For my first ever cruise I took a 10 night cruise from Bayonne, NJ to the Caribbean and back. I chose this cruise on Explorer of the Seas, Royal Caribbean because it was departing from NJ. Here are my general impressions.
The ship is huge (over 3,000 guests and 2,000 staff) and beautiful. From my stateroom and balcony to the center promenade to the multilevel dining rooms, to the solarium, it all presents a lovely image.
Service was prompt, pleasant and efficient. The food was good and plentiful. I had read a negative review on the food, but I found it good. I was pleased to find fresh, well-prepared fish on the menu every night. I chose traditional, assigned seating for dinner and for a solo traveler it provided a nice respite to be able to have some pleasant conversation for a couple hours.
The nightly entertainment was about what I expected...poor to fair, but not excellent. The Ice Show was the exception with a great show.
My biggest disappointment was in the types of activities offered. The full day's list had very little that interested me. Somehow the Men's Belly Flop Contest nor Making Bookmarks nor Line Skating nor Acupuncture for Arthritis (really a sell-job for his services), etc. weren't appealing. The art lectures were geared to buying at the art auction and the shopping seminars were to get you to shop at particular stores! I spent my time walking, reading and playing the slots. The one seminar offered on the Ocean was very boring.I also had some spa treatments which I thought were quite expensive.
Ports: 1) San Juan. We were there for an evening and there were no ship excursions offered. I didn't get off the ship. 2) St. Thomas. On my own I took the tram up to Paradise Point, visited the Butterfly Farm (not worth a visit) and walked around the shops. 3) Antigua. I went on an excursion offered by the ship. We visited a couple mountain-top forts and Nelson's Dockyard. 4) Dominica. I had arranged for a private tour. A long, winding, rough drive brought us up to Fresh Water Lake. Wind, cool temperatures and mist made it quite lovely. Lots of ferns, unique plants and tropical flowers were growing there. We also stopped at the twin Trafalgar Falls, the Botanical Gardens and a few places to appreciate the views.
Embarking: The ship had been in dry dock and was late in getting back to Bayonne. RCI didn't seem to know how to handle the situation and it was quite a disaster. Absolutely terrible! We were scheduled to sail at 5:00 P.M. I spent 2 ½ hours standing on cold concrete and didn't get on board until 5:30....Many people spent a longer time. At 8 o'clock our dining room waiter told us that there were still 1500 people waiting to get on board. I think we finally sailed at 11. Needless to say there were many angry people and some talked about it for days. The Captain made a short comment about being sorry we were late, but in my opinion not enough was said. A nice gesture would have been to offer everyone a drink or some other minor compensation.
Conclusion: There were some things that I loved and some that I didn't. But all in all it was a good time. I think that 10 days was a little too long particularly since the last day and a half we had rough seas. My solution was to take Dramamine, put on my sea bands and sleep. I will cruise again but next time I will try to pick a ship that offers activities to suit my life style.