Cabin - we had a junior suite and were really pleased with it. It felt light and airy and had lots of storage space - the walk in wardrobe was excellent and we had more than enough storage space for all of our things. It was nice having the tea and coffee making facilities in the cabin and we hadn't had this on previous cruises. Kenneth our room steward was excellent and the cabin was always kept clean and plenty of clean towels. We had towel animals every night and I was pleased that these hadn't been cut back
Food - I was really pleased with all of the food on offer and think that this was probably the best food that we have had on any cruise. The food in the dining room was always hot and our waiters Max and Onur always made sure that we were served quickly and would remember our preferences eg how we liked our steak cooked etc. We shared a table with Patty and Eileen who were great dinner companions. We also had lunch in the dining room a couple of times and this was really good. The salad bar was excellent and you included plenty of shrimp, chicken, smoked salmon bacon etc so you always had really interesting food although the portions were huge! We often had breakfast in our room and the room service was always on time and it was great to sit on the balcony as the ship came into the ports. Although, if we were hungry we would go into the windjammer. We always got a seat in the WJ but you would have to look around for a few minutes first if you were there at busy times. Had dinner in the WJ twice and I was really pleased with the selection - we had all of the food on offer in the dinning room plus curries, pizza, pasta, wok etc which was good. The deserts were less exciting than in the dining room. The food on offer in jade the asian part of WJ was excellent and the sushi was particularly good. We used the Cafe Promenade less than on other cruises and this could be because we now had the kettle in the cabin. The snacks on offer here were limited but it was a nice place to grab a coffee and a cookie.
Entertainment - the ice shows were excellent and I am amazed that they manage to do this whilst the ship is moving so much. The music around the ship was plentiful and you would always find something that you liked, we liked the aquarium bar with the salsa music and watching the people dance. The casino was always entertaining and it was good that they had no smoking nights in there as well. We didn't go to the shows in he theatre but others said that they were very good. The trivia quizzes and game shows were good and it is worth making time to see the parades on the promenade - although these were very short and only lasted about 10 mins.
Pools - we used the solarium pool and we always managed to find a bed. The pool attendant was excellent and would remove towels from beds that hadn't been used for an hour. This soon stopped people saving the beds and meant that you would always find something. Towels for the pool were plentiful although I was amazed when some people took 6 towels per person! Hottubs were often full as people would sit in there for hours at a time chatting, however the one in the spa was usually free and was very hot - a nice haven on sea days when it was windy
Spa - we usually use the spa but this time found it far too expensive. This is partly to do with the exchange rate but also to do with the price increase. This meant that the spa was usually empty and there appeared to be more consultants standing at stalls outside windjammer and on the promenade selling their products that actually had any clients in the spa.
General re the ship - it was very clean. All of the staff were excellent and people were very polite and helpful. The captain seemed to be everywhere and was very personable and seemed to really enjoy doing the meeting and greeting as well as running the ship! The loyalty ambassador was very poor and when we tried to book another cruise she was more interested in talking about her than helping us.
Although the ship was full there was always plenty of space and plenty of seats around. The passengers on the whole were also the most friendly we have come across and everyone seemed to want to have fun. There were three formal nights and the majority of people dressed up. People watching was always good fun! The age range was everything from very young to old but the average age was probably a little older than on other ships.
Bayonne - not the prettiest of ports but it was exciting going under the bridge, you can't believe that the ship can actually get under the bridge there certainly isn't much space to spare. We had arranged a car to pick us up in manhattan at 11am and we were on the ship by 12.30. We did have to queue for half an hour to check in but then walked straight onto the bus to get on the ship. Getting off wasn't great. We were sent to the priority area for diamond members in the Maharajas lounge and were due to get off at 9.15. Some people had to stand as there wasn't enough seats and it took us over two hours to get off the ship - most of the wait was actually waiting for buses to turn up. Once you got off the bus it only took us 15 minutes to get our cases and go through customs which was very quick.
Sea days - we had two sea days at the beginning of the cruise and these were fine, not too much motion and plenty of sun. A word of warning that because it was quite windy on the top deck people didn't realize how hot it was so there were plenty of red and patchy suntans in the evening! The last three days were also sea days but the weather was quite rough and we diverted slightly to avoid a storm close to the Bahamas. This meant that the sea swells caused the boat to rock plenty and some people had real problems walking around. Personal choice but I wouldn't want to do as many sea days in a row again if the weather isn't good, its fine if you can be around the pool but if it is too cold to go outside it does spoil it.
Ports of call Puerto Rico - having been before we just walked around the old town and did some shopping. There are a number of cheap shops offering well known brands at discount prices so worth a visit (handbags at Coach were 75% cheaper than on offer at Heathrow). It was nice sitting and having a drink in the sun watching life around you. We went back ont he ship for dinner but some people did take advantage of being in port until 11pm.
St Thomas Took a cab and went into the town a short ride away. You could walk it but it was far too hot for the mile and a half walk. Mostly jewelers and souvenir shops but worth a trip. As we had done the island a few times before we didn't take a trip to the beach but it is easy to do get a taxi for an island tour and trip to the beach and this is much cheaper than the tours on offer on the ship
St Marten My favorite island and nice i gi back. We took the water taxi to the beach and stayed there for the morning - the price of the sun beds and umbrella includes 5 drinks as well (you have a choice of bear or soda) and the sea is so warm and clear. Then spent the afternoon shopping which is always a pleasure
Dominica Took a taxi and did an island tour which included the trafalgar waterfalls. It is a very pretty island and the people are so friendly, even though they don't have much they ware always keen to stop and chat and tell you all about their island.
Barbados We were here on a Sunday so the town and many of the sights were closed. We took a taxi to Rockley beach and spent a wonderful day sunbathing and swimming.
Antigua Took a taxi to a wonderful beach the sea was so blue and warm and the sand very white. Would love to return to this island for a longer stay.
Had a wonderful holiday on Explorer and added in a stay in New York both pre and post the cruise which really added to the experience. Would recommend the ship to anyone, and enjoyed the itinerary but sailingout of Bayonne which resulted in so many cold / rocky sea days is not something I would rush to do again.