First Time cruiser: My girlfriend and I travelled on May 9th, 04 on the Explorer of the Seas. I used this site to research my own vacation and thought it would be great if I could assist someone in researching their vacation. I'm 26 and my girlfriend is 24, the following is a review based solely on our experience on the explorer of the seas.
Embarkation: We arrived at the airport in Fort Lauderdale. Our agent from Air Transat met us and gave directions. From the Airport we took prepaid transportation to the pier in Miami. The transfer was $85.00 and I overheard someone asking how much it would cost to get to the pier and the person said $35.00. In any event I would still recommend organizing the transfer with your agent. The drive to the pier was about 30min. When we first saw our ship from the street I must confirm I was impressed. It sat beside a the Carnival Victory ship and although the Victory was nice, we're talking about comparing a porsche to a chevy. We waited in line for about 20 minutes. Lines moved very well. Arrived about 1:00pm and boarded about 1:30pm. NOTE: you will have to leave your passport with them at the front desk and you will be asked to give a credit card for your purchases on board.
CABIN: Cabin was nice, we had 2 large windows in our room. Our room overlooked the front of the boat. It was nice to look out when you arrived at each port every morning. The room was standard, double bed, small bathroom, couch, TV etc. the basics. It was clean and tidy when we arrived.
Day 1: I'm not going to bore you with what my girlfriend and I did each day but I thought it is worth while mentioning day 1. It was a little frustrating for us. We knew we had to pay for alcohol if we wanted to drink on the ship but had no idea we had to pay for soft drinks too. There was a deal, you could purchase all the pop you wanted for the entire week for $42.00 US. I don't know about you but who in the hell is drinking $42.00 in pop?, from that point we didn't know what was included and what was not. I guess my agent could have advised us but I also thing RCCL could advertise what is included. FYI, pop, drinks, ben & jerry's is not included, juice, food is included. Another problem we had on the first day is finding our way around the ship. This ship is so big it's very easy to lose yourself. My best advice, day 1 explore the ship. It will make every other day so much easier.
DAY at SEA: RCCL in my opinion does a great job in keeping everyone entertained. There is so much to do on this ship including, shows, rock climbing, eating, drinking, dancing, exploring, golfing, playing sports, or simply enjoying the pool side. I could go on and on about all the great things this ship has to offer but I'm not going to bore you with my vacation. Just trust me when I tell you we went to be exhausted each day by keeping busy with all the activities and shows. If you are worried about sea sickness, you should. Although most people we spoke with on the ship said they had no problems, both my girlfriend and I did have problems. Leaving the ports or when you're near the ports you feel fine, but when you're in the middle of the sea we felt a little sick. We purchased sea sick pills on board. After we took that we were fine. If you're considering no going on a ship simply because you're worried about getting sea sick, I would take the trip. Ensure you take some sea sickness meds and you'll be fine.
Belize: Belize was our first port, we took a shore excursion. We went cave-tubing. We took walk through the jungle about 30 minutes. Jumped into a lagoon and floated through caves for about 55 minutes. It was amazing. This was one of the best experiences. As they say in Belize "you have to see it to Belize it" . P.S. bring an under water camera, you won't want to miss these shots. Just a quick note about booking excursions with the ship, if you're excursion comes back late and you booked it through the ship, the ship will not leave without you. If you book with a tour company and you're late, the ship will leave without you and it's you're responsibility to get to the ship or get to the next port on your own.
Costa Maya: Unlike in Belize the ship was able to pull right up to the port and there was no need to get tendered to the island so you're able to come and go as you please from Costa Maya back to the ship. Not much going on in Costa Maya in terms of excursions. They have a lot of local shops to buy stuff at, they have bars, swimming etc. I was disappointed we couldn't go swimming in the ocean in costa maya and had to settle for a swimming pool. My recommendation in Costa Maya is to visit the shops, enjoy the weather, and perhaps use this day to explore your ship a little more, no problems in getting a deck chair on this day.
COZUMEL: this is the best port to do all of you're shopping for everyone back home, the deals are amazing. Remember if you see something that you want buy it because you may not see it at another port. On this day we met up with another couple we met on the ship. They were from Miami. We wanted to go to Tulum but because we left to late we didn't have enough time. When you're in Cozumel the best thing to go and see is the Tulum ruins, be sure not to miss out. Instead we took a boat to Playa Del Carman. The beaches at this place are beautiful. Even the couple from Miami were impressed. We enjoyed the sites, ate at a local restaurant, did some shopping, enjoyed the weather, took lots of photos. We left plenty of time to do some shopping in Cozumel and I'm glad we did. If you like shopping or need to bring back some gifts for friends back home both Cozumel and Playa Del Carman are great places to shop. You will not be disappointed with this port.
GRAND CAYMAN: Loved it. This island is British owned, expect to pay $20.00 for a T-shirt opposed to 5 for $20.00 in Cozumel. At this port we booked swimming with the sting rays. This is about a 2hr excursion so we went exploring for the first part of the morning. We took a bus (also known as a mini van cost $2.00) to the turtle farm. Here we took pictures holding turtles, there are so many turtles and we had a good time. We came back to our excursion. We went swimming with the Stingrays. We're from toronto so the only stingrays we see are on TV. This was my best experience of the entire trip. First you're educated about the stingrays. The boat stops somewhere in the middle of the ocean. It's a sand bar so the water comes to only about waist/chest level. Our tour guide brings out a basket full of squid and we fed them, took pictures for about 45 minutes. This was a great experience and I highly recommend it for everyone.
FOOD: Food was good but the service was great. Gerald was our server. If anyone from RCCL gets to read this review Gerald helped make our vacation a great one. I can't say enough about the service we received from RCCL's staff from the Dining hall to the Room service, the RCCL on the Explorer of the Seas was A+. The food was good with no complaints. Johnny Rockets food was less then good. Johnny Rockets serves fast food style food, they don't offer juice only pop, and we were charged for drinks that we didn't have, only a couple of $$ but that's not the point. Try it out, maybe you'll like it, I think it's on the 11th flr. Windjammers is a buffet style, food again was only good. The Dining Hall was great, again Gerald helped make this experience a great one along with the assistant waiter who's name slips me but she was also great. You'll enjoy the Dining Hall. We decided to sit at a larger table, we met a lot of great people that helped make our vacation great. Be prepared to meet a lot of friends on this vacation. RCCL did a great job with seating, they seat you with people you're age, from different parts of the world. Sitting at our table was a couple from Ireland, England, Miami, but there family was from Cuba, and another couple from Miami. Great people who helped make our trip great.
SHOWS: You will enjoy all the shows on this ship, lots of fun, be sure to get tickets to the skating show they go fast. All shows are free. You'll have a good time so take advantage.
OVERVIEW: I had a great time, a little expensive when you add everything up but overall this was a great vacation. Some advice: bring a bottle of Alcohol on board with you, you will save $$$$, don't book you're excursions through the ship. RCCL buys the tours from local operators. These same local operators are there when the ship ports and are offering these same tours for about 50% cheaper. Many people we met booked on their own and had a great time, we booked with the ship and the tours were good but crowded and expensive. Next time I'll book on my own as many others do. Meet up with another couple go together etc. Every port we visited we felt safe. We don't travel that often so this was a concern for us if we wanted to go off on our own. I can let you know Belize, Costa Maya, Cozumel, Grand Cayman are all safe ports, feel free to book tours, take buses, cabs etc, This being said use common sense. Overall we had a great experience aboard RCCL, it was expensive for us. Next time we will travel Carnival for a comparison. There was about $1000.00 cdn price difference. You will have a good time on this trip if you decide to go, say hi to Gerald for me.