Explorer of the Seas Cruise Review by CSloan: ESO May 13 - Great PreCruise in NYC and Cruise!
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ESO May 13 - Great PreCruise in NYC and Cruise!
Monday May 10, 2010 We had never been to New York before, so we wanted to spend a couple of days there, prior to the cruise. We flew from Sacramento to LaGuardia, via Southwest Airlines (had Rapid Rewards to use!)
We did a lot of research before-hand, especially on the CC East Coast Departures Board. As a result, we decided on Black Executive Cars for some of our transportation, including airport to hotel. That was a very good move. We ended up with the same driver, and, since we booked about 5 trips with them, they gave us a 10% discount. I'm glad we arrived at LGA - the trip from the airport allowed us to get a good look at the area when we arrived.
We ended up staying at the Sheraton Meadowlands in New Jersey. One reason was that it would be a short trip to Cape Liberty on May 13. We got the room on Hotwire for $69/night. The hotel is nice for a base, but not what I would consider a "destination hotel". Very friendly staff, and easy access to/from Times Square. More They have a free shuttle to the Secasus Junction train station. It's a short , inexpensive ride on the train to/from Penn Station.
Tuesday, May 11, 2010 Since we weren't sure about the train (not much public transportation where we live) we took the Black Car Service from the Sheraton to NYC. Our original plan was to use the double-decker on/off bus to see the City. Then we discovered Real New York Tours - the best decision we made! Our tour started around 10am, we got there around 8am, so we had some breakfast and wandered over to Rockerfeller Plaza. We caught part of the Today Show outside and explored a bit.
We met up with Sam, our Tour Guide from Real NY Tours at Paramount Plaza. We opted for the "A Dozen Apples Tour", which is 12 people (they also have private tours). This is a 6-hour walking tour of the different "neighborhoods". Not so much the tourist stuff, but more of a look at the City. We were instructed to buy a Metro Card - unlimited Fun Day pass - for the subway prior to the tour. Having never been on a subway, I felt like a native buying the pass after watching the "how-to" video on the Real NY Tours website!
The tour was fantastic! It included walking the various neighborhoods, including: Central Park (and a look at where the rich folk live), Greenwich Village, Washington Square Park, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, ChinaTown, Ground Zero (St Paul's Chapel), and Wall Street. We took the subway a few times. We stopped for lunch at Chelsea Market. I told Sam I wanted authentic NY Pizza, so, after Chelsea Market, we stopped briefly at a pizza place so I could grab a slice on the go. We stopped at a 100-year old Italian bar (used in the Sopranos!) and had the option of stopping for a beer - which we did. After that, our walk took us to (not necessarily in this order): Washington Park, Brooklyn Bridge, City Hall Park, Federal Reserve Bank, NY Mercantile Exchange, NY Stock Exchange, Wall Street, Trinity Church, World Trade Center site, Newspaper Row, and a view of the Woolworth Building. It's difficult to put this tour into words, but it really is an incredible way to see the area in a short time. I posted a review on TripAdvisor.
After the tour, the weather turned cold and breezy. We went to Times Square for a while, then headed back to the hotel, via the train, to meet up with my sister and her dh.
Wednesday, May 12, 2010 We took the Black Car Service to Liberty State Park, to catch the ferry to Ellis Island and Statue of Liberty. We had 830am reservations, but they really didn't start unitl an hour after that. We went to Ellis Island first, then to the Statue of Liberty - all the way to the crown! We also visited the Intrepid. Weather was very cold and wet.
Thursday, May 13, 2010 We took Black Car Service to Cape Liberty around 11am. I thought RCL did an excellent job with embarkation. Extremely organized, even had cookies and coffee in the waiting area. It wasn't too long before our number was called and we were on the bus for the very short ride to the ship.
Once onboard, we explored a bit, and at 1:30 the cabins were available.
On the Ship We were on Deck 10, toward the aft. Since we don't use the elevators, we got a LOT of exercise during this cruise. At least we didn't gain any weight - LOL! We had been on EOS in 2002, when she was in her youth. She is showing signs of age, but no more than I expected. I thought the ship actually looked pretty good. Of course, if you look for every little thing that's not perfect, you'll find it. But, I wasn't looking.
We did the My Time dining, but ended up with reservations each night. Not sure I would do reservations again, but I would do My Time and eat in the MDR. We only went to Windjammer once, and Johnny Rockets once. The service in the MDR was great, and we really enjoyed our wait staff. The food was good - typical cruise food. I'm a vegetarian, and there was always plenty to choose from. One night I did stop by the Windjammer and picked up a couple bowls of ice cream for us to eat on our balcony before going to bed - that was a nice treat. And, of course, room service coffee on the balcony is the best way to start the day. It rarely took more than 10 minutes to get the coffee.
Our cabin was nice. The room Steward was great. We did have a problem with no hot water in the shower one afternoon. The same day, they replaced the valve and it was fixed. I heard there were a lot of problems with plumbing on this cruise. One night we heard very loud construction noises when we came back to our cabin. I was going to call to find out what it was, but it stopped before I could call. I will say that they did an awful lot of maintenance during the cruise, which should really be done when there are no paying passengers.
There were certainly enough activities for everyone. I enjoyed everything from the trivia games to the belly flop competition. As well as walking around deck 4, watching basketball, and playing on the newly renovated mini golf course. I could have used a few more days on board to get to everything I wanted to do. On the last day, we discovered a great place relax and look at the ocean - the Seven Hearts game room. There are a couple of comfy chairs in there that overlook the ocean. We wished we had found that earlier in the cruise. The production shows weren't great - they weren't what I would consider shows. They were just singing (and not very well) and dancing. Sort of like Dancing with the Stars overload, without the talent. But, the comedians were VERY funny! The casino had no smoking nights on sea days, which I thought was pretty neat.
While there were a lot of passengers, the ship is designed in a way that it never really did feel crowded. The Promenade was a nice place to drop by for a snack and/or coffee/tea. I usually stopped there on my way to trivia or the show for tea and a sugar-free cookie.
We kept our balcony door open at night. Apparently, our neighbors did too. One of the first nights I woke up and though there was a dog howling somewhere. Then I realized I was on a ship, so that couldn't be the case. A couple of nights later, I realized the noise was our "enthusiastic" neighbors - LOL!
For most of the cruise, the water was like glass... barely a ripple. Saw lots of dolphins!
Saturday, May 15 - Bermuda Day 1 We bought a $12 bus pass, which allows for unlimited rides, on the bus and ferry. We took the ferry to St. Georges. A nice area. We got to the town square in time to see the Ducking (it's really a dunking, but I think they call it Ducking). It's a cute skit where they put the town gossip "on trial" then dunk her in the water as her punishment. Very well done and fun to watch. We explored the area and stopped at the Swizzle Inn. I wanted to try the Rum Swizzle, but really wanted a beer that was made in Bermuda. So, the waitress brought a free sample of the Swizzle. The beer was better! We took the bus back to the ferry. We did a little shopping in town - I had to have a pair of Bermuda shorts from Bermuda!
Sunday, May 16, Bermuda Day 2 A lot of things are closed on Sundays. Our plan was to see Gibbs Lighthouse and the pink beaches. We bought another $12 bus pass, this time we bought it on the ship. When we went to get on the bus, we discovered a FREE bus goes to Horseshoe Bay, stopping near Gibbs Lighthouse. (I was able to get a refund on the ship for the ticket later - even though it clearly states no refund. Excellent customer service from RCL.) Gibbs Lighthouse was pretty neat. We climbed to the top and had a great view. After that, we walked up to Horseshoe Bay. Never did see "pink" beaches. We (ok, I was..)were afraid, with the bus schedule, that we would get back to the ship too late, so, after Horseshoe bay, we headed back to the ship.
Tuesday, May 18 - Nassau A few of us from the Cruise Critic Roll Call made reservations ahead of time with Blue Hole Watersports for snorkeling. This was much better than a 30-passenger excursion. There were only 5 of us on the boat. We cruised by Atlantis to see if from the water, then stopped at 2 great snorkeling spots. I would definitely recommend this Blue Hold Watersports.
We were docked in Nassau with 3 other ships. Before sailaway, my dh and I were sitting on deck 4, across from a Carnival ship. My dh said "hey, I don't think she has a top on!". I looked over at one of the balconies on Carnival, and, sure enough, there was a topless lady on her balcony. While she was, shall we say, well-endowed, she wasn't a bathing beauty. There was a man on the balcony sitting in a bathrobe. She went inside then came out wearing nothing at all. There must have been some onlookers on the upper deck of our ship, because she looked up and did a few moves to show off her attributes. Well - that was entertaining - LOL!!!
Wednesday - Coco Cay We had been to Labadee in the past, but had never been to Coco Cay before. I was pleasantly surprised! I started off with snorkeling in the areas they recommended - including the deep water area. It was actually very good snorkeling. I had purchased a token for a locker, thinking I wanted to lock up my snorkeling gear afterward, so we could walk around. My dh decided he would carry it, so I thought I'd try and get $ back for the token. No problem. We had lunch then walked around a bit. I tried the Coco Loco - very good! And the shopping was a good experience - not at all like Labadee.
Summary of the Cruise The 9 days went by very quickly. I thought, overall, the service on the ship was very good. I heard some grumbling about the Cruise Director, but I thought he was fine. The Captain was very personable, and accessible. He even came to the MDR on the last night and stopped at every table. Disembarkation was very smooth and organized. We took Black Car Service from Cape Liberty to Newark Airport for our flights home. Bermuda was nice, but I don't feel the need to go back there. I would go back to the Bahamas, though. Less
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