Our booking was an impulsive one, late in June. Our local Expedia agent was quite helpful, and found us discounted rates based on Canadian citizenship.
My wife and I had cruised 15 years ago, for our 10th anniversary, on NCL.
Doing some research, and knowing we needed a cruise leaving from the eastern seaboard of the U.S., we settled on the Explorer. Asking plenty of questions, working within our budget, and having a good idea of what our family would enjoy...this ship seemed to suit us.
We were not disappointed. Having two Promenade Staterooms overlooking the Promenade, it was a step up from the traditional inside stateroom. Yes, there was a slightly escalated degree of sound. But typically, we were not in our rooms until 11pm each night, which by that time had subsided substantially.
The ship was gorgeous, kept spotless, staff outstandingly friendly, food was great, ports of call were beautiful. We had no complaints about the ship or the cruise. We had issues with some of the cruisers, but considering it's summertime, families, everyone is "letting go"....not totally out of the ordinary. Plenty of food? More than we could handle. Yes, over-indulgence by many. But everyone is paying the money, you have to be prepared to live in a 'small village' on the water.
Ports of call were well organized..on and off at docks immediately with Explorer's outstanding computerized security system. No waits. You could pay for the expensive on-board organized excursions, or, as we did, arrange and do things on your own. A little planning can save $00's.
Would we cruise on this ship again? In a heartbeat. Would we recommend it to others? Yes. Our biggest piece of advice? Know your family and what you are looking for. Make sure your expectations and criteria, meet what is offered by the ship. Your knowledgable travel agent should be able to help you. We almost booked on Carnival, until warned that it was more "party-party" than we wanted. By the way....the aft pool, for adults only, a marvelous place to relax in a chair in the shade or sun. Drink, book, snooze.....it allows it all.
We did hear others comment, "you know, for a ship on the water now for 9 years, it's showing it's age". Not from our perspective. Brass spotlessly polished, carpets look like new, upholstered and leathered chairs look like they've come from the factory Our home, shows far more use.
The best ship on the water? Likely not. For a moderately-priced, family oriented cruise, we thoroughly enjoyed it. Take advantage of their Express debarking. If you can carry your bags, you are off the ship in 10 minutes. Be prepared for a little wait on the elevators though.