This was our sixth cruise and our fifth with Royal Caribbean International but our first on Explorer of the Seas although we have sailed on one of her sister ships before. The holiday got off to a bad start when we found that although we were in a group of six we had been allocated separate seats on our flight from Heathrow. On arrival at Newark Airport it took 2 hours to get thorough customs/immigration. Whilst I understand the reasons for this I would never fly to the USA again. The transfer arrangements from the Sheraton Hotel to Bayonne were shambolic! It two hours by coach but once we arrived at the port we were soon on the ship. Our suite was very nice, spacious and with excellent facilities. Edward our cabin steward looked after us splendidly. Other plus points were the Theatre Shows, activities, Room Service, the Windjammer buffet (although a little busy at times) and the general appearance of the ship although we prefer the more open style of the Vision class. The use of the Concierge lounge was welcome it being a little oasis in a busy ship (except at happy hour). We partiularly enjoyed the quizzes (coming second in the ongoing Ultimate Quiz) and found many nice bars especially the 19th Hole where Dindo looked after us every night.
Of the ports we enjoyed St Thomas, St Maarten, Barbados, St Kitts and Dominica. We did not go ashore in Puerto Rico or Antigua. One of the down sides was the restaurant dinner service which was shambolic. Long waits between courses, wrong meals, wrong menus, poor presentation of meals, poorer quality of food etc. Other general gripes included poor behavior by unsupervised children, high noise levels, poor port and transfer arrangements and increased prices for drinks particularly wine. We enjoyed our excursions on Barbados, Dominica and St Maarten and these remain good value for money. Generally the crew was friendly as usual and the Gold Seapass was an exellent innovation.
To sum up we enjoyed our cruise but next time we cruise the Caribbean we would look for a departure port outside the USA. We would also be tempted to try another Cruise company next time as we have noticed a steady decline in RCI during the last 4 years.