In June 2010 we were invited to join in by family members making arrangements for a cruise. My husband and I, having never cruised before, decided it would be a great way to celebrate our 45th wedding anniversary.
Plan Ahead - I guess it is important to make your arrangements as far advance as possible, to insure your preferred accomodations, however, we found ourselves wishing the summer away from June till our sail date Sept 25. I also found myself watching the weather channel 24 hours a day with all of the huricanes and tropical storms coming off of Africa during this time.
Sail Day - Travel to Cape Liberty was so easy as we live less than 1 mile cross town in Bayonne, NJ. One family member had access to a small bus, so we all met Sat afternoon for our 10 minute ride. Upon arrival at Cape Liberty our luggage was quickly unloaded and we followed the crowd to register. It was hard for all members of the family to stay together, but we managed to meet up afterwards. Then we all stayed together to wait for an empty bus that shuttled us to the ship.
Explorer of the Seas - What a beautiful sight. The sun was shining, and the sky was blue, and the sight of this magnificent white ship was overwhelming.We found not only the outside, but the inside of the ship was clean and shiney.
Accomodations - We had an inside stateroom on deck 10, around mid ship. The room was small, but had plenty of storage, a queen size bed, and a cute little capsule of a shower, which I am sure my husband was tired of hearing me say "beam me up Scottie" everytime I got into it. We never spent that much time in the room, but it was very adequate for us.
Dining - We chose the early sitting in the main dining room, which worked out great for us. The only night my husband and I did not eat dinner in the MDR was "formal night" (just not our thing). But that was the beauty of the cruise. You always had choices. We had dinner that night in the Windjammer buffet. I am a very fussy eater, but found a great selection in the MDR and the Winderjammer. Only one night there was nothing on the menu in the MDR that I wanted,( I don't eat seafood) so we ordered the Filet Mignon. This was an extra $14.95 per person, but was delicious.
Entertainment - Our choice of entertainment for the most part was Casino Royale, although, we could have been busy 24 hours a day taking advantage of all of the entertainment venues. We are Atlantic City high rollers, and found the casino offered a great choice of table games and slot machines. The casino was only open while the ship was out at sea, not in port at Cape Liberty or Bermuda, but we found plenty of time to hit a few jackpots.
Weather - With all of my worrying about huricanes, we experienced beautiful sunshine, with temperatures in the low 80's ever day. Some family members said they ran into 5 minutes of rain on their excursion to Hamilton in Bermuda, but we didn't see it on the ship. The only bad weather we saw was the day we returned to Cape Liberty, and it didn't matter because we were already depressed that the cruise had come to an end.
Debarkation - Easy as pie. Put our luggage out the night before. Met all family members in the same location Studio B. Follow the crowd when your letter and number is called. Bus right away from ship to terminal. Pick up luggage, go through customs, and meet everyone at the bus for our 10 minute drive home.
Summary - Turn the Ship around. We don't want to go home. What a wonderful experience we had, and we can't wait to go again. One important note- when you are traveling with such a large group (13) of varying ages as we did, it is important to let everyone decide to do things at their own pace. It is great that many family members walked on the bottom of the Atlantic on their helmet dive, explored Bermuda on mopeds, or took a ride on a glass bottom boat.We just enjoyed sitting in the sun by the pool with a couple of pina coladas. But that's the beauty of it, there are so many choices.