Having read some extreme negativity about Explorer on here in the recent months I thought I should describe things from a positive light instead...
Our embarkation from Cape Liberty was quick and easy, we arrived at 1pm and were in the Windjammer by 1.40, even with a quick trip to the room to drop stuff off! So what that it isnt pretty, you spend an extremely small percentage of your trip here so who gives a monkeys?
When we boarded the ship we headed for the windjammer and had an explore of the boat, which I will say now, is excellent. She may need the minutist details touching up here and there but nothing that will make a difference to your holiday. The ship is extremely clean and there are always staff, around the clock, working around the boat cleaning and polishing banisters, floors, windows etc etc...
The room was perfectly sizes for two of us, there wasnt a mark or dirty part of the room. We found the bed large and comfy and did not struggle to sleep once on the whole holiday. Our room attendant Wendy was excellent and the array of towel animals were fantastic. She was always around if we needed any help and full of advice for the ports and for making the most of the trip. On day one, I asked for some stuff to be picked up to be dry cleaned, after it had spent two days in NY in my case! She was at the cabin door in about 2 minutes and had it returned to me within 24 hours and the charge was definitely worth the money for the crispness of my suit and shirts when it was returned to me!
As for the food, we did not have a problem with anything throughout the whole holiday. We didnt get any michelin starred food at any point! And you know why? We didnt pay for it. And did we care? No! We expected nice food, which we managed to get in the MDR and windjammer, and we were satisfied with that. If you dont want mass produced food...dont go to an all you can eat buffet. If the MDR isnt nice enough...pay more for your cruise. Ou MDR waiter and assistant waiter were fantastic and definitely contributed to the dining experience.
As for the food, the breads we received were excellent, and I had beef or lamb pretty much each night (Im not much of a sea food eater) and was NOT dissappointed at all. And a small tip for the WJ, go to the Island Grill at the back...it has a wider and seemingly fresher selection than the food along the sides.
If you fancy a couple of beers whilst on board, the bars do an offer of a bag of beer, which you buy for $33 and if you keep the bag and bring it to be refilled each day, they refill it for $25. We did this every day as we found it to be great value. The girls on the trip with us had cocktails each night and they were never dissappointed either.
As for the time spent on the boat...we NEVER struggled for a sun lounger despite the 30 degree heat each day, there were also many many quiet places to go and lounge in the sun instead of being by the main pools each day. The reggae band which played on the pool deck each day were very good.
The staff on board were on the whole extremely good, polite, helpful and welcoming. We only had one experience when our server was rude and that was on the sky bar about the pool. A complaint was made and followed up on.
Now here comes the evening more amazing parts...the islands! They were incredible.
Bermuda - we got on a water taxi across to Hamilton, which cost $12 each for day passes (water taxis and buses), the views were incredible. Hamilton was quite disappointing to be honest, we then headed to the South Shore beaches and Horseshoe beach in particular which was incredible. I have never experienced a beach like it in my life. It was clean, the water was clear and the pictures we got of the place were fantastic.
St Maarten - shopping Haven number 1. Be ready to shop on these islands, they were great for jewellery, watches, sunglasses, alcohol, tobacco, perfumes etc.... We managed to pick up some absolute bargains! And then we went and spent the rest of the day on the beach in the harbour that the boat was docked. Again, the water and sands were clean, crisp and clear and perfect setting for a great day of fun and memories. We did have to pay $12 for two loungers for the day but due to the heat, they were worth it!
Everyone is trying to make a buck on these islands, you will have people trying to sell you things but be polite and they will leave you along without any issues!
St Thomas - we went on a Panoramic Island Drive which was incredible, except for the terribly rude (this isnt a swipe at the Americans) American Lady who insulted the driver more than once when he was talking to use about the island and its cultures. The driver was extremely funny and knowledgeable and we count ourselves very lucky to have had someone so good at their job to make the day very much a fun and pleasant day. The girls went off and snorkelled with Turtles whilst we were on this drive and they had an absolutely amazing time. I paid for the girls to do the power snorkelling but they did not use the power snorkel as they were very heavy and made trying to take pictures impossible! So a word of warning if you are thinking about doing this!
We then spent the afternoon in the Havensight Mall and the Grande Hardbour (i think that was what it was called) Mall, we didnt venture into Charlotte Amelie as we were running out of time by this point. Again, we managed to find many many bargains.
San Juan, Puerto Rico - a lovely place, only wish we could have had more time there in San Juan. We went on an extremely formative and educationla visit to the El Yunque Rainforest and by the time we returned only had an hour left in the dock. The place looked gorgeous, and despite being very americanised and less Caribbean than the other islands, would have been an interesting place to explore.
Again, out tour guide for this trip was excellent and definitely made the trip enjoyable and very educational.
At no point when we were on the boat did the place feel crowded, busy, dirty or unpleasant. The top deck was busy during the sailaway party but was never crowded again for the rest of the journey. We had a couple of swims at night after dinner and the pools were empty and extremely warm still, this was incredibly relaxing. Also, during the 9 days, we were never left wanting for things to do and we were never bored. The shows and ice show were excellent. And the Cruise Director, Chris Northey, did an incredible job. We also had a couple of comedians on board, one was good, one was terrible!
Overall, i wont have a bad word said about this boat, there is nothing on board or wrong with the boat that would spoil a holiday. She is ageing slightly and might need a touch of paint here and there but you can only see these things if you look for it. On the last day we went to Captains Corner, this was incredibly informative and the captain was a very good guy, always seen around the ship during the course of the cruise.
I understand that peoples experiences arent all as fantastic as our families was, but I would still highly recommend this boat and RCI to anyone, and our family will still continue to use RCI well into the future.
One last point...as a young teacher, the last thing I want when I go on holidays is lots of children, and although RCI is a family orientated experience, I never found children an issue, they were all extremely well behaved and the activities put on for them are second to none and keep them out of trouble!
I will be using RCI and Explorer of the Seas again!