This was our first vacation to New England and Canada. We chose this cruise because of the ship (similar to the Liberty of the Seas) and the ports of call. We did not realize this particular cruise is a favorite of seniors from the Tri-State area. I am not being critical of seniors, just attempting to educate those wanting to take this cruise in the future so they can be prepared for the on-board passenger "culture" (e.g., lots of wheel chairs, scooters and walkers, an impatient attitude sprinkled with enough anxiety to make Sister Theresa reach for a bottle of Valium.)
Most other reviews of Bayonne / Cape Liberty are very positive about the ease of boarding. We experienced something a bit different. We arrived at the cruise terminal at 11:45am. The terminal was in a state of chaos due to the terminal staff giving conflicting information to the passengers. For example, we asked an attendant which line we should join because we are Crown & Anchor Platinum members and the staff was directing folks to a variety of lines. The response we received was "How nice for you" and the person walked away. Perhaps she did not hear our question clearly, but it was rude to just walk away. The next staff person we saw was trying to be helpful. He told us that so many Platinum and Diamond members had arrived early which clogged the system. Since boarding cards are kept in 2 separate areas it took quite a while for the staff to find our information and allow us to board.
The Explorer of the Seas is showing all of its 10 years of service. The staterooms and public areas are all very clean, but worn. I would not hesitate to travel again on a Voyager class ship, it is just that the Explorer could use some new carpet, paint and corrosion control.
Ports of Call:
All ports were fascinating. From the fall colors of Maine to the culture of Nova Scotia to the history of Boston - all are worth spending time ashore to experience each port's uniqueness.
We had requested a table for four when we made the reservation several months prior. Not a big deal, but we were seated at a table for eight. The waiter was very attentive, but the asst. waiter appeared to be in a perpetual bad mood. We had to ask several times for refills on our drinks and bread - most of which never showed up. The menu and food was way below RCI's standards. The fish smelled fishy, the beef was tough and overcooked, the vegetables were flavorless, and the desserts not very appealing. We told the Maitre 'd all of the above and he assured us that it would be fixed. We received a call in our stateroom telling us that the table situation was resolved and we should meet him just prior to our dining time to be directed to the new table. As we were guided to the new table we noticed that it again was an 8-top, and the other guests dining there were none to happy to see the four of us arrive. We declined to dine and told the Maitre 'd we would simply dine in the Windjammer Cafe for the remainder of the cruise. The quality of the food was not much better in the Windjammer, but we could at least choose from a larger selection of mediocre food.
On the 2nd night an announcement was made for all passengers wishing to participate in the early departure program to sign up at guest relations as only a limited number of spaces were available. We signed up immediately and were assigned to group 2. On arrival in Port Liberty, many of the passengers crammed themselves into the elevators and departure waiting areas - regardless if they signed up or not. The concept of departure groups went out the porthole as the staff allowed everyone to disembark at the same time. The first couple of hours trying to get off of the ship was horrifying and prompted some of the worst human behavior we have ever experienced. Note to future travellers: Do not plan for a flight that leaves before 1:00pm and take your time getting off of the ship after all of the crazy and thoughtless people are gone.
All-in-all we had a great vacation in spite of RCI's failures. It appears that RCI is shifting its talent to their new mega-ships. This leaves the rest of the fleet flapping in the breeze in the customer service and quality departments. Would we take this particular cruise again? NO Will we cruise with RCI again? Maybe, only if the value improves for the whole fleet.