We were vacationing with very good friends from New Jersey. They wanted to try a cruise from Bayonne to save the airfare. It made no difference to us as our purpose was spending time with our friends and not specific ports. The vast majority of the cruisers were within a 5 hour drive of the port. The benefit besides the plane fare was that by driving they had no luggage restrictions.
The 9 night cruise only had 4 ports scheduled and because of reduced speed due to a mechanical problem the time in two ports were adjusted. We set sail at 4 p.m. on a Friday and arrived at our first port on Monday Morning, We left our last port at 11:30 on a Thursday morning and arrived back in Bayonne on Sunday morning. The time in ports was lessened slightly by a mechanical difficulty but even without that we would have only had a part day in San Juan.
Because of the number of sea days the activities on ship became important-as well as the ship itself. The explorer does not have a retractable roof over the pool like the Jewel. This means on the first and last full sea days the pool was too cold to be used. On the other two sea daysthe reserved lounge chairs for suite cruisers and the folks who staked our a lounge in the early a.m. left very little for the rest of us. I tried to use the exercise room on several occasions during our sea days but found the equipment to be old and many of the treadmills and bikes were out of order. We did participate in a couple of the crafts, a couple of the Trivia, the Bingo, and roller blading but was disappointed that there wasn't more choice available. We loved the convenience of the coffee shop on the promenade, we loved that the library was actually a usable space and not just the alcove it is on some ships. The roller blading was difficult as you had to contend with the wind. We did find that the casino was busier than on other cruises and that the alcohol consumption appeared to be up. Our sports fanatics were disappointed that only the semifinals of the final 4 were broadcast.
The food was excellent-but not always as hot as it should have been. Service was good but not excellent. They did go out of their way to accommodate an extra couple at our dinner table. The request was made pre-cruise but for some reason wasn't acted onon board they shifted around to accommodate us.
We were prepared for only 4 ports but felt the choices were poor. Samana left many on the cruise feeling unsafe. For that reason we chose the Cape Levanto excursion through RC. It was a great beach but we did miss the ski dos and parasailing that are usually found on beach vacations. The RC private beach again was very nice but made for two strictly beach days in a rowBy this time we were several shades of burnt and were looking for something out of the sun! In St. Thomas we booked a private sailboat and had a delightful time sailing and snorkeling on St. John's. In San Juan we got there too late to do anything but the clubs and the casino and left too early to fully explore this historic town or even do any real damage to our husband's credit cards. Many on the cruise would have rathered a stop in Bermuda on the way down or to sacrifice Samana so that we could have a full day in both San Juan and St. Thomas. Only those who participated on a CC board new that the ports were adjusted prior to the third day of the cruise.
The best thing about the cruise is we did get to spend time with our friends and we made many new ones.
Are you cruising for the ship experience than this was a great ship, if you like ports and activities than this was lacking. I feel that there were alternatives that would have let us have both a wider variety of ports and still satisfy those who wanted to save by sailing close from home.