Let's start with the fact that I was never really thrilled about going on a cruise until my husband and I decided on actually going. I'm more of a "fly to the destination" kind of girl. Once we decided to take the 5 day cruise to Bermuda I got excited. I was on the RCI website a lot looking at the ship and the things that were available to do. I booked the cruise online. Everyone had the same price for the cruise, but they offered tips for the end of the cruise. That sealed the deal for me.
My husband and I drove 3 hours from central Pennsylvania. One of the main reasons we picked Cape Liberty is because we could drive to it. We didn't want to have to worry about flights and hotels, so I can't comment on getting to the port from the airports. We took I-78 from PA to NJ, almost the entire way to the port. Getting to the port is confusing, but that's due to New Jersey's poor road signs and lack of "merge" signs. It took us 3 hours to get there and we arrived at the port about 1:30.
Embarkation: Once you get up to the embarkation center it can be a little confusing, although we were relieved to find out that you check your bags right away and then park your car. We were worried about dragging all of our baggage from the parking lot. Checking the bags was very simple. The porter tagged the bags for us and put them where they needed to be. We tipped him, as I think is expected. Once our bags were checked, we parked the car a good bit away from the embarkation center. Just our luck though, a parking shuttle pulled up to our car just as we were getting our carry on bags ready to go. It took us right to the embarkation center. We tipped him a few dollars and were on our way. Checking in was extremely easy. We had done the on-line check in which made the check in process less than 5 minutes. In a few short minutes we had our Sea Pass and shuttle number and were sent to the waiting room to take the shuttle to the bus. I would say we only waited about 10 minutes in the waiting room. It was cool the day we were there, so it wasn't uncomfortable, but I could see where it could very hot during the summer. Once we got on board the shuttle we were at the ship in about about 1-2 minutes. Boarding the ship was easy and quick.
Unfortunately, we left port an hour and half late. It wasn't RCI's fault at all. That was the day the Coast Guard picked for their 6 month review of the ship. The shipped passed with flying colors, but it delayed our departure. We had main seating (6pm) for dinner, but we wanted to watch our departure through the harbor and under the bridge, so we didn't get to dinner until 7pm. They still served us with all respect and we were out of the dining room by 8pm. The food was excellent.
Dining: The food aboard the Explorer is good, if not excellent at times. Even being extremely seasick a good part of the trip, I could always find something to eat that wouldn't upset my stomach. The dinners in the main dining room were very good. We had main seating (6pm), so we felt a bit rushed to get to our table on a few nights. If we cruise again, we will request 2nd seating (8:30). The second night of the trip, we ate at Portofino. What an excellent decision - worth the extra $20 per person. The service was excellent. I was smart and made the reservation on line about a month before the cruise. It looked nearly impossible to get a reservation once onboard, but I can't say that with certainty. The food was amazing there and the service was on par with 5 star restaurants. I highly recommend it. we ate at Johnny Rocket's one night. It was o.k. The food was good, but I don't think I'll need to eat there again if I cruise again. The milkshakes were less than desirable. I had a strawberry one to start. It tasted like cough syrup. I sent it back and they brought me a chocolate one instead. It wasn't awful, but wasn't worth the cost. The last night of the cruise was lobster night, so I recommend eating in the main dining room the last night of the cruise. My husband even got an extra lobster.
Service: The service on board was amazing. From the dining staff to the room attendant to the people you meet in the hall. Our room attendant, Salvador, was amazing. Everything was perfect from the cleaning to the bed turn down to the cute towel animals. The dining room staff was very friendly and ready to get you anything you need. The people in the hallways that you passed were always friendly and said hello. My only gripe is they wanted you out of your room by noon every day so that they could clean it. We weren't always ready to do that, but we survived.
Entertainment: We didn't experience much of the entertainment on board. We did see the Love and Marriage game show and the Ice Show, Spirits of the Season. The Love and Marriage show as hilarious and the ice show was just amazing. To watch them do their ice skating and jumps and spins on such a small rink on a ship that is rocking pretty good, was amazing. I recommend both. We didn't get to see The Quest as we were socializing in the Solarium hot tub with a couple we met on board. We played Bingo one day, but I'm not sure it's worth the price - $31/person.
Accommodations: Our room was 7536, which is on the Port Side, Forward. We had a balcony, which I highly recommend if you can afford it. It was so peaceful at night to sleep with the door open, listening to the waves made by the ship. The room was a decent size. Walking was a bit cramped at times, but it wasn't awful. We had plenty of room for all of our luggage, except for our diving bag, but not many people carry those on board. The beds were a little stiff, but not awful. We the two twin beds pushed together, my hubby had plenty of room to sleep without laying on each other. There was plenty of closet and drawer space.
Excursions: We booked 2 excursions through the ship and don't regret either. The first was on the day we docked in Bermuda. We booked the Segway tour of the Dockyard. It was a lot of fun and very entertaining and educational. Our tour guide was hilarious. It was very easy to learn how to ride the Segway. The learning curve was about 30 seconds. It was 2 hour tour, so once we were done, we shopped and wandered around. Unfortunately I didn't plan ahead enough and didn't get bus tokens in time for us to go into Hamilton or St George's on that day. The second excursion was the 2-tank dive. It's more expensive than getting a dive scheduled on your own, but we didn't have to worry about anything. Getting to the dive shop/boat was interesting. The narrow roads and speedy drivers were disconcerting. Once we got to the shop, it was very easy to get the equipment we needed and get on board the boat. I got one of my dives in, but couldn't proceed with the second dive due to EXTREME seasickness. My husband dove the 2nd dive after they were nice enough to take me back to shore. I was much better once I got off the boat. I highly recommend Dive Bermuda as a dive shop on the island.
Overall: This cruise was very enjoyable, despite my consistent problem with seasickness. If I can get my seasickness under control I will definitely cruise again with RCI. I was extremely impressed. We hit rough seas on the way out and on the way back, but the captain and crew did everything to make it as smooth as possible and I appreciated it. I highly recommend cruising with Royal Caribbean on the Explorer of the Seas.