We sailed on the Explorer of the Seas from Miami on May 15th for our wedding on St. Thomas. We had a group of 47 and I coordinated the group through our local travel agent.
Precruise - FLL/Miami We flew into FLL. Would do it again in a heartbeat. It's a much smaller airport and easy to navigate. We got a ride to the Best Western Hotel Chateaubleau ($74/night group rate) using Tri-County Transportation and it cost $130+gratuity for 12 of us, well worth it. (We had a LOT of luggage, so it was a tight squeeze)
The hotel was great. They offered free MIA xfers for those flying into MIA and offered free port transfers. The rooms were clean and nice. (We did pop a few breakers with all of us using hairdryers at the same time!) The shuttle for the port leaves no earlier than 11:30am and you need to let the front desk know how many are in your party so they can plan accordingly. We were at the pier by noonish.
Day 1 - Miami Embarkation was fine. Everyone kept More
saying to arrive early to avoid the lines...apparently, that's what EVERYONE does! We arrived around noon and it took about 45 minutes. My mom arrived around 2 and sped right through. Cannot stress enough how important it is to fill everything out ahead of time and have your credit card handy for the SeaPass. It made our check-in quick.
We had a balcony cabin (D2, #9350) We were debating on whether or not to upgrade (evidently, our sailing had been sold out for weeks) but we are glad we didn't. The balcony is a good size and we just didn't see the value in upgrading to a Jr. or Grand Suite. We were very happy with what we booked, even AFTER seeing the suites.
I will say it again, as everyone does, the Explorer is massive and beautiful. We were on it for 7 nights and I still didn't see all the decks! She doesn't look worn at all, everything sparkles!
Day 2 - At Sea We had VERY ROUGH seas heading down to San Juan. Our cabin steward said that although it's usually a bit more rough, this day was exceptionally bad. We didn't have a problem, but many people did. One thing I did notice about Explorer is that the poolside staff are very pushy (now I realize this is their job) I just noticed it a lot more than when we sailed HAL. By day 3, you got used to it and you hardly notice!
Day 3 - San Juan We didn't do any shore excursions. We decided to throw our own Bachelor/ette party at Senor Frogs...of course it was touristy...but we had a blast! A lot of our group did the walking tour and loved it. They saw a lot, but still had time to join us after.
Day 4 - St. Maarten We did the Golden Eagle Catamaran tour. This was fun, however, again, the seas were VERY rough. The catamaran was yawing up and down about 12-15 feet. The trip to Tintamarre took almost an hour. We thought it was fun, like a roller coaster...others were quite ill. Due to the rough seas, the snorkeling wasn't that great. The water was very cloudy and with the waves, you couldn't get close enough to the reef safely. The beach was great though. We used the "lava mud" and covered ourselves to exfoliate. The open bar (beer and punch) was good. Others in our group went shopping and commented on finding good deals.
Day 5 - St. Thomas We got married this day, so we didn't do an excursion. We had our ceremony at the Marriott Frenchman's Reef at the seaside gazebo. It was beautiful. I highly recommend "Adventure Centers" tours through the hotel (for tours and transportation) the vans were immaculate and the drivers extremely courteous. We used them for wedding party and guest transport. We also used Gonzi's Limo for an island tour after the ceremony and it was well worth the money. The driver took us to all the great photo spots.
Day 6 - At Sea Again, another great sea day.
Day 7 - Nassau, Bahamas I didn't think I would enjoy Nassau, but I did. The shopping wasn't as great as I had thought it would be. One jewelry shop after another, all selling the same thing and the straw market was unbearable. However, after we took a $4 cab ride from the pier to Cabbage Beach and spent a couple hours playing in the surf, we had a great time. Many in our group checked out Atlantis. *If you go to Atlantis, don't forget to see the aquarium. Also, you cannot use their beach unless you are a hotel guest, go to Cabbage Beach, it's within walking distance.*
Thoughts: -There isn't time to do or see everything, so make sure you use your time wisely so you aren't disappointed when you don't have time to climb the rock wall/play mini-golf/eat at Johnny Rockets -Speaking of Johnny Rockets, I don't get the big deal. The service was terrible and the food gave me indigestion. If it wasn't "free", I wouldn't have done it. To be honest, I wouldn't do it again even if it was "free". So, go ahead RCI, charge the $3.50...but I'll only pay it if you give me a roll of Tums. ;) -On "formal picture nights" make sure you get ready early. The picture lines can be long. -Can't stress enough on making sure you order the drinks in "regular glasses"...much cheaper than the plastic souvenir glasses -I almost never saw a single kid and our sailing was sold out. They really love the "Adventure Ocean" thing and consequently, they were always busy! -Drinks seemed to be different prices depending on where you were in the ship. (A cosmopolitan at Dizzy's ran over $8!!!) SkyBar, PoolBar and dinner seemed to have the best bar prices. The Chamber bar was reasonable too. I just think it's strange.
All in all, we had a FANTASTIC time. The ship is beautiful. The staff is great.