I have cruise on 10 RCCL ships and Easter 1984, cabin 499, The SS Rotterdam V, (an absolute classic wonderful ship). I think December is a great month to cruise. I love the Christmas decorations and Explorer doesn't disappoint. I really enjoyed my Diamond status as getting on was 123. This is the first cruise where we didn't have to wear our life jackets at pumpkin patch. It was also the coldest I ever was in a Pumpkin Patch aka muster drill. The ship left out of Bayonne NJ, Port Liberty.
I have to say this was my first time traveling with out my good friends Bob and his wife Pat. I still managed to meet many great people. Several repeat cruisers. The Explorer is a Big Lady in the Voyager Class. I have been on her sisters Adventure and Navigator. My favorite is Navigator.
At any rate the food is above board at RCCL. However there are issues like the stale Hamburger Rolls that seem to be a fixture on every RCCL ship I have been on. Have you noticed? I always point this out to be helpful to RCCL. The ship is laid out well for easy access. I try to get a cabin close to a stairwell if at all possible. This helps me navigate easier and faster around the ship. Deck 8 is a great deck to get around the ship from. My favorite place on a cruise ship is the Crown Lounge. A superb view and usually well air-conditioned and they give terrific bar service there. Note be sure to check bar service hours. People did complain that they closed up shop pretty early. Not so on other ships. We did have a seemingly older crowd this trip. I enjoyed hearing many different life experiences one of my favorite things about cruising. The lines were pretty fast despite the crowd on Explorer.
Now about the winter cruise. I find you sort of lose the first full and last full sea days that time of year from NJ. This is if your a pool person. By day 2 it warms pretty well. I can tell you that Explorer was well kept in the public areas a bit worn in the windjammer ceiling though. As I said it was darn cold and because of this paint pretty much all over chipped or peeled off. This was especially noticed in the cabin. By day 3 they had it under control. This did not ruin anyone's cruise and it is out of their control I suppose.
In my stateroom I had a good mattress. I'm pretty sure it was the best that I ever had on board. I slept. Not so much on the last night as we were moving around a bit due to an ordinary Nor'Easter. Sadly in my cabin I had some issues which I reported to RCCL and to date I have not been satisfied,credited. In all fairness to them you would have to see my photos. However that said my furnishings were not to good. This was unusual and a bit sad as I have been loyal and expected much more. Now just because this happened to me does not mean that all cabins were bad. I 'm sure there will always be horror stories on any ship or hotel room or relatives house. My issue is the hopefully low level person who has a complete foolish lack of concern for me. I could not review Explorer without being truthful about the issue.
Overall the ship is a RCCl ship and it is well worth sailing on her. I will advise you to triple the luggage id on your bags and somehow make it identifiable. After my one bag was a no show I spent my first day looking for it and I finally found it on deck 2 by late pm or early am amongst many dozens of bags even though my name was written in marker all over the red canvas bag. I suggest yarn as well yellow, red or blue. Oh importantly they have a Johnny Rockets on board! This is A-1 in burgers and to be honest the sea view cafes on other RCCL's do not come even close in quality of food as Rockets does.
Just a word on viruses on board. I have never fallen ill. Though this happens obviously but that said,the bad behavior of the passengers from all I have seen is to blame for the severity. The crew gets sick and they are kept out of circulation. However people walk on sick and go everywhere with complete disregard. On Freedom I recall a man who was quarantined to his cabin. Well this lesser person went to dinner every night and all at his table fell ill I was told. This is a story I have heard many times in similar fashion. I wish you all the best cruises, sunny days, great interesting ports and smooth seas with moonlit starry nights.