My first Royal Caribbean cruise - won't be the last!: Explorer of the Seas Cruise Review by jantoby

Explorer of the Seas 5
Member Since 2006
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My first Royal Caribbean cruise - won't be the last!

Sail Date: November 2009
Destination: Southern Caribbean
Embarkation: Bayonne (Cape Liberty)
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 More 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. Less

Published 12/24/09

Cabin review: D28952 Superior Oceanview Stateroom with Balcony

Cabin 8952. Great quiet location. Well soundproofed - I didn't hear anything from cabins on either side and thought they were unoccupied until I saw luggage outside them the last night! I was a single, but there would have been plenty of space for two.

Read All Superior Oceanview Stateroom with Balcony (D2) Reviews >>

Port and Shore Excursions

I joined some new friends to share a taxi for 3 hours' sightseeing. The cost was $110 I think. That was for the taxi, so if there had been more people the cost would have been better value. We enjoyed an informative drive first to Shirley Heights for excellent views over the island and over the little bay to a house & recording studio owned by Eric Clapton. Next stop was Nelson's Dockyard, where more time is needed to appreciate it to the full. You need to allow at least a good hour to visit all the well-preserved buildings and read about their history. No duty-free shopping there - hooray! Then we drove back on a rain forest-lined road, pausing en route to watch some zip-liners.

There's internet access at Best of Books bookshop, in St. Johns, near the pier.

Read 1185 Antigua Reviews

I've holidayed on Barbados a couple of times before and have stopped on cruises, and all I wanted to do was go to a nice beach. But I don't like lying under grey clouds (which were around all day) so decided to stay on board. I just went into the terminal to check my emails - there are machines where you buy a card which you then use to access the internet on the computer terminals. Simple to buy and simple to use. It was a Sunday so things were quiet. I was delighted to find a stall selling my favourite Banana Ketchup, so stocked up on that to bring home.

Read 1215 Barbados Reviews

Dominica's my favourite Southern Caribbean island. All the people I've ever spoken to there have been even more friendly than on the other islands.

It was very hot and humid and I had a cool drink of fresh sugar cane juice at the local market. The stallholder didn't need much equipment - he had a pile of sugar cane, an old-fashioned crusher, and a cooler of ice. My drink was made to order - he crushed 2 sticks of cane into a glass with ice from a new pack, and that was it. No nasty added ingredients, and delicious - I do have a sweet tooth.

I walked over the bridge near the market and strolled through the streets of little old houses. A lady stopped me at one point and asked why I was taking a picture of one particular house. I said because I liked it and it looked very old and interesting. She told me at over 300 years old it was one of the oldest houses in Roseau, and was pleased that I was showing an interest in her island.

Don't expect lovely white sandy beaches around Roseau. If you dock at Portsmouth then you'll find lovely white sandy long narrow beach just a few minutes' walk from the pier, but at Roseau - forget it. Enjoy the lush vegetation and plentiful fruit and coffee tress lining the roads on an island tour, instead. Wonderful.

Read 669 Dominica Reviews

We didn't get ashore until 4pm, so not much time for seeing Old San Juan in daylight. With a fellow solo cruiser I headed first through the Cristobal Colon square (you can't miss the statue of Columbus) to the San Cristobal Castle, which you'll see slightly to the right as you look at the city from the ship. Well worth a good hour and the $3 entrance fee, with its tunnels, canon, well-preserved and restored areas, and fantastic views up and down the coastline and the city. Not to mention some very impressive iguanas. Entrance fee goes into the restoration fund for the building. A park ranger (the forts in SJ are National Park) told us its last use as a fort was by US military who finally left in 1963. for opening hours, details, etc.

From there we were going to walk along to the El Morro Fort, but the free trolley bus came along so we hopped on and were taken right to the door. There wasn't enough time to go inside but the wide open grounds were great after 3 days at sea.

There are 2 of the open-sided buses which are a great way of getting round Old San Juan for free. Just look for the bus stops with a yellow sign saying PARADA with a picture of a trolley.

We strolled through the lovely streets with their Spanish-style balconies, and enjoyed a beer in a tiny bar where the only other customer - there wouldn't have been room for any more once we were inside - was a regular who was surprised but delighted to welcome us. He said most visitors usually go to bigger, brighter impersonal bars where they pay double what we paid for our drinks, and make no effort to talk to the local people. I'm lucky to be a Spanish-speaker and Jeff and I very much enjoyed our brief interlude there.

I think you get so much more out a place if you have your beer/coffee/whatever in a place where you see only local people, and can engage them in conversation and show an interest in their home town. It's not essential to speak the language, just to make an effort to be friendly.

Old San Juan is lovely and even if you don't do anything other than stroll through its narrow streets, is well worth a visit.

Read 2844 San Juan Reviews

Don't walk into the town - the road-building works seem to be permanent and the dust in the air is enough to choke. Take the water taxi, they're frequent and only $6 for a full day.

Philipsburg just doesn't do it for me. Yet more Duty-free Shopping and not much else, on the Dutch side, though since I was last there they certainly have updated the shopping area to make it more attractive.

There's an internet cafe in a little side street opposite Little Switzerland, which was much cheaper than paying the onboard prices.

I left my beach things on board and went over to Marigot on the French side of the island. A taxi driver said the fare would be $18. I didn't want to pay that much so he very kindly pointed to where I could get a local bus for just $2. What a nice man!

It was a 30-minute lovely drive along the coast, and I can recommend it as a good alternative to paying a lot more for a taxi or a ship's tour to Marigot. Marigot is very different to Philipsburg. I walked up 120 steps to the ruined Fort St. Louis. There's hardly anything to see up there, but it does give a wonderful view over the bay of Marigot.

When you get back down into Marigot there are good, clean public restrooms on one side of the main square.

I don't go on holiday to shop and steered well clear of the many cheap shops which line the promenade at St. Thomas. Each to their own. I'd visited the interesting areas behind and overlooking the shops on earlier visits to the island and thoroughly enjoyed the diamond/liquor-free streets.

This time I took a local taxi to Coki Beach which I'd read about and it didn't disappoint. It's a small, clean beach next to Coral World, about 20 minutes by taxi ($12 each way) from Havensight dock. There are restrooms and a freshwater shower by the entrance to the beach, a few beach bars, sun loungers and snorkelling equipment are available to rent. There are servers walking up and down the beach so no need to get up off the lovely soft white sand to get a drink or something to eat - they'll bring it to you. One lady also sells 'food for fishes' which are actually dog biscuits at 4 for $1. Seems they do attract the fish to the surface, but I imagine that a few broken cookies from the ship would have been just as good. I snorkelled at the left end of the beach as you look out to sea, and there were lots of gorgeous fish - from schools of little ones to a big purple one about 2ft long - to be seen without the need for food. Keep well away from the spiny sea urchins. I'll definitely go back to Coki beach again.

When I was ready to leave I was only waiting for a couple of minutes before a taxi came along heading back to the port. The taxis are shared and are like mini-buses and have fixed fares which are shown in the vehicle.

There are a few places with internet in Havensight but there were problems all over the island the day we were there and the system was down at all the locations.

Read 3960 St. Thomas Reviews

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