The best of times and the ………..
We have 25 cruises under our belt. And, we continue to love them. Obviously, the itinerary usually has an impact of the overall appreciation of any cruise. So, understand that the 9-night Caribbean cruise out of Cape Liberty suffers from a rather weak selections of points of interest. We will address the ports of call first.
San Juan, PR. - A late arrival leaves little opportunity visit this port. A first time visitor would be short changed on this port.
St. Thomas, USVI - This is a great port. Great shopping, beaches, and tours. We elected to take a private sail boat/snorkel tour to St. John's. This was an excellent choice on our part. However, there are many opportunities for one to find a great tour in this stop.
Samana, DR - Based upon recounts from fellow passengers, this port offered very little. We took the Mangrove - Cave Exploration trip offered by RCI. The caves, mangrove, and bird island was one of the best Caribbean tours. The boat ride to and from the tour sites (I call it the ride to and from hell) was 45 minutes of being battered on a small boat. My advice - should you take this tour, ride in the back of the boat!
Labadee, Haiti - This is always an excellent stop. However, due to engine problems on the ship we were forced by pass this stop. (We were given $100 each as compensation.) This was a low point on the cruise.
Other low points included - The very bad vibrations in the aft cabins when ever we were in the Atlantic. The Mystery Theater night in Portofino's was another very big disappointment. What a waste of money, time, and a visit to a very fine added attraction on the ship. The meal was limited; the service was poor, and the ambiance did not do justice to this usually fine restaurant. Visit Portofino's on another night and you will not be disappointed.
Enough with what was wrong. The entire crew from service desk to every bartender was courteous and knowledgeable. Room service and pool attendants did their job in a very professional manner. Our room attendant met with our every in a timely and pleasant way. Our wait service staff in the dinning room was top notch. The trip to Johnny Rockets was fun. The casino staff was pleasant when they took my money. And, of course, one cannot forget the Promenade. The parades were great but not as good as those little sandwiches in the café at the end.
The Bayonne dock was an excellent and expedient boarding and disembarking experience.
Overall the ship was starting to show it's age. It is a good thing that it is going in for a complete overhaul next January. But, it should be noted that the ship was immaculate.
The shows - two were absolutely great while the others were good. No complaints here. The typical Nearly Newly Wed Game and such were what they are. Overall, I found the food preparation, taste, and presentation excellent. This included the main dining room and Windjammer.
Things I missed - The lunch in the Solarium, "Horse Race" at the pool, and, most importantly per my wife and many others, the chocolates on their pillows.
Some things have slipped over the years but cruising remains, in my opinion, the best overall value and enjoyable, vacation choice. RCI continues to be one of the better cruise lines and the Explorer one of the best ships.