow so we made plans to meet around 10 by the promenade café.
Saturday 2/9/08 - Barbados We had a quick breakfast in the Windjammer and then met Lou and Wallys by the Promenade Café around 10:15am.
We went to the tourism office and asked about getting to Harrison Caves and the cost by Taxi. It was something like $35 a person round trip. We asked about the cost of renting a car and she said it would be about $100. We decided to rent a car. We went to the car rental place and got a Toyota Corolla. It was about $95. We had a choice of the Corolla which had air conditioning or a Jeep that had an open top but no air conditioning. The Jeep was a little cheaper than the Corolla. We wanted the air conditioning in case it was hot. The thing that I was worried about is that you drive on the wrong side of the road and the steering wheel is in the wrong place. Maybe wrong isn't the politically correct term, but it's the opposite side of what we're used to. I said to Paul "You don't know how to drive on the wrong side of the road." He said "How hard could it be, it's just driving?" The rental car guy said the basic rule is that the people to your right have the right of way. OK, with a map in hand we start off. Paul was our designated driver since he was the only one brave enough to try driving on the wrong side of the street. Wallys and I were the worst back seat drivers and kept reminding Paul "Stay to the left".
After getting a little lost we made it to Harrison Caves at about 12:05. The next tour was at 12:30 so we went in the little gift shop and just hung out waiting. The cost for the Caves was $20 per person. It's listed in Barbados dollars at 40 per person.
First you see a film and then get into these silver tour cars that hold about 5 people per row and had maybe 7 or 8 rows each. It reminded me a little of the cars in the Dinosaur ride at Disney. There is a tour guide narrating what you are seeing. The Caves are pretty amazing. Stalagmites are on the ground and Stalactites are on the ceiling. The tour was about an hour. There were a few spots where you get out of the car and can walk around. We were warned many times not to touch anything.
The caves recently reopened and everything is clean and fresh. Paul and I have never done a cave tour before but Lou and Wallys did one in Puerto Rico and said this one was much better.
After the Caves we drove to a beach for a little while. Paul put his feet in the water. It was a very quiet beach with hardly anyone there. We took a few pictures.
Driving around Barbados, there are a lot of these things called "Roundabouts" which are traffic circles. Going through them was fun but we kept trying to remember who had the right of way.
After the beach we drove all over looking for the Hilton. We finally found it and had a late lunch outside by the pool. We all had soda. Paul and I shared a flying fish sandwich with fries as did Lou and Wallys. We told the waiter we were in a rush and our food came out pretty quickly. We were cutting it close getting back to the ship before it was time to sail. The food was good. We gave him a nice tip. The initial bill included a gratuity of $9 and we added another $10 to it. Our whole bill was $50 or $25 per couple.
We got back to the port and bought a few things at the pier and then got onto the ship. Of course, as we were pulling up to the pier, Paul decides to drive around in a circle just to scare us that we weren't pulling in yet. It started raining as we pulled into the pier area.
Renting the car was a great idea. I'm so glad we did it. It gave us the freedom and flexibility to go where we wanted and see as much as we were able to fit in with limited time on the island.
We showered and got ready for the evening.
At dinner we all chatted about our day.
For Appetizers I had the Shrimp Ceviche and Paul had the Curry Puff (I forgot it's official name). For Salad I had Caesar salad and Paul had the salad of the day For our Entrée I had the vegetable pad thai while Paul had the fried chicken and the thai shrimp. For dessert I had the coconut parfait and Paul had the cappuccino layer cake.
Before dessert was served, the waiter brought over a special dessert plate for Jess that had a sapphire ring that Joe bought her for their 1 year dating anniversary. He also bought a bottle of champagne that they shared with the rest of the table. Julie helped him pick out the ring but Jess was surprised. It was very sweet.
The 9pm show was the Ice show "Spirit of the Seasons" for those that picked up tickets for the show earlier. There was a line to get in so we waited. There was this annoying group behind us who sent their approximately 13 year old son ahead to cut the line and get a front row seat. I turned around to them and said "Nice thing to teach your kid." They looked surprised by my comment but didn't have a response. I've been living in the suburbs for about 10 years now, but work in NY City and grew up in Brooklyn, NY and sometimes the New Yorker in me just comes out. These people irritated me. We're all standing in line, we all have tickets and we'll all get in.
When the doors opened we got front row seats on the long side of the rink. I was happy to see the kid who cut the line didn't get front row seats after all and ended up sitting behind us with his family.
The show was very good. There were only a few falls.
At 10:30 was the Love and Marriage show. Paul wanted to go to Karaoke with Lou and Wallys so I told him I'd meet them after since I wanted to watch Love and Marriage.
The Love and Marriage show was OK. The cruise director, Gordon, can be a bit annoying. He is funny, but then he laughs like he's cracking up about whatever he's talking about or is going on. Meanwhile, he probably has to say the exact same thing every cruise so how can he find himself that funny. I know that sounds cynical. He was pretty funny, but when he laughed at himself it kind of annoyed me. The married a long time couple (married 51 years) were the parents of the husband of the middle couple. The couple married a long time won.
Gordon and Phil (the activities guy) do a cute little skit on TV every day or so and that's pretty funny.
I ran up to the Maharajas Lounge after Love and Marriage ended, but Karaoke had already ended so I went to mine and Paul's backup meeting spot - the casino.
I went to the poker machines I like and someone was at my favorite one (in the corner) so I sat next to him and played the 2nd machine. I put $20 in. I played for a while. I was down to my last few credits when I hit 4 Aces. Then I hit 4 8's. I cashed out $175. My bucket just barely held it all. Walking to the cashier to cash in I saw Paul at Blackjack and showed him by bucket full of quarters.
I went over to another poker machine. At first I wasn't doing well and put in about $60. Then I hit 4 Kings and a little while later 4 Aces. I cashed out $140.
Paul was playing a poker machine and I sat next to him to wait. I decided to throw in $20. Paul said you just hit 4 of a kind a few times in a row, you aren't going to hit anything else. I few hands later I hit 4 8's and cashed out $50.
It was after 1am so we went back to our cabin. Paul is starting to get a cold so he took some Nyquil. When I was packing practically a whole medicine cabinet, I was wondering if it was overkill, but I was glad to have it.
Sunday 2/10/08 - St Kitts Paul slept late since he still isn't feeling well - he has a cold and is very tired. I worked on some notes for the trip report sitting on the balcony. Unfortunately, since I haven't been jotting down notes daily, like I usually do, some things are probably not as detailed as I would normally make them. And I'm sure some things were missed altogether.
We went to the Windjammer around 11:30 to get something to eat. We docked at a little after 12.
We met our tour - Scenic Railway - on the pier. We got on a bus to get to the train. They gave us bottled water that said "St Kitts Scenic Railway" on it.
Once at the train we went up to the top deck and sat up there. It's covered for shade. You could also go downstairs if you wanted which was air conditioned. You could go upstairs and downstairs at will. There was a bathroom in each car which was very clean. Most people stayed upstairs. We were served drinks throughout the rail tour - banana daiquiris, water, soda, etc. We were also served a sugar cane type cookie. The beverages and cookie were included in the price of the tour.
There was a choir on board that would go from car to car and sing. There was a guide who narrated what we were seeing.
Paul slept through a lot of it since he still wasn't feeling well. The scenery was amazing. It is such a pretty island. The people living there were very friendly and would wave as we went by. I took so many pictures.
After the train portion, we went back in the bus and were given a tour of what we were passing on the way back to the pier.
We stopped in a few shops near the pier.
When we got back on the ship we had a quick snack in the Windjammer. Then we went up to our cabin and showered.
Paul still didn't feel well and took a nap. He didn't come down to dinner tonight. He was debating back and forth but really didn't feel great and wanted to rest. He was worried about me. I went to dinner since by now I know the others at the table so I was comfortable going to hang out with them. I sat there and no one was there. I waited and waited. Our waiter, George, offered to put me at another table if I wanted since I was only going to wait another few minutes. If no one came, I would have just gone back upstairs and either ordered room service or went and grabbed something at the Windjammer. Luckily everyone else showed up so I stayed. I don't remember what I ordered but I think I had ravioli that was just OK. George, our waiter, packed up dinner for me to bring Paul. I brought him soup and a steak dish. Paul ate the soup, but didn't like the steak so I went to the Windjammer to get him something else that I brought back to the cabin. I got him sushi. They had these cute sushi plates that were square and had round cutouts to put your soy sauce bowl in.
After Paul ate and lay back down, I went to the show - Vibeology and then stopped in the casino for a bit. Things like seeing the show or going to the casino I'm fine doing on my own. However, sitting alone in the dining room at an empty table, I would not feel comfortable doing.
When I went back up to check on Paul, he still didn't feel great but wanted something sweet and wanted to go out. We went to the Promenade Café and he got something sweet to snack on and then we went back to the cabin to bed.
Monday 2/11/08 - St Thomas We had to go through Immigration at 8am today. They assigned times to go based on what deck your cabin was on. It was very quick. We never stopped walking. Although I was told that I am supposed to sign my passport. It was done in the dining room on the 5th floor for US citizens and on the 4th floor for non US citizens.
We had breakfast in the dining room since we were there anyway. We sat with 4 older couples and chatted with them for a while. They were very nice. I had fruit slices and banana pancakes. Paul had eggs over easy. The Windjammer is definitely quicker.
We were off the ship a little after 9am. We walked through Havensight. We stopped at Diamonds Int'l for the free charm. Then we stopped in AH Riise to look for the Clinique items Kim wanted me to pick up but they didn't have them.
Paul wanted to rent a car so we stopped at both Avis and Budget but they were out of cars. Next time we'll reserve one in advance. A lady kept bothering us to take a tour. She said she would show us all around the island for a lot cheaper than the cruise tours. We explained to her that we already have a tour booked for later, but wanted to look into renting a car to go off on our own after the tour shows us the highlights. She kept bothering us and after saying no thank you many times, finally just had to walk away.
We wandered some more through Havensight. We bought some more cough drops for Paul in the pharmacy. We bought a 20oz bottle of orange soda in the supermarket. It was cool but not cold. Paul took another 20oz bottle and put it in the freezer with the ice cream so we could come back for it later. We also bought a post card and a magnet in one of the shops.
About noon we went back over to the pier for our Duck Tour. It was a little disorganized. We had to sit on a shuttle - open air bus to go about 3 minutes away. It took a while to get everyone onto the shuttle and organized. However, it was easy to find the guide since she was carrying a bright yellow duck umbrella.
We were dropped off at a new pier - Yacht Grande Haven. It was very nice and had some upscale shops.
The boat - the Duckaneer was there so we got on. The guide told a few corny jokes but it was cute. The water part of the tour was first and the guide gave us some information about the area. We went on land for a bit and then back into the water and back to the dock at Yacht Grande Haven. We stopped at the bathroom which surprisingly, for a new pier, had one ladies room and one men's room (just a private bathroom not stalls so only 1 person can go at a time). Even more surprising was that the line for the men's room was longer than the line for the ladies room. The shuttle bus took us back to the pier.
We didn't see as much of St Thomas as I was hoping to on the Duck tour.
We were debating going on the skyride but decided against it. We were hungry and had lunch at a cute place called the ShipWreck Tavern. I tried a Bailey's Bushwacker drink. It was frozen and tasted kind of like a Mudslide. I read that they were the thing to order when you take the skyride up to the top so I had one here. Paul had iced tea. We shared a bunch of appetizers - pretzel bread, fried shrimp, and Paul had chicken wings. It was pretty good. The waitress told me that the Bailey's Bushwacker had 5 different liquors in it. Our total came to $35 with tax and tip.
We went back to the supermarket to buy the frozen orange soda. It was too frozen to drink at first so we took it with us and wandered a few more shops. After browsing through a few shops, the soda was nice and cold and very refreshing - probably the coldest soda we had all week.
We got back on the ship and showered and got ready for dinner. We were a little bit late. I don't remember what we ate. We weren't that hungry since he had a late lunch, but wanted to go more to hang out with our tablemates. I didn't do as good a job this trip as I normally do keeping track of all the details.
We saw the 9pm show which was Jonathan Clark. He's the husband of Colleen Austin (a performer we saw earlier in the week). He was OK.
There was a parade in the Promenade at about 10:30 and we watched that.
At 11:30 was the Latin Buffet on the pool deck. We walked by but didn't eat anything and then headed to the casino for a while.
Tuesday 2/12/08 - San Juan We docked at about 7am, but we weren't cleared for people to get off the ship until about 8:15am.
We had a quick breakfast in the Windjammer and then got off the ship.
Our first stop was the Sheraton across the street. We went into their casino and put $20 in the slot machine. Last time we stopped here on a cruise (August 2006) we did this and won $400. Unfortunately, no such luck today.
We walked to the Coach Outlet. The prices were very good. Unfortunately, I didn't find anything I wanted.
We found La Bombanera and bought a few pastries.
We wandered through some of the shops and up and down some of the streets.
We stopped in the Hard Rock Café and Paul bought a hat and I bought a pin. I usually get one whenever I see a Hard Rock Café. I don't go nuts searching them out, but if I pass it, I'll get one. I really should put all the pins together somewhere since all I do with them now is stick them in a draw.
Paul bought an empanada type thing from a street vendor and then a snowcone.
It was getting hot out so we went back to the Sheraton Casino and played for a bit longer.
We went looking for a postcard and a magnet.
We had to be back on the ship by 1pm and we headed back at around 12:30. There was a long line waiting to get back on.
We put on our bathing suits and went up to the pool. The lounges near the pool were all taken but we put our stuff on a regular chair and went into the pool. It was chilly but not as cold as it was the other day.
We had lunch in the Windjammer around 1:45.
At 2:30 we watched the Belly Flop contest. This is always funny to watch and draws a big crowd.
We went back up the room to shower after that. Then we went down to the casino. We played a few slots and then Paul played some poker.
We changed and went to dinner at 6. Everyone was there tonight. We're having a lot of fun with our tablemates now and are often the last table to leave the dining room. They turn the overhead lights up pretty bright and we'll realize that's our hint to get moving so they can set our table for the late seating.
We enjoyed the following selections tonight: Appetizers - I had the fried mushrooms and Paul had the Lychee and Papaya fruit plate Soup - I skipped soup but Paul had the Mulligatawny soup. Salad - I had Caesar salad and Paul skipped the salad Entrée - I had the baked cannelloni and Paul had the lamb chops Dessert - I had the pear tart and Paul had some sort of chocolate dessert
After dinner the guys wanted to smoke. We lost Lou and Wallys. Julie, Jess, and I stopped at Guest Relations for me to complete and drop off the gratuity form (since our room steward never left it in our room). We walked back and forth looking for the guys.
We finally found them in the cigar bar. We hung out for a while chatting. We got to talking about room types and ended up doing a little cabin tour. As we were walking towards our cabin, they were commenting on the hallway width that it was much wider than where their cabins are. It was decided that we were in the high rent district. They were very impressed with our Junior Suite - especially when they realized we paid about the same for our JS as Julie and Buck paid for their Ocean View room. We hung out in our room for a while and almost everyone had a glass of Bailey's while we were there.
We quickly saw Jess and Joe's interior cabin which was very small as expected.
Then we saw Julie and Buck's Oceanview room. This was all the way at the front of the ship. It was also very small. We felt a lot of motion when in their cabin at the front of the ship that we don't feel in our room. It's been very smooth this whole sailing so I was surprised we felt so much motion in their cabin.
We showed them the concierge lounge. I know you're not supposed to bring guests. It was late and we weren't looking to get them any free drinks or anything people could get upset about. We just opened the door so they could have a quick look inside.
We went to the Quest at 11pm. That was so much fun. We weren't team members on the floor playing but were able to participate. Not to give away any details, but Jess's bra was prominent in the show.
We hung out at Boleros for a while. At about 12:45am we got a soda and a snack at the Promenade café. Everyone else went to bed and Paul and I went to the casino.
Paul wanted to play poker but at first the table was full and he was on a wait list.
I played a joker poker machine - Double Double Bonus Poker. This is the game I've been playing all the time on this cruise at the poker machines. The first $20 I put in I hit nothing. The next $20 I put in I hit four 3's with a 2 and won 640 quarters ($160). Then I played some more and hit four Jacks for 250 quarters ($62.50). The casino was closing at 2am and the people working there would remind us that they were closing soon. I cashed out $200 and needed two buckets to carry it to the window to cash in.
Paul finally made it onto the poker table and won a little.
We went up to the cabin and watched the end of the Shawshank Redemption.
Wednesday 2/13/08 - At Sea We had breakfast in the Windjammer.
At 10:30 we went to the Cooking Demo in the Palace Theater. They were still trying to sell the cookbooks, but most people got them for free for paying the fuel surcharge. Well, I guess it's not free - it's a $120 cookbook :). Now that the Fuel Surcharge is being reversed, I guess it was a free cookbook.
The Platinum, Diamond, and Diamond Plus Crown and Anchor party was at 11am in Maharajas Lounge. This was the same time as the Blackjack Tournament that Paul wanted to play in. I told him to go and I'd meet him after. The invite said smart casual but everyone showed up in their shorts, T Shirts, etc. It seems silly to expect people to dress up at 11am on a sea day for an hour.
There was a buffet brunch set up. Since we just had breakfast recently, I just had a few chocolate covered strawberries. They didn't really tell us anything different from the other C&A party. Except that they mentioned the Platinum C&A pins which we never received.
I browsed through the Logo store and picked up a few items - a photo album, a magnet, and two glass fish. I found the photo albums that say "Explorer of the Seas" on the cover so I was happy since I didn't see them last time I looked through the shop. I didn't buy much. They don't have postcards of the ship anymore. When I asked I was told to look in the photo gallery.
I ran into Lou and Wallys who just were up with Colleen (Future Cruise consultant) and she gave them their Platinum pins. I went up to get them too and asked a few questions about the Next Cruise form.
When I went back to the room to drop off my purchases and pins, there were a set of platinum pins on the bed.
I met Paul in the casino. He was knocked out of the blackjack tournament and was playing poker.
We went to lunch at Johnny Rockets. We used our C&A coupons. Paul used his soda card for soda and I ordered a black and white shake and a glass of water. We started off with fries and onion rings. We both had a burger with cheese, mushroom, and grilled onions It was very good. We sat outside. When the waiters were supposed to dance to Love Shack our waiter came out and danced just for us. We were the only ones sitting outside. We left an additional $4 tip on top of the 15% automatically added for the shake.
We hung out outside for a while. Many people were out by the pool getting the last bit of sunbathing in before we get back to the cold weather.
Tonight was our last formal night in the dining room. Julie was there but the rest of her group (Buck, Jess, and Joe) didn't show up. Buck didn't feel good. Jess and Joe didn't feel like dressing up. Lou and Wallys were there too.
We both had the Fisherman's Plate (Lobster and Shrimp) for our entrée. George (our waiter) brought us all extra lobster tails.
Wallys' daughter had a baby boy (Aiden) so she's a grandma now.
We changed after dinner then went to the show at 9. It was Tribute - A salute to the Temptations.
I'm guessing Paul and I probably spent some time in the casino before going to bed, but I didn't keep up with my notes so don't remember the details.
Thursday 2/14/08 - At Sea Today is our last full day of the cruise.
We had breakfast in the Windjammer. Then we dropped off our "Next Cruise" form with the Loyalty Ambassador.
At 10:15 we went to the Captain's Corner. The Captain wasn't there. Some of the people in the audience asked very technical questions. And a few people complained about the lack of a midnight buffet and the lack of trays in the Windjammer. One interesting fact we learned was that the loud bangs we keep hearing is the anchor slamming into the side of the ship. It's not swinging far and banging, it's barely moving but it's still heavy enough to create the loud bang we're hearing.
We were driving into a storm and were hitting 27 foot waves. That's what someone said so I'm putting it down. The storm/waves is expected to last about 6 hours. Prior to this storm we did not hear the loud bang of the anchor.
At 11am was Bingo. Halfway through Bingo I went up to the cabin to go out on the balcony for air. I felt woozy from all the rocking of the ship. Paul stayed to finish the game. I sat on the balcony for a little bit. I took a Bonine and laid down for about an hour. I felt much better after that and did most of the packing.
The rocking definitely subsided this afternoon and it was smooth sailing again.
We went to the final Bingo at 4pm. One lady won over $9,000 cash.
We spent some time in the casino. Paul was doing well at poker but I was losing at the slots.
At the final dinner we all exchanged names, addresses, emails.
I don't remember what we had for appetizers. For my entrée I had the Mahi Mahi Tempura which was very good. I don't remember what Paul had. My dessert was the banana parfait which was good too.
During dinner, Paul started taking candid pictures of everyone. Sometimes catching them making silly faces or sticking their tongue out. Everyone got into it and we were all taking silly pictures.
After dinner we changed and put the luggage out.
Our whole table met in our usual balcony seat for the Farewell show at 9pm. Gordon, the cruise director, surprised us by singing. He has a good voice. I liked him more tonight than I did earlier in the cruise. After the show we were all still sitting there and the whole theater cleared out.
We decided to meet back in the same place for the late night comedy at 11. Julie went and booked the September 2008 cruise to Bermuda so they can cruise with us again. We have to link our reservations so we're at the same table.
We met back up for late night comedy as planned. The comedian was OK. Paul was still in the casino so missed the comedian. We were all hanging out again after the show. Paul stopped by to see what we were all doing.
Everyone wanted to go to their cabins to go to bed since it was getting late. I went to the casino with Paul until they closed (around 2). Paul was winning at poker still but I was losing at slots. We got our final pizza snack at the promenade before going up to the cabin.
Friday 2/15/08 We were out of our room by 8am as requested. We went up to the Windjammer for Breakfast. It was less crowded than we expected.
Our luggage tags are Brown 4 and the expected time to be called off is about 10 - 10:30am. So we went to find a comfortable place to wait. We started off in the Solarium but it was cold out. We ended up waiting by the Spa on these nice cushy chairs in front of it. There was nobody else there. The color calling was running a little behind schedule.
After a while we went down to the Promenade and ran into Julie, Buck, Joe, and Jess so hung out with them in the pub until we were called. We were called about 11am.
Once called we were off quickly and found a porter (a woman porter) who walked us right through the people looking at our passports. They barely glanced at them. She walked us to the beginning of the parking lot - to the part where you pull in right after the toll booth. There were a lot of handicapped spots there. We tipped her $10. I waited with the luggage while Paul went and got the car. It was about 11:30 by now.
Pulling out we were right behind Buck, Julie, Joe and Jess's limo. So we pulled up next to them and continued the candid picture taking game from last night. I think we scared the limo driver since we pulled up right next to them and honked.
We hit a little traffic on the turnpike due to a merge but were still home by 12:30. Kiki (our dog) was thrilled to see us. The house was nice and neat. I was glad we cleaned up so much before we left because who wants to come home to a messy house.
We left the luggage downstairs in the basement and came up and hung out with Kiki. We took her out for a ride and she was a happy camper.
Six loads of laundry later and things were finally put away.
FINAL THOUGHTS We had a great time. Cruising out of Bayonne is fantastic. Not having to deal with flying and those hassles was so worth it for us. It will be very hard for us to choose a cruise that we have to fly to knowing the Explorer is right here. I guess we'll want to see other ships and other locations so will have to, but we'll probably compare the travel. Having the two days at sea at either end was better than I expected. It was warm by the second day. We aren't beach people so it didn't bother us not hanging by the pool right away. We realized that we really like having flexibility to go around the island on our own schedule. The Junior Suite was fantastic and we loved having all the space especially on a longer cruise. Now that we are moving up in the C&A level (2 away from Diamond) it will be hard to experiment with other cruise lines since the perks for returning are getting better. We have two other cruises booked on the Explorer for this year (a 9 night to Bermuda and the Caribbean in June and then a 5 night to Bermuda in Sept).
I'll be happy to answer any questions.