This was our eighth cruise with RCCL,our first on the Explorer out of Cape Liberty.We live in PA.,one and a half hours from the port.We initially were planning to drive but thanks to a Cruise Critic review stating the daily parking fee had gone up to $19/day we did the math and decided to take the RCCL bus for $100/person and leave the hassle to the bus driver. The bus picked us up at a stop 15 min. from our house, the only passengers from this location.We joined four others who were already onboard from the Harrisburg,PA area so we left 30 minutes early,11AM, with plenty of room on a 56 passenger bus ! We arrived at Cape Liberty about 12:30 but sat in the parking lot for almost an hour.There are no separate car and bus lanes so it really was slow moving.We then stood in line for another 20 min.to get to the Platinum level registration line.From there it was quick.
Our stateroom was ready,so we dropped off our carry-on luggage and headed to the Windjammer for a very late lunch. Our balcony stateroom was pleasant with plenty of storage space.The queen size bed was quite comfortable.Unfortunately there was an adjoining door and we really could hear the guests in the next room alot.In fact by the third morning after being awakened by the loud TV at 6:30 AM I called them about it and they did turn it down for the remaining days.I certainly will check about an adjoining door when I book the next cruise.There was a shower door so I didn't need to use the clothes pins I had brought to weigh down a shower curtain. The stateroom attendant was efficient but pretty invisible.
Our only complaint was we never received our Platinum books or the invitation to the Meet & Mingle.Fortunately we new about both and knew to question it at guest relations. We had late dining on the third level dining room at the balcony rail,nice location.We had a table for eight but only one couple came consistently until two more joined us on the fourth night at their request since no one showed up at their table ever. The service and food was excellent. My only complaint was about the steak oscar. The crab was the fake kind.I feel if the real thing can't be used it shouldn't be offered.We didn't purchase the $14.99 steak that's being offered now or go to Portofino's.
We've been cruising atleast yearly for the past 10 yrs.and can see subtle changes but nothing to prevent us from continuing to cruise.There is now a $3.95 charge for roomservice between 12-6AM,no Q-Tips,etc.in the bathrooms. Johnny Rockets was fun and we took advice from a review and went early on the second day at sea.We didn't know tickets were being given out on boarding day for the ice show so our only choice was to show up 15 min.before and hope to get in which we never did.We had seen the ice show last year on the Voyager.I would recommend seeing one. We only saw one show,Glenn Smith, who we had seen 10 yrs. ago on the Vision in Alaska.He still was entertaining and had added a few new things in his act. We enjoyed the Promenade,especially the cafe where we could get a late lunch or snack in the afternoon.Never could get an iced coffee, the ice machine was broken the whole trip.We were disappointed that there were no smoking areas in all the lounges but we adapted. We had fun in the casino coming out ahead $700 above what we had budgeted ,plus a tee-shirt.
These were all new ports of call for us.We had picked out the side trips at home,filled out the paperwork on boarding day and dropped it in the box eliminating standing in line! We did a bus tour in San Juan and enjoyed Fort San Cristobal then walked around Old Town and did some shopping. It is worth going to the shopping program and talking to the expert if you're looking for something specific .His VIP cards saved me 5-20%.I didn't purchase the shopping guide this time but it was useful our last cruise,especially in Cozumel. We took an island cab to Megan's Bay in St.Thomas at $16/person round trip with a four dollar entrance fee at the beach which was cheaper than booking onboard.There are nice shops and eateries at the port so we didn't cab it to town.To do the beach and shop in one day makes the day full. We had booked Cayo Leventado in the Dominican Republic.The tender ride to the island was well organized and fun.The water was too cold to swim but the beach was pretty. We paid $6 to get better chaise lounges than the free plastic ones.We forgot about taking a ship prepared picnic lunch so we had to buy a mediocre lunch there.There is a small straw market and I bought a nice Larimar silver pendent at a good price after much bartering.We heard mixed reviews about Samana. Labadee had a huge straw market with very aggressive vendors.If you have the patience to barter there are some lovely carved wooden pieces.The buffet offered by the ship was standard fare.We decided to return to the ship and enjoy the quiet Solarium rather than deal with the crowded beach. It was great having two days at sea to relax after four days of island hopping.
There is a nice quiet area beyond Johnny Rockets with chase lounges few people seem to use. As Platinum members we were assigned to the Maharaja lounge where coffee,juice and danish was available[on paper plates and cups,another subtle change] on disembarkation day.We went there at 7:30 and missed the crowded elevators and got a comfortable area to sit.We were told we'd all have a private escort off the ship.At 9:30 our luggage color was called and we were told to go to the diningroom at the other end of the ship where we had to stand another 30min i the hall! We were told that happened because we were bus transfers.Still don't understand why we couldn't have stayed where we were and be called from there.So much for a Platinum member perk.Porters are easily available,our bus left in no lines and we were at our home in less than two hours.
We certainly will consider this itinerary again and are looking at the 12 day cruise to the Southern Caribbean from Cape Liberty next year. Not having to fly to a port is great. We only wish RCLL would return to the Port of Philadelphia for Bermuda. We went last fall and plan to go in Oct. with NCL but we prefer RCCL.