I have traveled from the NY ports to the Caribbean for the past three winters, and I have never experienced the raging weather that we had on this cruise southbound, as well as northbound. The winds were extreme and so were the waves. The ship, and the crew, to their credit, navigated us through the storms and we arrived safely at both ends.
This was our second cruise on Royal, and I have to say it is so evident that the company is cutting many corners. We stayed in a suite, but parts of my family were booked in balcony cabins. We were given small bottles of shampoo,etc in our bathroom, they were not. We got chocolates at night (when they didn't run out), the balcony cabins did not. I never received the usual port information sheets in my cabin, and what happened to the daily newspaper (New YORK TIMES SUMMARY)? The Internet service was the worst at sea I have ever experienced, and Royal did not have anyone on board staffing the Internet Cafe. They charged for a service that never worked, and didn't seem to care one way or another.
I think Royal Caribbean has a towel fetish. If you wanted a towel at the pool you had to check one out with your room card & return it or risk being charged $20 for a lousy towel. The pool was closed on the last day at sea, since the weather was so bad. No one at guest relations knew how to credit passengers for towels they had neglected to return the day before.
The food was ordinary, and at times served cold when it should have been piping hot. The service at the Windjammer was horrible, to say the least. The food was always cold and soggy. There were never enough tables and as a result, the manager was constantly making announcements asking passengers to vacate their tables when they finished eating. I felt like I was in a high school cafeteria, not on a luxury vacation. The Explorer needs to open more buffet lines in the main dining room for lunch & dinner, or perhaps serve a buffet on the pool deck in nice weather.
If you want a fun meal, go to Johnny Rockets. The wait staff in there are the best on the ship! Half way through the meal they will entertain you with song & dance. They are great with the kids. It is the only venue where you can eat outside on the deck, a real plus.
The Portofino restaurant was a great experience, and well worth the extra fees. My family enjoyed the production shows & the Ice Skating show. The magician show was a poor choice for a last night on the cruise. Royal should re-think that act.
Our cabin attendant, Rikka, was excellent. she was very professional and tried very hard to please us. We loved our suite accommodations, and would recommend booking a suite on this ship. The amenities come in handy. My one complaint, the TVs are old and the TV service is outdated. Celebrity offers free movies on their TV service. Royal offers nothing on their TV service (when it works).
We had a nice time on this vacation. We loved the beach excursion from Samana ---we went to CAyo Levantodo. It was one of the nicest beaches I have ever been to. It was nicer than Labadee, which again was very crowded and disorganized due to lack of help. The food lines were too long, and there were not enough places to sit.The lines to re-board the ship were of people hundreds long. We didn't board until one hour after the all aboard time because everyone waited until the very last second to get back on the ship.
Megan's bay Beach in St Thomas was nice, but the excursion offered was too short (3 hours). The ship docked in San Juan at 4:30pm. This was a disappointment because it left little time to explore the beaches in this Island.
My last comment centers around the cigarette smoke, which pours out of the casino into adjacent & surrounding areas. I never entered the casino because the smoke is offensive to me. My suggestion to Royal, is that they close off the casino with doors and windows to keep the smoke out of the other public areas. Let the smoke stay where it originates and not bother the non-smokers.