We just returned from a Caribbean cruise on the Explorer. This was our first cruise on an RCL ship. We have about 23 cruises between us.
Overall, we were very pleased with the service and food. We had to skip Labadee and change the Samana stop to Grand Turk due to weather. This was a disappointment but I applaud the captain for keeping us informed, finding good weather and alternate ports of call. There were way too many kids on this cruise for our liking. We don't mind kids but when they are disruptive and uncontrolled as many of these kids were, it becomes a problem.
This was the largest ship we have been on and were impressed with the inside promenade area with it's elaborate facade, shops and entertainment. I would tend to migrate towards the smaller ships. There were too many people on this ship which made it difficult to fit into elevators and find tables at times. Getting off the ship in Grand Turk was like being herded.
Food: We found the food generally good. Basic breakfast options. The omelet station was usually crowded but moved along quickly. For the lunch buffet, check out the Asian section. The food was very flavorful. As other reviewer's have noted, the fish dishes were not great and seemed over cooked. Good selections at dinner included Shrimp Ravioli, Onion Tart, excellent Pate especially the green peppercorn, Asian Duck, Sirloin steak Osso Bucco and Lamb Shank.
Entertainment: See the shows. They are very professional and enjoyable. Headliners included Marty Allen (remember him?) and Merrill Osmond (yawn). I also recommend the Backstage tour. The staff were very informative, gracious and you could tell they were proud of their work. Note to RCI - have one of the dancers involved in this tour in addition to the technical staff.
St Thomas: We spent time in town. We have been to St Thomas many times and just hang out around town most of the time. You may want to check out the Curry Chicken at Gladys' restaurant which was excellent. If you are in the mood for a refreshing drink, check out the Lime in the Coconut blended drink at the bar in the center of Palm passage. Margarita's are also good. If you are feeling energetic, between Hotel 1829 and Government House sits the foot of the famed 99 Steps, a staircase built in the 1700s by the Danes to connect parts of the town. Actually, there are 103 steps, made of ballast bricks from Danish ships. They lead high to a hill above Charlotte Amalie and the stone remains of an old tower, now part of the Inn at Blackbeard's Castle complex. It is well worth it for the views. When returning from town, the taxi driver dropped off passengers in the middle of Havensight Mall. This made for a very long hot walk to the Explorer which was the last ship at the pier. This apparently is not standard practice and he was probably getting a kick back. Make sure your driver takes you to the ship's entrance if you do not wish to stop at the Havensight Mall.
San Juan: It's been 25 years since I was in San Juan and I enjoyed going back. We took a lovely walk to El Morro fortress ($3 fee to get in) and enjoyed our leisurely walk back. We ate at Rosa de Triana and sampled their Tappas. The waitress was very helpful in our selections. Finances are a little tight these days so we did window shopping only on this trip.
Grand Turk Cruise Center: This was an unplanned stop due to weather in Samana. You'll find Margaritaville, a beach, shops and a very large pool at your disposal. There were not enough lounge chairs to accommodate the number of people on the Explorer. The beach was very rocky. Enough so that once I made it back onto the beach from the water, I did not go back in. It was very difficult walking. Kids seem to enjoy the pool and Surf Rider. The adults were enjoying hoisting a few at Margaritaville.
Enjoy your cruise!!