Explorer of the Seas Holiday Cruise 12/20/09-1/3/10 Background: We are a family of 3 DH- 53yo, DW-49yo and DS-11yo. We have sailed a few times before; this is our 3rd holiday cruise, last year on ExOS for 12 nights and in 07, BOS for 12 nights too. Since ExOS leaves from our homeport we love not having to fly to sail. We have not sailed on any other cruise line as RCI seems to fit us in relation to cost and product.
Embarkation: Since we live 10 miles away from port liberty we had planned to have a car service pick us up at 11:00am. However, the night before the Northeast had a blizzard…when I called our car service at 9:30am reconfirm our pick-up, I was told no cars were running due to the storm. Needless to say I went ballistic and told them when they were going to call me to let me know and hung up. No more Island Car Service Company for us. I asked our neighbor across the street if he would take us, and he said yes, “what are neighbors for”. We are forever grateful. I helped him dig his truck out and we were on our way, about 12:00 noon. No problem except once you enter the terminal…a one lane only approach to the "tent" for check in. This approach took over 45 minutes. RCI has to correct this, it has been going on way to long and leaves a bad taste for the start of a crusie. It was just as bad last year; I was hoping RCI did something about it...but not yet. In fact drivers were ruder this year than last year. Once inside, we went through check in. The Diamond/Diamond +/Suite area was a zoo, about a 45 minute line to get our sea pass. With passes in hand…the new gold ones for Suite passengers (which didn’t get us any special service or recognition), we boarded a bus for the 5 minute ride to the ship. RCI can use better crowd control and not jam pack the buses, but only allow enough on so everyone can have a seat. We got on the ship about 3pm and went right to our room to drop off the carry-on. Muster drill went smooth and you no longer need to bring your life jacket with you. We were very glad we made the ship. This is the first time there was no one from Adventure ocean to check in the kids when the first come on board and give them the wrist band. Not sure if this is a policy change. DS did get the band when we checked him in the first time. Our M&M group planned a drink during sail-a-way...but since sail-a-way was delayed it occurred at 6pm’ish and we were having diner so we missed it.
Stateroom: We had GS1324 on the hump. This was the same cabin we had last year. Nice view and location. A bit wider balcony on one end since it is on the hump. Two tables, two sitting chairs, one recliner and one sitting chair with a foot rest. On rocky sea days some noise can be heard from deck 11 above. I think is comes from the public women’s bath room right above, maybe the stall doors swinging open/closed? But on calm sea days, no noise at all. Ear plugs on those few nights worked fine. The room did show some signs of wear, like wall paper pealing, stains on the couch/bed and chairs, carpet worn in some spots, no flat screen TV and some issue with the dimmer switch not working, some pealing paint on the balcony too and the railing needs to be varnished, but the ship is going into dry dock right after this cruise so these issues should be fixed…. In addition, the hot water and coffee pot were dirty and the coffee insert makes 24 ounces of coffee not just one cup…they didn’t have any of the one cup insert coffees…good thing I can go to the concierge lounge anytime….that said, we are hooked on the GS...but still love JS aft's too. Plenty of cabin space. Lots of closet/drawers and full length mirrors. Our room attendant Ito, always remembered us by name and had towel animals every night waiting for us, along with chocolates on our pillow. He and his team did a fantastic job in keeping the room clean, always had extra towels and ice in our bucket. The perks of a GS were fun….lots of chocolate covered strawberries, cookies, fruits, and a large bottle of water. Despite the need for some cabin work, we were fine and did not let it bother us.
Ship information: The size of the ship is fine, never seemed crowded, except on the first day in the Wind jammer and new years eve in the promenade. There was a big Christmas tree in the promenade and poinsettias' and wreaths in most areas. Automatic hand-sanitizer dispensers were available at the entrance to all the dining venues and at the gangway and staff was present to ensure it was used. Additional signs of wear were on the elevator buttons that really needed to pressed hard to work or were missing, some carpet spots…but overall in good shape. Staff were seen always cleaning something. Most activities were on the promenade; however it is not large enough to handle the crowds, so we avoided it during ship wide events. In fact, while the promenade is a nice wide area it is not much more than deck of stores….kind of lost any special value for us after the 3rd day. Nice cookies, sandwiches and snacks from the café 24 hours a day but not large enough to handle the amount of people on the ship. One issue was all the sandwiches have mayonnaise on them? The servers seemed annoyed when asked for one without. The greeter in the windjammer, when coming back on the ship from an island, dining room and portofino always said hello and good bye. But Staff seen in the hallways, even officers, didn’t seem that friendly. I did a small study…walked past them to see their response...nothing, but when I said good day to them first then they responded back. It did seem that passengers were just not as friendly as on other cruises….I'm not sure why. We always say hi, good morning, etc..rarely got a response back….could it be me, not. Some said to me that it might be passenger demographics? I wouldn't say so…just bad manners/rudeness. Just the way it was. I did experience some bad teen/children issues, hanging out/leaving trash on the steps, running in the hall ways almost knocking over some elderly passengers, ringing door bells, pressing all elevator buttons, leaving trash on the floor. I did speak with some of them and tried to correct and explain how their behavior is inappropriate….got various responses, from picking up the trash and saying sorry, to ignoring me. RCI needs better/more security on this issue. A better kids program for those 12-17 year olds would go a long way in stopping the hanging out and disruptive behavior. Parents can also do a better job of providing supervision. We did re-book this cruise on board. Alex was the LA, not Runi as she was on vacation. Alex did not do as nice a job as Runi in terms for friendliness and helpfulness.
Food: We ate in the MDR the first night, main seating, food was not bad. It was very empty and only two others showed up at our table. We did eat at Portofino 10 times…each time perfect. Excellent service was given by Simeone and Kerem, our servers each time. Food in the windjammer (WJ) was always luke warm, I like my food hot and I had to ask them to microwave my plate….RCI turn up those warmers. I got tired of this, but servers were always willing to help and always there for getting drinks and coffee…. Most days we had breakfast in the WJ. Since we tried to sit in the same location, the server, Fernando, got to know us by name. He always made a hot chocolate for my DS and always had a smile. We ate at Johnny Rockets once, good hamburgers and root beer soda (only place on the ship to get it)…and the food was always hot. Wish RCI would bring back the free meal in JR instead of the milk shake coupon. However, don't miss a visit to it...it's a fun lunch. Great music from the juke boxes too. Many times I ate breakfast in the concierge lounge….a nice spread and good coffee….I made good use of that coffee machine. On excursion days we had breakfast in the special diamond/plus area of the MDR….the best service, not rushed meal. The servers are all over and cannot do more for you. Great french toast too.
Activities: We are not late night hang-outers, usually back to room after the show or some event by 11pm’ish. There is always something to do on this ship. Some British specific events too, I guess due to the large numbers of Brits on board, like a Quiz on British Soap Opera shows and a British trivia events game. The classic rock trivia game was a big hit for me. Wish they had it more than one time on the cruise and only held one round of it…do better next year RCI. The 50’s -60’s dance was a big hit as was the Motown music nights for us. The mini golf course has been re-done so it's perfect….the ping-pong tables need replacing. The rock wall continues to challenge me, but not my DS. Adventure Ocean continues to be a success for my DS. The AO staff was always friendly. However, we did look at the kids compass for the next age group, 12-14. That did not seem to offer much in the way of planned activities or supervision. This is troubling as we do not let our DS check himself in and out of the program. Even at 12 years old, I not sure I would want him walking around the ship by himself any time he wants..yet that’s the way RCI plans the program for this age group. We were told New Years Eve in the promenade was way over crowed…better crowd control is needed...seems RCI has trouble doing this. RCI had the M&M in the chamber; they provided some soft drinks and nibbles, some give-a-ways and was attended by cruise staff, but not the cruise director or any senior staff …I felt the chamber was too dark, Dizzy's would have been better. It was well attended, not by the 100+ that signed up, but by about 50 or so. A nice showing. We arranged a gift exchange that was a nice touch too. We had a very active thread, and everyone was very friendly and chatty. DW and I are kind of shy/need to be asked types… especially DW..????-meaning we did not hang out/attend activities with anyone from the M&M on the ship in many other venues. We’re working on it though-maybe next year. Others stated they did make close connections. But I did make some nice acquaintances; maybe make them more solid if we see them next year, since many of us have “re-uped” for the same cruise next year. Our M&M group also had lunch twice and a farewell drink on the last day. We do have a special group from this sailing and are looking forward to sailing with them again. Everyone from our M&M group is very nice. We are going to continue chatting on the old thread as well as the new one for next year. We did have nice conversations with guests in the Concierge Lounge-the Pit as we have called it, is always fun. Service: Excellent service from everyone…… Carlos the Concierge, Cherry-the concierge-in-training and Cary the bar tender in the lounge were always helpful, with a smile, hello, and hug. Always offers to get you a drink, coffee or something…keep up the good work….hope to see you next year.
Entertainment: SCOTT CAVANAUGH JUGGLER-missed it, heard it was fun TONY DARO COMEDIAN-very funny JOHN BRESSLER PIANO SHOWMAN-missed it RONDELL SHERIDAN COMEDIAN-very funny JOEY VAN SINGER/IMPRESSIONIST-missed it LEVENT COMEDY MAGIC-very good JIMMY CARROLL COMEDY MAGIC-missed it UNEXPECTED BOYS JERSEY BOYS TRIBUTE ACT-good IOULIA AYUPOVA ICE ACT - AERIAL HOOP-always good ice shows STEVE GREEN COCKTAIL PIANIST-good ROBERT BRUCE PUB ENTERTAINER-missed it MIRAGE TRIO LATIN TRIO-missed it PRODUCTION SHOWS: VIBE*OLOGY-good WILD COOL & SWINGIN-not so good INVITATION TO DANCE-missed it FAST FORWARD-very good
Viewing shows are easy from most vantage points, except some, where columns are present. Ports: All our excursions were booked through RCI and we enjoyed them all. 20-Dec Cape Liberty Cruise Port, New Jersey 4:00 PM 21-Dec Cruising 22-Dec Cruising 23-Dec San Juan, Puerto Rico 4:00 PM 11:30 PM Docked 24-Dec Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas 8:00 AM 5:00 PM Docked 25-Dec Cruising 26-Dec Bridgetown, Barbados 8:00 AM 5:00 PM Docked 27-Dec Roseau, Dominica 8:00 AM 5:00 PM Docked 28-Dec St. John's, Antigua 9:00 AM 5:00 PM Docked 29-Dec Philipsburg, St. Maarten 8:00 AM 6:00 PM Docked 30-Dec Basseterre, St. Kitts 8:00 AM 6:00 PM Docked 31-Dec Cruising 01-Jan Cruising 02-Jan Cruising 03-Jan Cape Liberty Cruise Port, New Jersey 8:00 AM
Puerto Rico -great weather, we stayed on the ship, played mini golf, ping-pong. Kind of a wasted port for us…got in too late and sun set at 6pm. We have been here before, but would have gone to the rain forest if we had more time in port. St. Thomas – walked around and had lunch at a local restaurant. Barbados – did the atlantis submarine tour with DS/DW-not bad, saw some nice fish and a very interesting experience-I would recommend it, thought would not do it twice. Walked around, had a nice lunch and a few icy drinks. Dominica –A very lush island, but not much around the pier. We did the whale/dolphin excursion. On this tour were many from our M&M too, so we had a nice group. A short catamaran ride out to sea and the whales were there. A mother and her calf came up the boat to say hi. Saw their heads, tails and body. DS loved it. I would recommend this. DW got sea sick as the boat is very rocky, so be prepared. Antigua – in the morning spent time on the ship with DS in the pool and playing ping pong. Great to be on the ship while most others are in port-presents a very different cruise experience. In the pm, walked around town and had some drinks. St. Maarten – Had a snorkeling excursion planned, but the swells were so bad all sea activities were cancelled. In fact a Celebrity ship was unable to dock and we broke two lines trying to dock as well. I just walked around the town, sat and had a cold drink. St. Kitts-did a 4x4 tour in the rain forest. Learned about the sugar cane industry, saw some old plantations, monkeys and went from the Caribbean side to the Atlantic side. Very interesting and I would highly recommend it. Disembarkation: The saddest part of the trip. We had yellow #11, which had us called 8-8:15. We had some breakfast in the WJ and went down to deck 1…..not a long line …..on the bus and back to the tent…..in the tent it was a bit hectic, but not too bad given the nature of the event. We got our bags and through customs in 2 minutes..no line there. Our car service was waiting and we were in our house by 10:00am.
Summary: the weather for the entire trip was excellent. The first and last sea days are a bit rocky, so be prepared. Overall a nice ship and in need of repair, dry dock should help. …….would do it again anytime….and plan to next year ?