This is a review of the 13 day Southern Caribbean Cruise that started on April 26th departing from Cape Liberty (Bayonne) N.J.. This was our 7th cruise on RCI since April 2005 and our 4th on the Explorer of the Seas in the same time frame. Married and in our mid-50's and we have only sailed with RCI, with the exception being a cruise 17 years previous on the Big Red Boat. Apparently that ship now sails under the Pullmantur flag which is a subsidiary of RCI.
Embarkation. We arrived at Cape Liberty around 9:45 AM. Although we were early there were still a significant number of people who had arrived even earlier than we. Check-in did not start until 10:30 or so and we boarded the bus to the ship at 12:15-ish. Apparently there was quite a traffic jam after 1PM and a number of people told us that they were in traffic at the port for anywhere from 45 minutes to 1 ½ hours. Our embarkation was a breeze but many people felt otherwise.
Disembarkation. We were called (Grey 3) at 8:30 and we breezed through the process. By 8:50 we were in our car and on our way. Parking at Cape Liberty is not cheap but it is close. For our cruise the cost was $220.00. We would do it again as the cost of flights and ground transportation from Toronto was just not worth the cost. We spent a total of $150.00 for gas (Volvo XC90) during the entire trip.
As this was our 4th cruise on the Explorer the WOW factor that we experienced on our 1st cruise was less but it was still there. I found a number of places on the ship that I had not known about, namely the hurricane history information board located on deck 4 by the Aquarium bar. The ship is in excellent shape and we did not notice a lot of areas that needed attention. The Voyager class is our favorite class of ships and we are looking forward to our next cruise on the Ex.
We had JS1394 which is a true aft Junior Suite. The room was in good shape but we did have some issue with stuck drawers and a refrigerator that only kept the contents cool not cold. There is a ton of storage space and we never even came close to using all of the available space. A JS has about 100 sq ft more space than a D1 balcony room and it is really noticeable. This room is large and comfortable. The balcony is very large. It measures about 12ft X 12 ft and comes with 2 chairs, 1 large table and 2 recliners. We had this same room in Feb 2008 so we knew that the balcony does not get much, if any, sun. We were prepared for that, but, if a lot of sun is a must do not get JS1394 or JS1694 as the overhang from the Windjammer prevents 99% of the sun from going on your balcony. The other aft cabins get a lot more sun.
Food. We ate the majority of dinners in the MDR. We found the food to be, on average, very good. When nothing on the menu was to our liking we chose the Black Angus steak. It was usually good but we both had one that was very dry and over cooked. It was still better than cooking at home. The Windjammer was used only for breakfast. As a buffet the food was quite good. I am mystified why people complain so much about the Windjammer food. There was a lot of selection and although the food was not really hot it was not cold either . A buffet is a buffet and as a buffet the WJ food is just fine. We ate a number of lunches in the MDR and we always had the salad bar. Excellent. The rest of the days we grabbed a quick sandwich at the Cafe Promenade. Excellent.
We ate one dinner at Portofino and it was fantastic. The Filet Mignon was perfect. We ate once at Johnny Rockets which was OK. My wife and I broke our diets for JR's so maybe we expected more. It was not worth the calories. BTW, neither of us gained any weight on the cruise. We did this by portion control and exercise. It was not due to the quality of food.
Entertainment. We only attended 3 shows and liked them all. We also attended both ice shows and they were excellent.
Chair hogs. This is one area that really annoys me. You would see chairs saved for hours at a time and nothing was being done by the deck staff. About 30%-40% of the chairs always had no-one in them but had towels on them. They were even saved during port days. It rained very hard in Antigua around 2PM and when we went up to the pool deck there was a large number of chairs with soaked towels saving them.
Scooters. There were a lot of scooters on this cruise and they go very fast. They need speed limiters to prevent cruisers from being run down. Being on a scooter is not a license to barge around the ship.
The MDR had a lot of empty tables on the last night. I assume that a lot of the wait staff got stiffed that night. Why would people show up to the MDR every night then not show up on the last night. Shame on those who cheated their wait staff.