Explorer of the Seas - July 8-17, 2010
This was the 10th cruise for my wife and I and the 4th for my two sons (21 & 19). We sailed on EOS three years ago so this was a return to a familiar setting. We had a very limited window to sail this year so when our travel agent told us the only opening was an inside cabin for the four of us we were very skeptical, but the price of $2,600 was too good to pass up. Believe me, we were very concerned about sharing one inside cabin with our two grown sons, but we were determined to not let that be a factor in our enjoyment of this ship and cruise.
EMBARKATION - we arrived at the Port Liberty terminal at 12:45 after our two hour drive up from the Philadelphia area. I saw on these boards that there would be traffic to deal with getting off the NJ turnpike so I came in through Staten Island over the Bayonne Bridge and there was no traffic to deal with. We hit the traffic line-up far inside the terminal and it was very minimal, maybe a ten minute wait to get to the drop-off area. We had a baggage handler come out and help with our luggage and five minutes later we were on line waiting to go through security. The entire process from drop-off until we stepped aboard the ship was thirty minutes at most.
CABIN - we had cabin 9683 which is the last inside cabin port side aft. The cabin had two single beds and two Pullman beds that came down from the ceiling. When we first stepped into the room we thought how the heck are the four of us going to fit in here for nine days! Each of us had a full suitcase of clothes, plus toiletries as well as three cases of water and snacks. I don't know how she did it but my wife got all that stuff to fit in the closets and bathroom with room to spare. It's amazing to me how much stuff you can fit into what appear to be small closets and bathroom, but we fit and never really felt cramped. We don't typically spend a lot of time in the cabin so the living arrangements weren't all that bad. The only time we had a little trouble was getting showers after the excursions or before dinner, but again with a little scheduling we got it taken care of fairly easily.
One thing that I was really concerned about with the inside cabin was my ability to wake up in the morning in a very dark room. I knew that we could use a night light or leave the bathroom door open a crack to afford some light but I didn't think that would be enough. I found an alarm clock online that uses light and sound to wake you up and thought that would be a great idea. Basically the light comes on thirty minutes before your wake-up time and gradually gets brighter and brighter until the alarm goes off at the time you set it for. We used the chirping birds, but there are many options. This device worked out perfectly for our needs. My wife and I were able to wake up to a simulated daylight and since the boys didn't roll in until 4 am most nights they were out cold and not bothered by the alarm. If you are interested here is the link http://www.usa.philips.com/c/light-therapy/hf3480_60/prd/
FOOD - I must say that I am not a person who really cares too much about the quality of food. As long as I'm not cooking I'm fine with anything. I honestly thought the food was very good in the dining room. The food in the Windjammer is typical buffet food but certainly you can find something that fits your needs. We ate dinner in the Windjammer twice with plenty of choice and no issues. We ate at Portofino once and the food and service was excellent. You should invest the $20 per person and try to eat there at least once during your cruise. All the other nights we ate in the main dining room and the food was very good with enough choices to make us happy. We had lunch in the MDR twice because they have a salad bar and it was really good. You go around a table and choose the items you want in your salad and at the end one of the salad chefs combines all the ingredients into a salad for you. They also serve from the menu if you prefer that. One thing I will warn you about is breakfast at the Windjammer. If you want a good hot breakfast go to one of the two egg making stations in the Island Grill which is in the very back of the ship. You can get either an omelet or fried eggs at one of the stations, otherwise you have to take the scrambled eggs from the buffet line and they aren't very good. The pancakes and French toast seemed to be cold each time I tried them.
PORTS - Our first stop was in Bermuda. We decided not to do any of the ship excursions but instead to go out on our own. Getting around Bermuda is pretty easy so we took our time getting off the ship on the first day and took the bus to Hamilton. The ride gave us a chance to see Bermuda in a slightly different way than normal. We rode with the locals and spoke with a few along the way. Each one gave us a little insight to their favorite beaches and hot spots that aren't visited by too many tourists. We walked around Hamilton for a few hours and then jumped on the ferry back to the dockyard. The ferry ride was about twenty minutes and had some great views of the ship on the way in. We joined up with our sons who had just come back from Snorkel Park and had lunch at the Frog and Onion pub. Food was great but the cost was outrageous, but the opportunity to eat at a local establishment while in Bermuda made up for the high cost.
This was the first time we had the opportunity to stay overnight in Bermuda. We had dinner in the Windjammer and then went back out and sat at the end of the dock and watched the different ships come in and out of the harbor. It's a pretty cool spot to sit if you just want to get away and enjoy the views. We walked back into town for a little and came back to the ship around 10 pm. The view of the ship at night is really special; it's not too often that you get to see your ship at night tied up alongside the pier, so it was a nice experience. The second day we were back on the bus and headed to Long Bay beach and some of the surrounding cove beaches. The bus driver let us off right at the entrance to the beach and told us where to stand to catch the bus for the return trip to the dockyard. The return to the dockyard was a real experience for us. We walked to the bus stop and because it was a Sunday we had to wait about 30 minutes for the bus to come. The temperature was easily in the 90's and man it was hot sitting there waiting, but when that bus finally came and we got into the air conditioned interior I was in heaven. I have to give big credit to the locals who take those busses every day. Basically at most stops you stand next to a blue pole that is right on the roadway. I swear there isn't more than two feet between the road and the wall that typically is behind the pole. I know if my dumb self were a resident of Bermuda I'd get run over by a bus a few times each year, but the locals just jam their backs against the walls and wait for the bus to arrive or depart. The roads in Bermuda are pretty small to start with; now add big busses and people standing along the side of the road and you have a very interesting trip.
Our second stop was on Tuesday in Nassau. We stood on the top deck and watched Captain Carlos bring the ship into the small harbor and then swing that big ship around and back-in to the pier. The whole process took about thirty minutes and was fun to watch. I've seen ships spin around many times in the past but Nassau is a pretty small harbor. While in Nassau we took the Segway and Beach tour excursion through the ship. What a great time we had. The whole trip lasted almost four hours. They drive you across the island to a privately owned 200 acre plot of land that runs along the ocean on one side and has lakes and canals on the other. You get on the segway and after a few minutes of training off you go through the man-made trails. The trails run through areas that at times are covered with trees and shrubs and at others run along the lakes and canals. The scenery is beautiful and the tour guides basically let you run the segway as fast as you are comfortable with going. I think they said the top speed was 10 mph, but that seems pretty fast when you are standing on one. The tour stops at a beach for 30 minutes so you can relax in the water or walk along the beach. The return ride is just as exciting and by that time you will have become an expert at riding your segway, so be bold and let it out. The tour operator is really cool and they want you to enjoy the experience. This was one of the best excursions I've had in my years of cruising. Here is the website for the tour http://www.bahamassegwaytours.com/
We spent a little time walking around Nassau and shopping but after the segway tour we were pretty beat and just wanted to shower and relax for a bit. The ship stayed in port until 8 pm so we had some time after dinner to go back out and walk around some more.
The last stop was at the private island of Coco Cay. In the morning we did the parasailing trip and in the afternoon we did the wave runners and in between we sat in the ocean and enjoyed to warm tropical water. There are so many places to sit on the island that there is no reason to feel crowded. Most passengers seem to just plop down in the areas right off the ferry pier, but if you walk just ten minutes further you can find great secluded spots with hammocks and beach chairs and plenty of open beaches to enjoy. We found a spot with three hammocks and a few chairs and just lounged and relaxed as much as possible. I could stay at Coco Cay for a week and not get bored; it is a great place to visit if you get the chance to have a RCCL ship stop there.
ENTERTAINMENT - I have to say that I wasn't really overjoyed with the entertainment. Seems to me that all the production shows are geared to the over 60 crowd. The comedians were okay but not belly laugh funny. The cruise director Jimmy Rhoads was a lot of fun and very personable when you would meet him around the ship. On the first night Jimmy said that if we meet him anywhere on the ship don't be afraid to shake his hand or give him a hug, so every time I saw him I grabbed him and hugged him as a joke. I think by the last night he had had about enough of me!
I would like to see the entertainment be a bit more varied. Maybe add a band one night that plays top 40 or even better some rock music. Add a show that is a bit more current.
The Quest game was a load of fun and you should try to participate in the fun if you get the chance.
I think the best was the ice show. Make sure you get your tickets for the shows beforehand or you may not get a seat. On our cruise the tickets were given out on the first night in front of Studio B.
SHIP - I read many things about the ship on these boards and some were pretty harsh on the old girl, but I have to say I didn't find anything offensive about the ship at all. She is older and in need of some paint here and there and maybe a rug or two are a bit threadbare, but all in all the ship is in fine shape.
DEPARTURE - In the past you would have to vacate your cabin by 8 am and then sit around in a public area waiting to get off the ship. This cruise they changed the procedure. Now you get a specific time to meet in a public area and until that time you can stay in your cabin. We had a 10 am time to meet in Studio B so we had a leisurely breakfast in the Windjammer, then went for a walk on the promenade deck and finally back to the cabin to watch some TV and wait for 10 am. We got to Studio B around 10:05 and were called off the ship at 10:30. We were on the road by 11:15. Much better than sitting around for a few hours waiting to get off the ship.
Overall the trip was everything we expected and more. Our sons had a great time and because it was a July cruise there were plenty of the 18-25 crowd for them to hang with. It amazes me how a ship that holds over 3000 people can seem so empty most of the time. The only place that I ever felt a crowd was by the pool on sea days. For those of you who like to sit in the sun you better get an early start because most people grab their chairs early and hold them the rest of the day. The few times we tried to get seats around the pool in the sun we couldn't find anything. We just went up higher and were able to find chairs with no trouble. If you go to the front of the ship up on decks 12 or 13 you will find plenty of open chairs in the sun. If you just want to sit in the shade and read a book I suggest you go to deck 4 and not even try to find chairs in the shaded areas around the pool. One change that I saw this cruise was that you had to get beach towels on deck 11 and sign for them with your sea pass card. If you didn't return the towels by the end of the cruise you would be charged $20 for each towel. Now this may sound like a pain to deal with but if you were just interested in swapping two wet towels for two new clean dry towels you just handed them in and got new towels without using the sea pass card. The only time you needed the sea pass card was if you didn't have towels to trade or if you were bringing back your towels and didn't want new towels.
I think spending nine days in an inside cabin with our sons was a great bonding experience and worth the minor inconvenience. Typically we are balcony guests and rarely see the boys unless we are eating. I think in the future if we need to go the inside cabin route again I won't be so concerned. I have to say the cost savings was substantial over our last trip aboard the Explorer.
I know larger and fancier ships have come over the past years to surpass EOS in the market, but don't let that hold you back from sailing on this great ship. For people in the Northeast, sailing out of Bayonne is a really convenient port and saves the cost of flying to Florida to pick up a ship.
I hope this review helps you prepare for your cruise aboard the EOS. Enjoy her she is a really great ship!