After an absence of two years from Royal Caribbean (only because of certain itinerary wishes) we happily returned to our first love on a ship that was new to us, Explorer of the Seas. We were a little timid about the size of the ship but found it was so well run that we hardly ever thought about the 3000+ passenger load.
For the first time, we drove to the pier at Cape Liberty and parked in the lot at a cost of $144.00 total for 9 Days. It was a breeze getting there from Long Island, NY and we are very glad we drove.
Embarkation was so well organized, we were on the ship having lunch in the Windjammer by 12:15. The food there was pretty good and the variety was very good. Service in the Windjammer, as everywhere on the ship, was spectacular.
Our rooms were ready at 1:30 pm if I remember correctly and we received our luggage about an hour or two later. I loved the stateroom (ocean view) which was quite spacious and had loads of storage. They have made the bed frames higher now so putting the empty luggage underneath is an easy task.
Since this was our first Platinum level cruise, we had our little perks in the form of coupons and parties, as well as priority boarding and a designated disembarkation lounge. We enjoyed all of it.
The ship overall is spacious, sparkling and superbly maintained. The activities are varied and well planned. Cruise Director Mike H. does a great job. The production shows were well done as well as the ice show. The Royal singers and dancers do their entertaining best.
We did not spend much time in the bars but found the staff friendly whether you were drinking or not. We checked out the youth area and thought our grandchildren would be well entertained there if we brought them on a future cruise. The video game arcade is awesome.
Since we were on Celebrity Constellation last year for a 14 day cruise, we had been to some of the ports before. We found Sydney, Nova Scotia unremarkable. We just walked into town and back. In Prince Edward Island we took a ride on the Harbor Hippo which was a fun land and sea tour for a minimum cost of $19.00 per person. There isn't much to see here either but we enjoyed what we did. Our weather remained excellent throughout the cruise. Quebec City was fabulous again. The shuttle bus was quick and plenty were available with no more than a few minute wait each way. We were fortunate to dock at each port. Halifax was again a place to get off the ship and walk around a bit.
Our dining room staff were very attentive and served nicely prepared food. I do not look for gourmet type food on cruises as I know it is hard to prepare food for and satisfy 3000 passengers so I am usually quite satisfied with the dinners. I had no complaint nor did my DH.
Our stateroom team was also super and we were very comfortable. I would not stay on deck 2 again as it does not go thru to the front of the ship. It was annoying to have to go up and then down if you wanted to attend something in the conference rooms forward.
Disembarkation was smooth and easy. There even was a shuttle to your car if you needed it. We used the prepaid gratuities offered by the ship. The staff works very hard for us and deserve every penny. We have never found a friendlier or more attentive staff on any other cruise line. We are loyal to Royal and have the experience after 9 cruises to know what we like. We are booked again on EOS in February and can't wait!