12 night southern Caribbean AGAIN!
Our cabin was JS 1634 portside deck 10 in excellent condition and our steward Edward was wonderful.
This is the second time we cruised the 12 night Southern in Dec. and we love this itinerary and we are booked for the 13 night in April and the 12 night next Nov. also!
The live reports from the ship can be found on the All THings Explorer thread but we enjoyed each port except San Juan and we just stayed on the ship as it's our least favorite and we've been there many times. We just count it as a relaxing day on the ship!
In St. Thomas we shopped as it was cloudy and overcast and I recommend the pizza place in the big discount liquor store in Havensight as it's real NY pizza and good! Don't forget to check out the shops by the Yacht Club in Havensight also. It's a beautiful area to browse and to have lunch at one of the places on the water.
Dominica was beautiful as always! This is such a natural unspoiled island with very friendly people. We enjoy walking around exploring the shops and there is a fantastic leather store right by the ship that sells the Land leather that is only available in the Caribbean. Beautiful quality and well worth the price. In the back of the same shop you will find a good selection of liquor for the best prices on this itinerary. The Water Front Restaurant is a good place to get a cool drink and sit by the water close to the ship and don't forget to go behind the building to see the waterfall!
Next up Barbados AKA Paradise! Next to Bermuda this is our favorite port! They have a really nice terminal full of interesting shops. We grabbed a taxi and headed to the Barbados Hilton to enjoy the day there on silky white sand beaches and gorgeous warm clear water! We heard a few people were left behind in Barbados. They picked a good island to miss the ship! We didn't want to leave either! We would LOVE to see RCCL do an overnight in this port!
Next we headed to Antigua. We were not impressed last year with this port but with the help of CC friends we went to Dickenson Beach. We loved it! We walked off the ship and went up to a man organizing the cabs and boarded a mini bus with several people. It was about a 25 minute ride and the beach was perfect for us! 2 chairs 10.00, 1 umbrella tent 12.00, beautiful beach, water, great place to eat and bathrooms right on the beach......priceless! lol It adjoins Sandals beach resort and the area is beautiful. We will definitely return to Dickenson Beach in April.
Tortola was cancelled off this cruise due to a change in government we were told and we received a nice OBC. The new government is not interested in dredging for the bigger ships such as the Explorer so we had 3 RELAXING sea days on the way home and it was about 65 the last night so weather was perfect for us. We did have a little rockiness sailing out of Bayonne but it passed in a day and smooth sailing the rest of the cruise!
RCCL hosted a lovely Diamond Plus Lunch for us the day we came into San Juan which we really enjoyed and they also hosted a Diamond plus bridge tour for us on the last day of the cruise. both were very nice events and we enjoyed them as always!
We ate in the dining room the first night and joined the Captain the second night but after that we were free styling as usual! lol We dined in the Windjammer and Portofino's the rest of the nights as we prefer to make our own schedule when on vacation. We try to leave time schedules at the dock when we board.
We found the food to be very good in both the Windjammer in the evening and in Portofino's' on this cruise also. Lunch in the Windjammer seems to have less selections then previous cruises but we could always find something good to eat. The Xmas Gingerbread house display in the Windjammer is outstanding! During a galley tour it was explained how they made it and they did a fantastic job! All the Xmas decorations were beautiful on the ship and on the islands and we enjoy seeing them all. We enjoyed the casino with good friends in the evening and I love that Caribbean Poker! lol
The ship is in great condition, the crew and service was wonderful as always.
We did have a first time problem on this cruise with the Concierge Lounge. It seemed out of control with the amount of people that did not belong in there or the overflow lounge Cloud Nine. Toward the end of the cruise it became so bad they posted men outside Cloud Nine to check Seapasses as there were too many CL cards floating around for some reason. There were conflicts between other passengers and the Concierge and it was a disappointment to see and hear and about many unhappy passengers especially the suite guests that did not feel they received any service. This was the first time I've ever witnessed any such problem on the Explorer and we spent very little time in the CL as we were not comfortable with the situation and we felt very sorry for all those that were having so many problems. The CL is a privilege given to C & A members that had been abused on this cruise and it had been allowed to be abused by lack of control which should not have happened either. I sincerely hope the situation changes by our next cruise in April or we will just avoid the CL again.
Boarding was a breeze as always in Bayonne. We arrived about 1:30pm as we had an ice storm that morning but we sailed right thru priority and were aboard the ship in under 15 minutes from unloading luggage. We never get to port too early because there is heavy traffic with people coming off the ship and early birds trying to get on the ship. They do not start boarding the EXplorer until about 11:30-11:45am so it's pointless to get there too early and cabins are not available until after 1pm.
The parking lot is now located to the right of the terminal like it had been originally and I think this is a better location as many people can wheel luggage right to cars. There are many handicap parking spots in the new parking lot close to the terminal also. The Express walk off program continues to be a huge success and it makes us much nicer for those of us that live close and drive to port as we do not have to deal with all the crowds sitting on stairs and blocking hallways as they wait to get off the ship. Now those people anxious to catch a flight are the first ones off the ship carrying their own luggage on and off the bus to the terminal. We have a new docking space also so it's a shorter bus ride too! We love sailing out of Bayonne as it's just so easy to get to and they really make it so easy to board and then get off again. Several of us were talking about it onboard and how happy we all are with the Bayonne port!
We had new electronic safes in the cabins similar to the old ones and key pads, we had peepholes in all the cabin doors now also!
As always we had a wonderful cruise with CC friends and look forward to sailing with them again soon on the Explorer!