We have always felt that we were fickle, because we have chosen to jump from ship to ship, cruise line to cruise line when booking our cruises. This was our first experience with Royal Caribbean International.
We arrived in Ft. Lauderdale on Saturday, October 9th. We stayed over night in Ft. Lauderdale and caught the shuttle from Ft. Lauderdale Airport to the Port of Miami to our ship.
When we arrived at the airport, we were greeted by a RCI representative. He was quite funny and entertained us during our wait for the shuttle. It took approximately 30 minutes for the shuttle to arrive. Once the shuttle arrived, our luggage was loaded, and we were off for the cruise that all others will be compared to.
Embarkation: We arrived at the Port of Miami at approximately 11:30 in the morning. After they unloaded our luggage from the bus, we got off, identified it, the porter took it and we were off to the terminal.
Once in the terminal, things moved extremely fast! I couldn't believe how quickly the friendly ladies at the check-in counter got us ready to board the ship for 7 fabulous days aboard the beautiful Explorer of the Seas.
I rate the Embarkation and Transportation staff an A+
Accommodations: We booked an outside quad cabin on deck 3. We found it quite a bit smaller than similar cabins on other cruise ships. It was much too full of furniture for this small space. We asked our cabin steward, Sean, if he would be so kind as to remove some of the excess furniture. He promptly removed a glass coffee table from the room, which gave us some much needed room for the three of us to move around in the cabin.
We really liked the fact that there was a refrigerator in the room, and even though it was small, we found the room workable. Even though it was very close to a lot of public areas, the cabin was extremely quiet.
I give our cabin in the Explorer of the Seas a B+.
Cleanliness of the ship: We found the public areas of the Explorer of the Seas to be very clean. However, the carpet in our cabin was severely stained and in dire need of replacement. Also, we had a serious problem with our upper berth.
We do feel, however, that our cabin steward, Sean, did a wonderful job all week in keeping our cabin clean and tidy.
We give our cabin steward, Sean an A+
Problem Solving: It's very easy to concentrate on just the positives of the trip—because we encountered very few problems aboard the Explorer of the Seas. I feel that I must include this part, because to me, it showed how much the crew of the Explorer of the Seas are willing to fix a problem when it arises.
My daughter slept in the upper berth. The first night, she woke up with a couple of bug bites on her legs. We thought that maybe she had received them while in Ft. Lauderdale, so we didn't mention anything to anybody on the ship. The second morning, she woke up with 4 more bites.
We called housekeeping and told them of the problem. We felt that maybe, the person that slept in the bed prior to our daughter might have unknowingly brought an ant or some other insect in from one of the beaches. We didn't feel as if this was in anyway a problem with the cleanliness of the Explorer of the Seas.
We asked housekeeping to please change out the mattress.
At first, we weren't sure that our Cabin Steward understood that we wanted the entire mattress changed out, as we thought that he only changed the bedding. When we arrived back to the cabin and felt that the mattress still hadn't been changed, we called the housekeeping staff once again.
Our Cabin Steward came back to our room. While we were there, he called his superior and asked for a brand new mattress to be delivered to our room.
That night, we came back to our room. It was very obvious that the mattress was brand new, and my daughter did not receive any new bites for the entire trip.
The housekeeping staff was very good at following up with this problem to make sure that we were satisfied.
I give our Cabin Steward and the entire housekeeping staff an A+ in the problem solving department.
Food and dining room staff: We found the food to be exceptionally good both in the dining room and at the buffets. We couldn't believe how wonderful the service was up in the Island Grill!!!
Our dining room waiter was named Jomass, and his assistant was named Tenzing.
First Jomass. He was an 'excellent' waiter...with a personality that never quit. We enjoyed his wit so much, and his service was out of this world. We'd ask for special requests, and his response was always 'NO problem'.
Next was our assistant, Tenzing. The first night, we ordered diet Coke with our dinner. Every night after that, she had our sodas waiting for us when we arrived. We found her very sweet, personable and very efficient. Tenzing and Jomass worked extremely well as a team.
We give our dining staff an A+
Entertainment: We found the entertainment to be the caliber of what drew my husband and me to cruising long ago. The shows were magnificent, the comedians were actually funny, and the ice show was fantastic! They had a goucho cowboy from Central America on board to entertain us. I laughed until I hurt! Then, we were entertained by the Coasters. They really rocked the boat with their show! It was full of energy, and the Coasters appeared on the stage with so much charisma and talent! My 11 year old daughter was even dancing to the sounds of the 50's.
Then there was James Andrews, our cruise director. We have never met a cruise director that was so much into getting to know and mingling with the passengers. We found him funny, entertaining, gracious and an all around fun guy! He kept the shows going, the bad jokes flowing, and our smiles growing. I think next time we book a cruise with RCI, one of our questions when picking out a ship will be 'What ship is James on', because we would definitely book another cruise where he's the cruise director.
I give James and the entertainment an A+
Public areas: They were gorgeous! We loved the little 24 hour cafe on the Promenade! Unfortunately there was just so much going on, that we missed all of the parades. The lounges were all clean and the crew was very attentive. We did find that the live music was a little loud in the lounges, which made conversation a little difficult.
We found the outside decks never felt over crowded. Even though the ship was at capacity, there was always easy to find a quiet corner to read, or just contemplate the beauty of the ship.
We give the Public Areas an A.
Children's area: Our daughter is a very mature 11 year old. The crew of the Explorer of the Seas were willing to 'bump' her up into the 12-14 year old group with a 'one strike policy' in force. She enjoyed herself so much more than if she would have been forced into the 9-11 year olds! As a parent, I felt comfortable with the type of supervision given to this age group. The crew weren't overbearing and they didn't look much older than the teens that they were supervising. However, I felt a deep respect from my daughter for the staff of the teens.
She spent most of her evenings in Optiks, the disco just for teens. This made my husband and my cruise so great, because she wanted to go up there and be with the other teens, and this allowed my husband and me to be able to attend the adult entertainment of the ship in the evenings.
We give the Teen group an A+
Also....when we first boarded, we asked the dining room attendant about our table mates. We were originally supposed to be seated with a family of boys. We asked if there were any tables available with an 11 year old girl. They placed us with a family from Maryland that had an 11 year old girl and a 9 year old boy. The children all got along fabulously, and I feel that we have become life long friends with our table mates!
Disembarkation: The saddest day of the cruise!
Since our plane wasn't scheduled to leave until 7:00 p.m., we asked for a later disembarkation time. We spent our last few hours in the Promenade. Unlike other cruise lines, the Explorer of the Seas kept the 24 hour cafe open for diet sodas and cheese Danish. As we sat there, James came by—and we gave our good bye hugs. Then, when most of the ship cleared out, one of the members of the Coasters came to the cafe where we chatted a while and he listened to my daughter sing a song she had written. We found him to be nicer off of the stage than he was on the stage! What a true gentleman...and I will always be so grateful to him for giving my daughter this truly special memory of her childhood.
We were one of the last few people to leave the ship. As we sat there, waiting for our tag color to be called, the crew were busy getting the ship ready for the next group of passengers, however, they remained friendly and helpful to us.
The disembarkation was quick, finding our luggage was a breeze, and the bus was there to take us away from our fabulous ship.
I'd like to say that the disembarkation rated an F-...only because they made it so easy to disembark the ship...but in reality, it rated an A+.
All in all—it was the best cruise of our lives. We are now loyal customers of RCI, and we can hardly wait until the next cruise.