Explorer of the Seas September 11, 2010
Hello everyone, thanks for taking your time to read this, I truly appreciate it. Well, this is our, my dear wife Debbie, and my second cruise on this ship the first being in May. We liked this ship so much we couldn't stay away. We did all the normal preparation to an upcoming cruise; we got a few things at the store, went over the scooter, cruised Cruise Critic ad nauseam (but I do that anyway) and sent e-mails to our cruising friends. Eventually, like Friday afternoon, we packed the suitcases and van.
Saturday morning started at 4:15 with wake-up and in the road, the first time, by 5. About 5 miles down the road I remembered we didn't have the basket that hangs on the handlebars of the scooter. We got BACK on the road about 5:30. On the road again (sorry Willie) we headed east on the PA Turnpike with a quick stop at the Midway Plaza for a marginal breakfast and comfort stop. Two more stops and one re-direction in Bayonne, darn GPS, and we arrived at Cape Liberty. I made a right turn into the 911 memorial know as the Teardrop for a few moments just to pay my respects, it was 9/11 after all. Six hours down and numb-bum, I pulled into the parking spot and off loaded, with the help of a porter, the bags, scooter and Debbie. Drove around to pay the parking lot their due and found a spot in the handicapped section of the lot. Met Deb and headed for the terminal. Security checks done and we were at the counter checking in. This was a lot easier than May due to not having a delay and not having the dockside computers crashed. Got our Seapass cards and off to wait in line for the bus. Boy I hope they work on this, it's a pain to have to the bus thing. Took that two minute ride and arrived at the gangways. Since the tide was in they were a little steep but we got to the ship without a problem. The cards "dinged" and it's official: WE'RE ON THE SHIP ! ! ! OK for those who like times it took about one hour from pulling up to the porter until we heard the ding. In our opinion, this is more than reasonable. OK, here we are on deck 1, where do we go? Since they said the cabins would not be ready until 1:30 we opted to tour our favorite place, the Royal Promenade and then see what the Windjammer looked like. Since the weather was beautiful, we lingered a bit on the pool deck and hung out for the "sail-away" party. There we met Leyla from the Activities Staff. She was my worthy adversary in Giant Jenga on the May sailing. We didn't see her the rest of the cruise, Sorry Leyla we really wanted to chat a bit. Two o'clock was drawing nigh and we had a date to meet up with our friends Meg and Radio. If that last name sounds familiar ir is THE Radio from the "Live with Radio" postings on Cruise Critic. Debbie and I are honored to count him, and Meg too, among our friends. We also met Vanessa who had met up with Meg on their overnight in Bayonne, pre-cruise. After our nice little get together with our friends we went to the cabin to find our bags inside and meet Rodney our cabin steward. I asked for a few more towels and to see if he could "score" me a robe. Jumping the time-line a bit, he came through. We took a few minutes and unpacked. We just have a hard time living out of suitcase. It is just as easy for us to take a few minutes and put things in drawers and hand things up than to gripe about wrinkles and not being able to iron them out because we couldn't bring our fire-hazard travel iron onboard. Then it was off to the Windjammer for dinner. We met some old friends from the crew and had a great first night dinner. As we were finishing up who shows tableside but Radio. This very pleasant occurrence happened a few times during the cruise, Deb and I loved it Radio is just such a great guy. After dinner we hit the Promenade and did a little pre-shopping. The liquor store was a bit different than May was they actually had booze to sell. In explanation, the longshoreman would not load the shop goods in May because we sailed so late, so there were only two bottles of tequila on Saturday night May 8th. Anyway we got our usual stash for the family picnic and had our eyes filled with ideas for later. Back to the room to pick up my travel humidor and hit the Connoisseur Club for the first meeting of the EOSCSALSS (Explorer Of The Seas Cigar Smoking And Liquor Sipping Society) of which I happen to be self-appointed President (No one else wanted it nor did they care). I met Radio and provided him with a very good Rocky Patel Elite Lite cigar. For those that care it is a 52-ring gauge 6-inch light wrapper mild smoke. After smoking about half of it he informed me he was "getting high" from it, this is from a guy who smokes cigarettes, wonder if he inhaled? Didn't Clinton say HE didn't inhale? By the way Bianca, from Brazil, was the hostess (don't like to call her bar staff) at the club. She was the most attentive and kind person. More about her later. Well off to bed after that long day I was pooped. We had an inside handicapped cabin on 10 aft. It was very nice and quite roomy too. The carpet appeared to be new but the love seat and chair, yep a chair too, were showing their age, not bad but not new either. Some prior passenger had left their curling iron on the arm of the chair and scorched it. Now you know why they don't want irons on board if curling irons can char the fabric on a chair.
Day 2, Sunday September 12, 2010 At-Sea I did my usual early rise, about 6am and went to breakfast one flight up, in the Windjammer. Great eggs, fried to order, bacon and corned beef hash. Since we brought mugs, I took Deb a mug of coffee to the cabin while she got ready for breakfast Part II. We were enjoying our fruit, Deb had eggs too, and lo and behold Radio shows up with his repast. He said he got up about his regular time and when we asked if he had set his watch forward he said "WHAT". Because we spend an extended time, 9am Monday to 5pm Tuesday, in Bermuda they ask us to re-set our watches to Bermuda time to make it easier on all involved. We do drop them back that hour on the way back up the coast on Wednesday/Thursday. So, anyway we had a wonderful chat over our meal and went about our day not really doing anything in particular. We had an informal Meet and Mingle in Dizzy's in the Viking Crown Lounge at 2pm. We finally got to meet a lot of the folks with whom we had been "talking" all these past weeks leading up to the cruise. We finalized the plans for the Slot Pull for Wednesday, more on that too. Well, Sunday was "Formal Night" and we had planned to go but I guess our bods were telling us to not bother dressing up so we hit the WJ again. By the way we did do My Time Dining for this cruise and we loved it. There are also stories about this so just hang on for them. We did some walking around the Royal Promenade, and people watching while we waited for the Captains Reception. Captain Olav showed up on the elevated walk and said a few words before he introduced his senior staff. Capt. Olav is the most senior employee at RCI and was the Captain that brought Explorer out. He has a love affair with this ship. That's OK; his wife was on the cruise too. We had another meeting at the cigar bar and Bianca took care of us with our soft drinks and clean ash trays. Debbie decided that the beds are inconvenient and asked Rodney to split them and remove one of the three bed stand, which he did. So off the dreamland yet again.
Day 3, Monday September 13, 2010, Bermuda Up about 6 and to the Windjammer I go. Well I stopped on deck to watch us pull into the Royal Navy Yard at Bermuda. Enough of that, breakfast is calling. Same as Sunday, Stage I breakfast, coffee in the cabin, Stage II with Debbie. We went down to the Promenade Deck, not to be confused with the Royal Promenade (sometimes referred by me as simply the Promenade) to watch folks get off the ship. The photographers were out en-mass in Pirate costumes and had the sign you could pose behind to let every one know you were in Bermuda. By the way, we NEVER had our picture taken by the "pros" as we think it is a shame to break those expensive cameras. OK, it was out turn now, we hit the gangway and off to the Clock Tower Mall. This is a very quaint collection of shops that are directly across from the ship but you better have your water wings on to go the most direct route as it is across the boat basin about a quarter of a mile. So around the bay we go. The weather was marvelous, sunny and warm. Spent a little bit of cash and saw a nice, albeit small, part of Bermuda. We went back to the ship, bags in hand. Well Debbie is in the shower when the phone rings, it is the hostess from My Time Dining wondering where we have been, I told her we would try to make it for dinner that night. After I showered we went to the WJ for lunch, while Debbie was up getting something healthy, cookies I think, one of the waiters asked if he could drive the scooter. Off he went, with my blessings. As he rounded the one serving station he darn near ran into Debbie, she laughed. As it turns out Desmond is a waiter in MTD and also invited us down and suggested we ask for him. Well we did it; we bit the bullet and went to the MDR for the first time on Explorer. We were met the hostess who could not have been nicer, she directed us to a table for four right by the door. This also was in Desmond's area. We then got to meet Jafar, the headwaiter, who took the hostess aside and told her that that was to be our table and no one else's for the remainder of the cruise. As we are working on desert Meg, another friend from May, shows up at our table and sits down to chat. Meg is a doll, fantastic sense of humor, articulate, not bad for a Phillies phan from NJ. (Misspelling is intentional) Dinner over and we had nowhere to go so we hit the Promenade. Meeting time again, so I excused myself and hit the cigar bar. And the bed is calling me again.
Day 3 Tuesday September 14, 2010, Bermuda
Wake-up, breakfast I and II same as before just Tuesday. Debbie decided we should visit Snorkel Park. This is a neat little beach complex within walking distance from the ship. There was a $5 "donation" to enter the complex and they didn't charge Debbie because of the scooter. We both thought that was nice. Anyway there is a large paved area with a covered stage and a seating area with tables and chairs available. The beach is compact but very clean. There are cabana, beds and neat wicker seating units all over. They have jet skis, kayaks, umbrellas and other water related things for rent, There is a bar and concession stand. They aren't cheap but they are the only show in town. Debbie read her book, or should I say her Kindle and I wound up doing what I do best, I took a nap. As I was walking around the beach a man hollered "Hey, Cruise Critic Guy", I had my CC t-shirt on. So we talked about my favorite subjects cruising and Cruise Critic. Back to the ship and our hangout, the Windjammer. Lunch was wonderful as it usually is. There is a great selection of things to satisfy any hunger you may have. Salads to deserts, hand carved meats to Asian dishes all prepared in a manner befitting a dining room rather than a buffet. We watched the "runners" race for the ship as 5 o'clock was drawing nigh. A mini-bus pulled up with 3 guys who beat-feet up the gangway past an Officer. A few minutes later a ferry pulled beside a tour boat that was tied up across from us. A girl hops off the ferry, across the tour boat and sprinted up the gangway to cheers and jeers. The crew immediately withdrew the gangway and we pushed off for Cape Liberty. Debbie took a nap while I went "exploring" up to the heliport at the very front of the ship. Down to the conference center on the second level to the... well you get the idea I walked around a bit. By the time I was tired of strolling around it was time to get ready for dinner. Another great dinner in the MDR and off we went to see what we could see. The EOSCSALSS met again and Meg, what a very pleasant surprise, joined us. So there we were, in the Connoisseur Club, Radio and I sitting in the velvet furniture, Meg siting in front of one of the air cleaners and Bianca perched on the arm of her love seat chatting about almost everything. Just the four of us, having a great time, solving the problems of the world. Tomorrow is a sea day in our way back home. Before we hit the hay we had to set our clocks back that hour we lost on the way to Bermuda.
Day 4 Wednesday September 15, 2010, At Sea
You've got the routine down, we did. After breakfast we bummed around the shops while I waited to meet Meg and Radio for our Bridge Tour. We had a very nice, but short tour of the bridge of Explorer. We then headed to the Casino for our Cruise Critic informal slot pull. Long story short, 20 of us put in $15 each, loaded it all into a $1 machine, we each got 5 "pulls" and when it was all over, we each got $13.50 back. It was great fun; too bad we didn't get the BMW. Up to the WJ for a lite lunch at 3pm. Explorer is such a great ship with a better crew; we found it was fun walking around "visiting" different areas of this great ship. Hey, tonight is lobster night and we took advantage of it. We decided to be a little "piggy" and combined the fisherman's platter of lobster tail and shrimp with an order of prime rib to make surf and turf. OMG we were stuffed and we didn't even eat our potatoes or veggies, sorry Mom. Back to the cabin to get shorts back on and do some packing, as we need to have out suitcases in the hall before 11. I headed for the final meeting for this cruise armed with two envelopes, One for Bianca with a token of appreciation for her care and attention to all of those who stopped by the Connoisseur Club, and a letter for her boss reflecting my feelings about the above care and attention. Bianca called the Food and Beverage Manager to the Club and I gave him the envelope along with my evaluation of his employee. Radio shows up, Bianca gets our Cokes and in strolls Meg who takes up residence in front of the air cleaner. Lo and behold my dear wife strolls into the lounge and tosses a wad of bills on the table. Seems she went to the casino to get rid of some loose change she had rattling around in her pocket and came away with 80 odd dollars, not too shabby. We, with that last minute score, broke even in the gambling department. So there we are Radio, Meg, Deb, Bianca and I, sitting around shooting the breeze about everything and nothing. A great way to enjoy a cruise vacation. Back to the cabin, put the bags out and made sure there were no new pinholes in my eyelids.
Day 5 Thursday September 16, 2010, In Port at Bayonne
I got up about 6 and up on deck in time to pass under the Verrazano Narrows Bridge on our way back to Cape Liberty Cruise port. We listened to the announcements while we did our final packing and made our way to the elevator to go up one floor to meet Radio for breakfast and said our good-byes. We wound up waiting for 20 minutes. It seems all the folks who signed up for self-disembark jammed the elevators in both directions. Well we did get there and enjoyed our last meal on the ship. We got a chance to say good-bye to Desmond and Kelly, the greeter that met us every day at the WJ. Some days she would have a white fright wig and big sunglasses and other days a purple wig. She would always give you a hug, call you by name, and entertain the little ones. In other words a real joy. It was time, time for us to say adieu to our favorite ship on the fleet. So down to the assisted staging area on deck 2. We never made it into the room, the staff member asked if we needed any help, we replied no, he asked our cabin number and name and said good-bye. One last "ding-dong" of the sea pass reader and we were down the gangway headed to the bus for our long quarter mile ride. Presented our passports and declaration form to US Customs and we were cleared to pick up our bags and hit the road. A porter found us and then our bags and took them to the curd where Debbie waited for me to get the car. I got the bags and scooter loaded and we hit the road at 9:30. Six hours later we pulled into the driveway in Pittsburgh.
In summary, Explorer is THE ship in the Royal Caribbean fleet as far as Debbie and I are concerned. We so enjoyed this cruise and the folks who sailed with us. Along with the CC members in May, we've plated the seed to have a combined "reunion cruise" on Explorer next September.