My husband and I sailed on the Aug. 19th Explorer of Seas cruise to Bermuda, St. Maarten, St. Thomas, and San Juan. This is our sixth cruise with RCI and we were not disappointed. We did have a "Tropical Heatwave" while we were there. The temperature in St. Thomas was 100 degrees. I don't want to complain because we did manage to get in between the two hurricanes, Danielle and Earl.
Embarkation was a snap. There was some kind of an incident on the cruise before ours and disembarkation of that cruise was a bit behind schedule. We arrived at the port at about 11:30 AM and the Platinum waiting lounge was very full of people. They started moving us on board about 12:15 and we were on the first bus load that left the waiting area. Once on board, we headed for lunch in the WJ. The crowd had not arrived yet so we enjoyed quite a nice lunch. This was the last Caribbean cruise before schools opened in New York and there were lots of kids on board but I have to say, they seemed to be kept busy most of the time with the Adventure Club. I saw a some cute "Pirate Faces" the day they painted the kids faces. After lunch, we started to wander around the ship and get our bearings. Both my husband and I were very please during the entire voyage, at how easy it was to get about the ship. Warning, watch out for the blind area on Decks two and three. Studio B cuts the path in half and you have to enter those two decks at the right end of the ship. Once we figured out which way the ship was moving, getting to our destination was easy. Our cabin was ready at 1:30 PM as promised. We dropped off our carry ons and continued exploring. The captain told us that there were 3633 passengers on board but we never felt cramped. We enjoyed our Balcony cabin on the eighth floor.
We have been to all four of the ports of call in prior cruises but where we go is not as important and just plain enjoying the cruising experience. We had wonderful but hot weather at each port, just a few tropical rain showers that passed quickly. We went to the Bermuda Museum at the Dockyard since in our other trips we had not done that. It was pretty interesting, certainly worth the $8 each, senior rate, we were charged. We watched the "Dolphin Experience",which was inside the walls of the fort, for a while before leaving the museum. We did a private company tour on St. Maarten that I booked online with Shore Adventures Tour Company. It was a really good tour and our driver did an excellent job. We again did a private company tour on St. Thomas. That tour was with Air Force One Tour company and we also enjoyed that tour. I would recommend either one. In San Juan, we went on a RCI tour to the Bacardi Rum Factory. We enjoyed some really good Rum Punch at 10 AM in the morning, but hey, we were on vacation. That was also a good tour.
We had originally booked an inside cabin but about five weeks before departure, after final payment, RCI put a special up for Firemen, EMT, and Policemen. My husband is a 45 year volunteer firemen and with that service, we moved from an interior room category M to a D1 Superior Balcony Stateroom. We had to pay about $200 more each but I am so glad we were able to do it. I figure it was still about a $700 savings for each of us. The D1 room was wonderful. Our Room Steward, Vinon, did a great job. He put an additional pad on our bed and that helped with the comfortable sleep we enjoyed the entire cruise. We had towel animals every night, my favorite being the bat that was flying from our ceiling one night. The room was clean and very comfortable.
We had main seating for dinner. The food was very good and, as always, the breads were wonderful. That is my downfall on a cruise. We ate breakfast and lunch in the WJ most days. We did go to the MDR on one sea day and enjoyed the wonderful salad bar. They had shrimp on it that were as large as your thumb. Service was always good although slow at times. We went to Johnny Rockets one day for lunch. That was fun and brought us back to our youth. The $4.75 each cover charge and the $4.50 for each of two milkshake(we used our buy one get one coupon from our Platinum Value Book) were a bit high in our opinion but it was fun to watch the wait staff all break out into song and dance and entertain us about every 15 minutes. The hamburgers, french fries, and onion rings were great but I'm sure my cholesterol went off the chart that day. The $15 charge to our sea pass card seemed a bit high.
We went to the shows every night. I have to say that, although the RCI dancer and singers were good, we both thought we had seen more energetic shows on other cruises. The other shows were really good and we enjoyed all of them.
There were lots of choices during the day to keep you entertained. The pools were never overly full and we could usually find a place to sit in the shade on the pool deck on any sea day. We enjoyed several of the movies in the theater and enjoyed watching one senior couple who were always there but fell asleep during all of the movies they attended.
We have never been disappointed in an RCI cruise and really like the Bayonne, NJ, departure port. We live in upstate NY and it is an easy 6 hour drive to the port. We went to Staten Island the night before our cruise and stayed at the Hilton Garden Hotel. The stay there was wonderful. The room and breakfast package was $169 and they shuttled us to the port the day of the cruise and came back and got us after the cruise. Parking on the port would have been $171, so it was a wash. I would recommend that, if you have to travel to the port, to get there the day before since the traffic in the area can be really bad, especially since the ship sailed on a Thursday. The last thing I ever want to do is to be standing on the dock as my ship sails off into the ocean because I got stopped in traffic.
I would say it was a five star trip. We are looking forward to our next RCI cruise.