Explorer of the Seas 09-11-08 Canada Cruise.
This was our 18th cruise and our 9th cruise on a Royal Caribbean ship and our 4th on the Explorer of the Seas.
This proved to be another great experience and it again was due to the dedication of the Captain, crew and staff. They continue to offer one of the best "rides" on the seas.
In life my position is that the cup is always half-full and if there is criticism it will be as a result of something serious. You will not find whining in this review. The very few negative events of this cruise were limited to the conduct of some passengers. We have become a self-absorbed society and some of us make unreasonable demands in an unfriendly manner. Some also will run you over (watch the scooters) and others will cut in line and they do it with an attitude. Onboard these experiences were survivable. With a 30 year law enforcement background I have witnessed the personal destruction that results when this attitude gets behind the wheel of a vehicle.
We need to be more appreciative of the services and sacrifices provided by the crew and staff. A grateful heart is the father of all virtues. A wise man taught us to be content no matter what our circumstances are. This can be a tough test at times.
Enough about that.
TRIP TO THE SHIP: A special thanks to Tom and Mary from Trenton. We met them on our August/September Canada-New England cruise on the EOS. Were met first on Cruise Critic and then were assigned the same table. On this trip they offered to allow us to park our car at their home and their son would drop the 4 of us off at the pier and pick us up when we returned. We arrived around 1100 hours and were greeted at their home with a gift of name tags and a door sign commemorating 9-11. We left about 1130 after transferring the luggage. Their son refused to take any compensation for his services. Tom and Mary did a good job raising Tom, JR.
We arrived about an hour later at the pier and unloaded with the assistance of a bag handler and a $5.00 tip for our 2 bags. We watched him place them on the cart and then off into the terminal.
TERMINAL: There was no line outside the terminal and once inside there were only a few checking in at the regular lines. However, the line leading into the VIP check-in area was a lot longer. This was not expected. No. I am not whining. It appeared that there were a lot of Platinum and Diamond members on this cruise.
Check-in only took 10 minutes including getting our key and photo ID taken. We then got our boarding photo which we always purchase for the memory box. We boarded the bus immediately and we were onboard (deck 1 aft) around 1300 hours and we were allowed to go to our cabin which was already ready for us.
ONBOARD: We had cabin 2280 which meant we had to go up only one deck. There we were greeted by our Cabin Attendant Lucy Thomas from St. Vincent. More on Lucy later. We dropped off our carry-on luggage and stuffed the safe.
Off to the Windjammer. By this time it was pretty crowded but they were making announcements asking those who were finished with their meal to explore the Explorer and this would allow seating for others. We had a table in no time and enjoyed our 82nd meal on the EOS.
We walked around a bit looking for friendly faces of crew members from the past. We brought pictures with us and went looking for some of them. Once we find them we give them their picture.
Off to the Promenade for our free sample of a milkshake at the Johnny Rockets display. There we looked for past faces. Found out they some were onboard and some on vacation.
Back to our cabin and our luggage was already there and the beds split. We unpacked and this only takes 15 minutes. We are on auto-pilot for this task. Car (vanilla) freshener hung, safe filled and locked.
LIFEBOAT DRILL We made our goodbye phone calls home and then off to the lifeboat drill.
Drill done, showered, dressed for dinner and off to meals #83 thru #108 (snacks excluded) on the EOS.
MEALS While onboard we have never been disappointed by the meals. Just spend a couple of months in a tent in the desert in the middle-east in a MASH unit and you will never complain again. Or at least you shouldn't. We only gained 2 pounds each. Walking and using the stairs helps burn it off.
Worth mentioning were two events that we loved.
#1. Outdoor BBQ with 2 very large charcoal (real charcoal with fire) grills with hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken and ribs and all the trimmings and salads. It was like being back in Labadee only a lot colder.
I had 3 plates full of the ribs and they were "falling off the bone" good. Plus there was hand-dipped ice cream for making sundaes. It was a little cool out but that did not stop us. We grabbed the food and headed to the Viking Crown lounge. What a neat treat.
#2. One evening there was a food fare on the Promenade with great desserts like chocolate covered strawberries and other fine treats. Crepes made to order and other stations included pasta, meats and thing I have never seen before but sure tasted good. Had to try them all.
This was a new event and some lines were long because people were slow in moving. Some were just plain captivated like I was. You just had to look at it for awhile before you messed it up and ate it. I sure hope they repeat this on our cruise. Well done!
JOHNNY ROCKETS Ya gotta do it. This is worth the small fee. Elvis was in charge for this cruise and did a super job. Great food and fun.
TIPPING HINTS We use the onboard voucher system at the end to pay the standard tips. We also will spend another $100.00 to $180.00 which is usually almost equal to the required minimum and in effect doubles our total tipping costs. In the past I used 25 $2.00 bills as an expression of appreciation for out of the way service. This time I took $50.00 worth of $1.00 gold coins. We also pre-tip those who get the vouchers provided they are delivering expected service. The pre-tip is about 30% of the normal tip and is in addition to the final tip. We provide them on day 2 or 3 of the cruise along with a small gift bag and thank you card. Linda and I both feel blessed and it is our personal mission to share our blessings. To those where much is given, much is expected.
REPEAT CRUISERS It is worth noting that on this cruise there were only 16 children and 1 screamer.
Also there were over 1400 repeat cruisers on this sailing and 40 some Diamond plus members. Yikes.
Crown and Anchor Society is the largest loyalty group out there with over 4 million members.
For this cruise they had to have a number of past guests functions. For Platinum they had to split us into at least 2 groups.
CREW AND STAFF COMMENTS
You will notice I use the term warm and friendly a lot. That is because it is common and represents a quality level of training to achieve their mission of delivering "GOLD ANCHOR SERVICE" by delivering "BEYOND NORMAL SERVICE".
Royal Caribbean's pleasure and number one priority is to make sure our cruise experience is unforgettable and more amazing than we could have ever imagined and by making us feel special.
Below are comments about individuals who have met the mission:
CAPTAIN ERIK STANDAL This was our second voyage on the EOS with Capt. Erik at the helm. He is a great Skipper. Always friendly and makes sure he is in the greeting lines for the special events. He has a great memory too. He will be on vacation for our 12/12 cruise. I believe they do an 11 week rotation. We were invited to have dinner with the Captain on this cruise and it was another event to remember. We will miss him on our next cruise.
MARCELO ARIAS (Head Waiter -Chile) While unpacking we received a phone call form Marcelo. He was our head waiter on our last cruise and we became very good friends and stay in touch by email. He has been a tremendous resource and Royal Caribbean has a hard working superior leader with Marcelo. He has since been promoted and given more responsibility. Something akin to an Assistant Maitre'd although they do not call it (Maitre'd) that anymore. I think they now call it the food and beverage director.
Marcelo was helping us with a table assignment change and called us to meet with him. He was gracious in meeting our needs and he had just come back to the ship this same day from his vacation. We appreciate his efforts and you need to make sure you take time to meet him. He will be boarding the same day we do on 12/12/08. During the cruise we met with Marcelo often. He seemed to be everywhere in the dining room. The hours they put in puts me to shame. They work hard to make sure we are served well.
Marcelo also took time to help us with our large table request for the 12/12 cruise. He even set time aside during the week to show us how the table assignment computer system works. He was also the one who invited us to have dinner with Captain Erik on our last cruise in April.
EMMANOUIL KAMPANAKIS (MAITRE'D AKA FOOD AND BEVERAGE DIRECTOR) Marcelo introduced us to Emmanouil on our first day. You can tell immediately that the obvious high standards we were seeing were a direct result of his leadership skills. Again he was warm and friendly and would go out of his way to simply say hi and asked how we were doing. One evening while we were in the Promenade Café, which was not crowded due to the second seating taking place and other in the Palace for the show, Emmanouil was making his rounds. He took time again to come over to make sure we were taken care of and he also invited us to have dinner on this cruise with the Captain. Another WOW moment.
LUCY THOMAS Our Cabin Attendant was Lucy Thomas from St. Vincent. She had a warm and friendly smile and made us feel welcome. She spoke English very well too. This was a plus since I am hard of hearing. This was our 4th cruise on the EOS and this made her briefing easy. We asked her to split the beds into twins when she had some free time. This makes it easier to set on the beds and look out the porthole / window. And it gives more walking room and it makes it easier to store the suitcases under the beds.
BONEVENTURA & MANAU Our initial table was in the process of being changed and our first night would be a table for 4 on deck 4 right by the violinist. Nice spot. The violinist informed us that if the music was too loud she would adjust the volume. The music turned out to be just right. Our waiter was Boneventura and assisted by Manau. They did a great job.
RUDY SANGADA We were greeted in the Promenade Café by a new face Rudy Sagada from the Philippines. He went out of his way to come over and ask if we needed anything. Rudy would become a good friend on this cruise. He always had a smile on his face he made sure we were always welcomed to the Café.
RODY JOUTE (INDIA) WAIT STAFF Table 523 was a great corner spot with a large table. Sid, Bonnie, PH and Sherry along with Tom and Mary were our table mates. Talk about fun. They were a great group to share our time with. Rody (Roadee) was another superior example of great service. We were delivered very fast service. She beat the other servers in getting our meals to us first.
FLORABEL DEMESA (PHILIPPINES) ASSISTANT WAIT STAFF She was another example of great service. She knew our names too by the 2nd night and knew what to serve us. She is ready for her own table and deserves consideration for promotion to await staff position.
WITHOON ANUWATER (HEAD WAITER) THAILAND From the first meeting we knew we had another winner. We had fun with Withoon too. Good sense of humor but extremely professional, a born leader and very hard working. He always visited our table and if he missed us at breakfast or lunch would ask where we were. We look forward to seeing him again in December.
VENIS (Pronounced Yennis) We ran into Venis our Assistant waiter from our 2006 cruise. He was working in the Jammer (Wind Jammer). Last cruise he was a waiter in the dining room. We talked with him on our last cruises too. He always has this smile and friendly laugh.
CHEF ANDERSON Stopped by our table one night to make sure his efforts met our expectations. Nice touch.
VERNON LEWIS - GUEST RELATIONS She provided warm friendly service whenever taking care of our needs.
JORGE LYNCH - HOTEL DIRECTOR (COSTA RICA) He always greeted us with his big warm friendly smile too. We met him during our Meet and Mingle in April and offered his services to everyone if there were any special needs or concerns.
RICHARD PETERS - MUSIC Richard provided some of the best Promenade music that we have heard. I can't remember my name some days but Richard remembered our names. I guess it is part of the ability to remember lyrics. We spent a lot of time in front of the PUB listening to his great selections.
RODERICK - BEVERAGE SERVER He was another friendly face too. Learned our names too even though we never bought much from him.
WILLIAM DOWNEY (USA) MARKETING AND BEVERAGE MANAGER We had dinner with him and he provided a wealth of information. We own stock in Royal Caribbean and knowing that there are individuals like Bill we feel confident our investment is being managed efficiently.
PORTS OF CALL I will not detail each port and will only provide a brief summary. Ports of Call were just great. Canadians were warm and friendly. They are a great people and love their country. All of our excursions were done by hoof (walking). It is good exercise and helps keep the weight off from all the great food.
Sydney, NS We walked (self) the historic beat. Most were free and some charge $2.00 for entry into older structures. A very big violin was on the pier.
PEI Another self walking tour. A lot of history here too.
Saguenay River Beautiful. Just plain beautiful. Thanks Capt. Erik for taking us up the river. Saw some whale puffs - blows. No breaches. Cliffs were just incredible. We had to miss dinner in the dining room to see this. But the meal in the Jammer was just fine too. This was my only time to get sushi. We had early seating and this created a time conflict.
Quebec (Keybeck) I can't read French. Did not need to though. Lost a lot of weight here because of the hills. Beautiful town and a lot of history too.
This cruise will not be repeated next year, but they will return to the New England / Canada trip. Too bad! Halifax We were her last year and did the Peggy's Cove and lunch trip with Jonathan Duru's Cab. This time we walked to the Maritime Museum and toured the ship Arcadia. Loved it.
Debark We were the 3rd group off after the Express group. We were off by 0850. It was the smoothest debark in Bayonne out of 5. No crowds in the terminal either. Good job EOS and Bayonne.
Normally we would have been in the Maharaja Lounge as Platinum but due to so many repeat cruisers it was for Diamond members only and we were assigned to wait in the Palace. There was a blessing in this though. There was a 3 year old in the Maharaja that simply communicated by screaming and he communicated a lot. The parent's response was to call him Honey. No whining just and observation about children who go on cruises without parents (the parents are there physically - it is just that the child is in charge).
Hint: Wait in the Palace deck 4 starboard side. You will be given a 5 minute head start as the cruise director is there and he will get a phone call for the next group and announce it. They will make a ships announcement 5 minutes later for those in the public places.
Once your number is called exit the Palace. Go out on deck and walk to the aft atrium area door off the deck. Then down to deck 1. This is faster and keeps you from having to go up to deck 5, thru the Promenade then down to deck 1. The Casino is closed off on deck 4.
Picked up by Tom, Jr after a short wait and it was time to head out. We had lunch at Tom and Mary's. A hoagie from Wawa. It was land food again and tasted good too. We had a bad car battery and Tom took me to A&A Auto just down the street and we were back on the road home. Thanks Tom and Mary.
PCD Syndrome (Post-Cruise Depression Syndrome) Time for therapy. Cured! I took the easy quick method. We booked another one within 2 days. Therapy can be expensive, but necessary and worth it. We will be sailing on the Sovereign for her final voyage on 10/27/08. We will be driving down to Florida on 10/17 to visit my sister in Mt. Dora and they will drop us off and pick us up.
Well that's it. Hope it helps.
A final compliment to the crew and staff. Well done. May you have fair winds and following seas?
Linda and Gary