Ship—This was our second time on Explorer of the Seas. We were on Explorer last January on a 9 night cruise. This was our first 12 night cruise and it will not be our last. We rode with another couple to the port. The prior cruise coming in was late so there was a long line of cars to get into the port area. We arrived in line around 11:15AM. We were dropped off by 12 noon and we were in the Windjammer by 12:20PM.
We booked an E2 Aft balcony room 7688. Our stateroom attendant was AJ. He was ok. We did not start on the right foot. We were in the library at 1PM since we thought we could get into our room at 1PM. The doors were shut and we were told we would be able to get into our rooms at 1:30PM. At 1:15PM, there was an announcement and the doors were open. We went to our room and AJ told us we were not allowed in yet. We told him there was an announcement and we wanted to put our stuff in the room. He told us we could place our carry on bag in the closet but we could not leave our coats in there even though there was an announcement. I tried to explain to him others would be coming shortly since the doors were open and the announcement was made. He did not allow me to finish and he would not allow us to place our winter coats in the room. We really did not see him again during the entire cruise. The room was great. The balcony was amazing. It had 2 chaise lounges, 2 chairs and a small table. We enjoyed our nap time on the balcony. It was a long walk down the hall from the elevators but the balcony was worth the trip.
We made arrangements for a pre meeting for the meet and mingle after the muster drill to meet in Dizzy's. The drill was at 3:30PM. We left Cape Liberty at 4PM. It was extremely crowded in Dizzy's and we ended up meeting in The 19th Hole. The majority of the meet and mingle group wore mardi gras beads to the pre meeting. One of the members made name names for us to wear during the pre meeting and the official meeting.
Ricardo Ugalde was the concierge and Yong was the bartender in the concierge lounge. We really enjoyed the lounge. It was extremely crowded but there was an overflow lounge available in Cloud Nine on Deck 14. We used the overflow lounge a few times during the cruise.
This was the first time we had first seating for dinner but we did enjoy it. We were at table 355 right next to the Captain's Table near the main stairway. Our waiter was Ace from the Philippines and the assistant waiter was Limon from China. Ace was excellent and Limon started off slow but turned out to be great. We found out later he was new.
We had our meet and mingle meeting on the second day at 1PM in the Chamber. We had an excellent turnout. We decided to exchange $5 scratch off lottery tickets (it seemed to work out pretty good). One of the members of the group came up with a game to play. There was a gift for the winner (can of Maple syrup from Canada). This was one of the best meet and mingles I ever attended. Everyone was friendly throughout the cruise. We tried to stay as a group to play Quest (we were team #2) and we cheered for our own Frank Sinatra in the Karaoke Superstar competition.
Mike Hunnerup was the cruise director. He was ok. We have had better. The only one left on the cruise director staff from our last January cruise was Simon. It was actually Simon's last cruise before going home for his vacation. Daryl, the Crazy Canadian, was the best. He did a lot of the line dance lessons during the cruise. He was a great sailor for the 70s party. The cruise director was not visible during the cruise. He was supposed to host the Final Karaoke Superstar show but it was done by another member of the staff.
We actually saw Captain Sverre Ryan more on the piers and on the ship than we saw the cruise director. Runi Basyanake is the loyalty ambassador. We did make an appointment to book a next cruise with her. We ended up not booking the next cruise option since effective January 1st you can no longer use a Crown and Anchor diamond balcony room discount with the OBC given with the next cruise option.
We had 3 formal nights on the ship (day 2, 7 and 11). We ate at Portofino's on Day 6 and enjoyed ourselves so much we made reservations again. The only night we could get was day 11 formal night. We had Loredana and Zoltak for servers in Portofino's. I did see Augustino in Portofino's. We did have Augustino as a server in Portofino's during our January 2008 cruise. The manager, Rakesh, was extremely friendly and accommodating.
Some of the highlights from the cruise compass Day 1-Portofino's offer a wine pairing dinner for $54.50 per person. Welcome Aboard Show. Sailaway Parade.
Day 2- Port and shopping talk with Allan (discussed St Thomas and St Maarten). Time change one hour forward before retiring on day 2. Formal Night for dinner. Captain's Welcome Aboard Party. Showtime production show "Videology". Adult Karaoke Superstar. Finish that lyric game. Wine Tasting.
Day 3—The Diamonds (The Stroll and Little Darling). Blades Ice Show. Invitation to Dance.
Day 5-Johnny Thunder former member of the Drifters. Majority Rules Game. Blades Ice Show.
Day 6-Fast Forward production show.
Day 7—Joey Van, comedian. Liar's Club. Sprits of the Season Ice Show.
Day 8-Love and Marriage Game, Karaoke Superstar, Wild, Cool and Swingin production show.
Day 9—Paul DiMuzio, juggler. Dave Morgan and puppet "Chucky". Spirits of the Seasons ice show. Dancing under the Stars Pool Party and Buffet.
Day 10-Glenn Smith, Las Vegas Entertainer. 70s Disco Party. Belly flop contest. Set Clocks back one hour before retiring. The Quest.
Day 11-Invitation to Dance. Karaoke Superstar. Battle of the Sexes Game.
Day 12-Jim David, Comedian. Karaoke Superstar Championship. Cooking Demonstration.
San Juan-One person traveling with us booked an excursion on the segways in San Juan. He originally reserved the 3:30PM tour. He was notified via phone since we were arriving late the excursion time was changed to 6:30PM. He was then notified the 6:30PM tour was cancelled. He went to the excursion desk and was told the 6:30PM tour was still on. He enjoyed the excursion but it did get dark quickly during the tour. I think the captain thought we would be arriving into San Juan late but we actually arrive at 2PM. The shore excursion paper delivered to the room showed our time in San Juan as 4PM to 11PM. The cruise director staff had the belly flop contest scheduled for the afternoon. Since we arrived to San Juan early at 2PM, the belly flop competition was rescheduled for a sea day. We got off the ship and walked around Old San Juan. We stopped at a luncheonette and ate pastries and a virgin pina colada. We stopped at the duty free store and then went back on the ship for dinner in the dining room.
St Thomas-We purchased the Harbor Tours excursion from Royal Caribbean for $12. This was an all day wristband that allows you to ride a boat from the end of the pier to the downtown shopping area. We went downtown in the morning to purchase our liquor. We took the boat back to the ship to get changed for the beach. We rode the boat back to the downtown area for a cab to Emerald Beach. Emerald Beach is only about 5 to 10 minutes from the downtown area and it was only $6 per person to go. We loved Emerald Beach. It was part of the Best Western. There were only about 20 people on the entire beach. The water was calm. There were cabs there to go back downtown when we were ready to leave. We took the last boat back to the pier area for the day (3:45PM). We liked the boat ride to downtown. It was a great opportunity to get good pictures of the ship and you did not need to deal with the cab ride to downtown area.
St Maarten-We walked to the downtown area instead of doing the water taxi. It takes about 20 minutes to get to Front Street. We did some shopping and then went back to the ship for our St Martin Island Tour. We purchased the excursion from the ship. The tour was $24 and it was offered at 1PM. The tour went to the French side of the island. We were allowed approximately 30 minutes to shop at the along the waterfront in Marigot. We saw the monuments to show the 2 different countries.
Dominica—This was our first time to the island. I booked a private tour with Levi of Bumpiing Tours. Gary met us at the ship at 8AM. Another couple (met them at the meet and mingle) was with us. We drove around the island stopping to take pictures at a mural area, black sand beach and an area to watch for birds. Our first official stop was at Emerald Pool. Gary handed us tickets to get into the site. It is about a 15 minute hike to the pool. It was well worth the hike. It was not crowded when we arrived. On our way out of the area, we bumped into others from the ship (the ship's excursion). Our next stop was going to be Mr. Nice's Fruit Stand. Gary drove by the stand but it was not open since it was Saturday and Mr. Nice is a Seventh Day Adventist. I really did want to meet him and try the fruit. Our next stop was the falls. Again it was about a 15 minute hike to the falls. There was a deck area to stand on to view the falls. We continued for the additional 10 minute hike to see the falls closer. We decided not to stop at Wotten Woven Sulphur Springs. Gary drove through the Botanical Gardens and then we went to a lookout area at Morne Bruce. We arrived back at the ship around 2:30PM. Gary offered us beer, spring water and soda to drink during the tour. We did bring snacks with us.
Barbados—I did a lot of research on cruise critic to decide on which beach to visit. We decided to go to Rockley Beach. It was $15 per person round trip via taxi. The cab driver dropped us off at the beach around 11AM and picked us up around 2PM. We rented 2 lounge chairs and an umbrella for $15. It was well worth the money. The ocean was a little rough but we enjoyed our time there. We walked the entire boardwalk. We were surprised with the hotels along the boardwalk area closed down and for sale. The beach area had a public restroom (not too bad inside) and 4 kiosks selling drinks and food. There were additional kiosks selling t-shirts and dresses. The vendors did not bother you on the beach.
Antigua-We originally booked the 12:30PM excursion. I believe the excursion was offered at either 10:30AM or 12:30PM. We were notified on Thursday we were the only ones booked for the 12:30PM time slot so we were transferred to the 10:30AM slot or we could cancel for a full refund. We decided to go at 10:30AM. I thought it was a little early to cancel the 12:30PM trip since we still had 3 days until we reached Antigua.
There were approximately 35 people for the excursion. We were split into 2 buses. The buses held 20 people and were air conditioned. Our driver was Ly (?). He gave us a lot of information during the tour. I had some trouble understanding his distinctive Caribbean accent. We drove around the island passing through many villages. The driver explained each village to us. We saw many different types of trees, fruits and animals. Our first stop was Nelson's Dockyard. It took us about 1 hour to reach the first stop. We had 30 minutes there. The first 15 minutes we had a tour guide to show us the area. We were given a coupon for a free drink at the local bar. The choices were rum punch, punch or soda. The rum punch was very strong. There were some vendors there selling t-shirts, bags, etc. We boarded the bus for our second stop, Shirley Heights. Shirley Heights is the Royal Artillery Quarters from 1790. The views were beautiful from here. We boarded the bus again and drove through the rain forest along Fig Tree Drive. The trees were actually 4 different types of banana trees. We then arrived at Turner's Beach for one hour. The beach was beautiful. The water was calm. My only complaint about the beach was the vendors. They did not leave you alone. We finally went into the bar area and purchased a drink to escape the vendors. I guess each driver can go to a different beach because I did not see the second bus from Royal Caribbean there. The beach was not crowded. There was plenty of shade under the palm trees. They also offered beach chairs for $5. We did not rent one since we were only there for 1 hour. The tour was nice but I don't think it was worth $59 each but that is my opinion.
Departure. We met in the Maharajas Lounge for the "Members Only" Departure Lounge. Our luggage tag was called at 9AM. We were able to locate all of our luggage and we were through customs within 20 minutes.