This was my first RC cruise and Explorer was also the biggest ship I've been on. As a solo traveller I thought I might feel a bit overwhelmed by a big ship with just under 3000 fellow passengers but it was fine. It certainly didn't feel as if there were the 2800+ actually on board, and the public areas were certainly not too wide as to be overwhelming.
I'd been staying in New York for few days before the cruise and got to Bayonne by train from Manhattan without any problem. Waited for quite a while until a small shuttle bus turned up by the E.34th St station at Bayonne. Check-in was smooth and didn't take too long, considering the number of passengers they were processing.
I was delighted with my cabin - another first, being first time I've had a balcony. Wouldn't normally have considered it because when the ship's in a port I wouldn't get to use it. But my travel agent covered the upgrade and with 3 sea days at the start and end of the itinerary, I figured I would enjoy it and I did. Room Service breakfast on the balcony was great, too. The cabin was fine - especially as it was only for me - so space wasn't a problem. The bed and pillows were very comfortable, which is always a relief. My lovely cabin steward Lucy was great and had high standards, so the room was always left very clean.
The ship was lovely - plenty of places to sit in comfort and enjoy a cocktail or people-watch. One thing I was missing on board was seeing animals as the cul-de-sac where I live is home to 9 cats and 2 dogs, and the tanks at the Aquarium Bar made up for that in a small way.
Didn't go in the main pool, preferring the lovely Solarium. What fantastic bullfight statues it has. The pool's small but big enough to cool off in, but I found the water in the hot tubs a tad too hot. Sun loungers there are very comfy.
I had opted for early seating for dinner. The food in the Dining Room was very good and our waiter was excellent. He would have been an asset to any fine dining restaurant. I had lunch several days in the Windjammer buffet and didn't experience any problems with queues or finding somewhere to sit. There was a surprising selection of dishes available and I enjoyed all the meals I had there. Then I was told that lunch in the dining room was very pleasant, and went there a few times. It had a small but good lunch menu and I enjoyed my meals there.
Room Service breakfast was excellent and always on time, with a phone call a couple of minutes beforehand to say "your breakfast is on its way to you".
The various trivia quizzes were fun and I met some delightful people there, who were happy to welcome a single traveller into their team. A lot of participants were a bit short on patience with the staff doing the quizzes who usually didn't have English as their mother tongue, and I agree that a couple of the staff shouldn't have been expected to run a quiz that they didn't understand.
I loved the production shows but didn't particularly enjoy the shows with comedians. At first I thought it was that their American humour didn't gel with my English sense of humour, but clearly that was not the case with one particular 'comedian' - I've never seen so many people leave a performance but his blatantly tasteless and racist jokes were disgraceful.
The ice shows were fantastic, especially the "Spirit of The Seasons" which I managed to see twice.
I didn't do any ship's excursions so can't comment on them.
Disembarkation was very smooth. Instead of having everybody milling about one area, people were split into relatively smaller groups in different locations where coffee and pastries were available, and everything went very well.
I met some lovely people on the ship, liked the ship and the service, and look forward to cruising with RC again.