We live in Massachusetts and the port location is what made us decide to take this cruise and what a wise choice it ended up being! The traffic getting thru the end of Connecticut and thru New York was terrible but once we got to the pier things went very smoothly. The porter tagged and took our luggage and we then parked the car which is a 3 minute walk. Back in the terminal the line was very long but went rather quickly. We were in line maybe 20-25 minutes before we got our sea pass and boarded the bus to take the 30 second ride to the ship. Once on the Ship we went to our cabin which was 9320 hump D1 cabin. The location was wonderful being right next to the stairs and elevator. It was not noisy at all and we could not hear any commotion in our cabin. The Elevators can get very busy so we mainly took the stairs. There is plenty of storage room in the cabin and 3 of us easily put our clothes away and packed the suitcases under the bed. The room as very clean and well kept. The bathroom does not have an outlet for a hairdryer or curling iron and you have to use the outlet near the desk which is right outside the bathroom. The beds were very comfortable except for the pull out couch which is a little hard. We brought some cans of soda so I asked the cabin steward to take the items that they had for sale in the fridge out so we could use it and by the time we came back they were gone. He also filled the ice bucket twice a day and we had a towel animal every night but the first. He did an excellent job. We were doing MTD so we went down to deck 5 to make reservations for that night and then went to the windjammer for lunch. The food was very good and we loved the chicken! You must try it. The muster went very quickly and was well organized. It took maybe 15 minutes and we did have to bring our life vests to this one. Sail away was supposed to 5pm but it seems on this cruise we were always 20 minutes early. At 4:40 we went up to watch as we sailed by the Statue of Liberty and what a view of NY! A New York PD helicopter put on a little show on both sides of the ship as we were sailing out; I don't know if that is normal or just a spur of the moment thing. Sailing under the Verrazano Bridge is amazing as it looks like you have 3-4 feet clearance from the top. MTD-We chose MTD because we wanted to be able to have the 3 of us eat alone. On the first night they did sit another group of 3 with us but that was the only time. You do have to make reservations for each night and only 1 night we could not get the time we chose which was always 6:30. We had waited to long to make the reservation. We also asked every night to have the same head waiter and waiter. They were absolutely fabulous and remembered what you drank every night etc. They really made the dining experience great. The Food was excellent! From appetizers to entrees to desert. We only got 1 of each every night but saw many people getting 2-3 appetizers, 2 entrees etc. That seemed to be the norm. Lobster and shrimp was served on the last night of the cruise and was very good. The Maitre d came around every night to make sure the meal was what we expected and that his wait staff was doing a good job. He took the time to ask what you had done for the day in port or to recommend where to go the next day. Johnny Rockets didn't ever seem to be crowded and the food was excellent. They bring you French fries and onion rings when you sit down and then you order what you want. We also got desert which was included with the 4.95 surcharge per person. I got the apple pie/ice cream which was excellent and my father got the Oreo cookie sundae which he said was excellent also. Promenade cafe had pizza, sandwiches, croissant sandwiches, cookies and a few types of desert, coffee, juice 24 hours a day. The pizza was very good. Windjammer-We ate there every morning and the omelet station was excellent. They have many items for you to choose from to put in your omelets. They were also very quick. The breakfast food was very good with many items to choose from.
Entertainment-I highly recommend you see the comedians. Our cruise had 6 nights of comedians/magic shows out of the 9 nights. They were fabulous and we haven't laughed like that in a long time. My son couldn't wait to see the compass when we got back to the room at night to see if the show the following night was going to be a comedian. We would go down around 8:30 for the 9:00 show to make sure we got a seat as it can get crowded. Our Cruise Director Dave Chapman started and ended the show every night and he was great, he was literally everywhere! Our cruise was the last one he was doing on the Explorer and he has moved on to Mariner of the Seas. They have waiters walking around taking drink orders, the frozen drinks are delicious!
Sports Deck-The Mini golf is fun but hard, playing mini golf on a cruise ship is a challenge and it can get really windy up there! My son did the Rock Climbing and there was always a group there when it was open. We did the Inline skating which was fun and we also did the Ice Skating. Long pants are needed for the Ice Skating, no shorts are allowed. They have ping pong, shuffleboard, Basketball court and a gold simulator which was broken on our cruise. They have a really large arcade and my son went in there often. Your sea pass card is what you use to play the games and there is a machine in there to either charge money to your sea pass or you can add cash to the sea pass for the games. One day he went in there the games were all free.
Promenade-You literally feel like you are in a shopping mall! They have a few stores and pubs with seating out in the promenade. My favorite was every day they set up tables and different items would be for sale. They jewelry, watches, shirts, sea glass, ($10 Bijoux items, if you have ever been to that store) .It felt like a mini flea market and was always quite crowded. They also had gold by the inch which they moved back and forth from the Promenade to outside the Windjammer. You could get bracelets, anklets, necklaces etc. Digital camera's was another table always set up outside the Windjammer or in the Promenade.
Casino-Was never too crowded and they had quite a few slot machines. They had 1 cent machines on up. I did see someone win $500 on a dollar machine one night.
Ports-We went to Bermuda, St. Maarten, St.Thomas and San Juan. Bermuda was beautiful and we did the Island Tour/Horseshoe Bay Beach Tour. This was an excellent tour and the tour guide was awesome. We were met right outside the ship and lined up and walked to the bus. He gave us a really good narrative of everything we saw and really knew the history of the island. Horseshoe Bay Beach is breathtaking and we had 2 hours there. The rock formations and the color of the water are incredible. They have changing/bathrooms and a snack bar. Once on the beach we set off to explore all the way to the left the many rock formations and coves. We were almost alone down there as many people stayed at the part where you first enter the beach. As my son was walking in one of the coves what looked to be a local stepped up and said be careful of the riptides in these coves. That was really nice of him as we wouldn't have known. Bring your cameras because the picture opportunity near the rocks is unbelievable. Also be careful walking in the coves as there are some holes in the sand and you may go down into the water unexpectedly. The sand is a beautiful pink color just like you read about.
St. Maarten we did the Island tour and stopped on the French side to shop. Once you get off the Ship they is a little shopping area at the end of the dock with a few stores, nothing great. St. Maarten's water is a beautiful blue /green color and the views from the Tour are very pretty at points. We were not crazy about this Island and it was our least favorite.
St. Thomas we took the Meagan's Bay Beach Tour and this bus ride was crazy to me as you have to go up one side of the mountain and then down the other to get to the beach. It reminded me of a roller coaster ride and I made sure not to look out the sides of the bus and just kept my eyes straight ahead. We did stop at the top of the mountain on the way back for spectacular views and pictures. The bay is gorgeous and there are no waves. You can see your toes while up to your chest in water. They have water sports, kayaks, paddle boats and floats for rent. My son and father did the Kayak and had a great time. They also rent chairs and had a Bar/Snack bar. We had 2 hours at the beach which was perfect.
San Juan we took the Segway Tour and they also meet you right at the end of the dock. It is then a 2 minute walk to their office. You have a quick lesson on maneuvering the Segway and off you go, you must wear a helmet. We had so much fun on this tour. We travelled the old blue cobblestone paths, went where motor vehicles are not allowed and just thoroughly enjoyed the entire tour, you end up at the El Morro Fort on the edge of the ocean and the views are breathtaking. We toured the fort for around 20 minutes with our Segway Guide and then headed back. She takes several pictures of your group on the segways with your own camera which becomes a great keepsake. I highly recommend taking this tour.
Disembarkation-We chose to self disembark and went down to sign up as soon as we got the cruise compass telling us sign up was available. Our ticket said we could disembark between 8:30 - 8 : 45. At 8:20 the captain came on an announced we had been cleared and the first group of self embarkation could leave. We were on the 9th floor and as we came out of our room there was a large group waiting with their luggage for an elevator. We decided to use the stairs and we carried, rolled our suitcase down all 9 floors and on each floor there were quite a few people waiting for elevators. We got to deck one, swiped our sea pass and immediately got on the shuttle bus. 2 minutes later if brought us to the building where there was no one in line for customs. We breezed right thru, rolled our luggage to the parking lot and were in the car leaving the port at 8:40. It was a total of 20 minutes from our room to the car. We would self disembark again in a heartbeat. I can't say enough about this 9 day cruise, It was relaxing, fun and just a wonderful vacation!