Our first cruise! We (my husband & I, mid forties) arrived at Cape Liberty, NJ at approx. 11:20am having driven down from the South-coast of Massachusetts that morning, a 4 hour ride. The route was clearly marked once we got off the N.J. Turnpike and we encountered no traffic or lines at the cruiseport. We were directed to a unloading area and before I had opened the truck door there was a porter who was opening it for me, taking our bags & directing my husband where to park. I took our carry-on bags & waited for him to get back, a brief 5 min wait. Just about as soon as he arrived they started letting people check in and we proceeded right up to the counter for deck 8 passengers, quickly were checked in and given a number for the shuttle (we had 52). Before we knew it we were waiting for the shuttle in the terminal. We were snacking on chocolate chip & peanut butter cookies as they started to call the first people aboard the ship just minutes later. First to be called was a wedding party, then the Diamond/Plus members. Very quickly we were sitting on the shuttle for the super brief ride to the beautiful Explorer of the Seas. By 12:30pm we were on the pool deck with a Bon Voyage (the drink of the day) in our hands and a smile on our faces.
Since the cabins aren't ready until 1:30pm we decided to grab a bite to eat in the Windjammer buffet and then explore a little. This was the only time the Windjammer was crowded during our 5 day cruise. There was not a seat to be had so we headed out to the deck and ate along the port rail on deck 11. We had not been there long when I thought I recognized the description of fellow CruiseCritic member MedicKen & his wife Deb. Of course his Pittsburgh Steelers hat clinched it. We had a nice chat and they went on their way to the Windjammer.
We finished our lunch and since it was time for the cabins to be ready we decided to go check it out. We were in cabin 8618, center balcony cabin on the "hump". The room was very clean and comfortable, just the right size for the two of us. Our stateroom attendant, Puja, could not have been more helpful or friendly if he tried. It was nice to sit on the balcony and look out at the New York city skyline and unwind from the drive down.
We hung out in the room for a bit deciding what to do next and enjoying the balcony when our luggage arrived. After putting our clothes away and storing the suitcases under the beds we went up to Deck 12 to check out the pool-side activities. The memorial tribute to the victims of 911, with a tear drop in the middle of the monument, is adjacent to our ship and easily viewed from deck 12. Since it was September 11 later that evening they held a memorial service at the base where participants were able to see the twin beams of light shining into the heavens, from the site of the twin towers, across the harbor.
Muster drill was at 4pm. No life-jackets were needed, just go to your muster area and stand in short lines. Once everyone was at their assigned areas the Captain came over the loudspeaker. He thanked everyone for being aboard, gave a brief talk and then requested a 1 minute moment of silence in memory of the victims of 9/11. Not a sound was heard while we looked out over the former location of the twin towers.
We were escorted out to the Verrazano Bridge by about 10 Jet Skis and a NYPD helicopter. the crew of which were all waving to us as they made a fly by around the ship. It is really a thrill to be out on deck as the Explorer goes underneath the Verrazano-Narrows bridge...the clearance is so slight that it looks like the boat will hit the bridge!
Our second day saw us up on deck 12 once again, overlooking the pool. While it can get a bit breezy up on deck the sun was warm & inviting. Walking back to the sports deck we found the rock wall. My husband easily climbed right up the rock wall. This is something I really wanted to try, but it will have to wait until next time since I have a torn rotator cuff. If you would like to climb the wall just make sure to bring a pair of socks with you. The equipment was in very good repair although the helmet they gave him was a bit small (but he has a big head). There was a small line but they moved people along fairly quickly. They give you several attempts to make it to the top. Once you get to the top and ring the bell your turn is over.
Next it was time for lunch so we decided to try Johnny Rockets. The food was very good and the waiters singing and dancing had us laughing along with them.
We had a great group on our CruiseCritic Roll Call & we had a little get together at 2pm at Dizzy's in the Viking Crown Lounge which overlooks the pools. While waiting for everyone to arrive they were holding the "Men's International Belly Flop Contest" - ouch! It was great to meet up with everyone that we had been writing with and put faces to names...even the "famous" Radio :)
The first night at sea was formal night. There are photographers stationed on each floor outside the dining room entrances. If you would like a photo I'd suggest going down about 30 minutes before your dining time as there are lines at some if not all of the photographers. We had My Time Dining in the deck 5 dining room and we loved it! Each morning we would decide when we would like to eat, depending on what activities we wanted to attend. Then we would go by the hostess desk outside the deck 5 dining room and put in our reservation, each time requesting the same section as we absolutely loved our waiter Desmond!
Monday morning, I was up at dawn to watch us come into Bermuda. The sunrise was gorgeous as the sun put on a show while we approached St George, Bermuda and then traveled along the channel to King's Wharf. We were docked with the port side to the pier facing the Norwegian Spirit, bow to bow. Even though there were two cruise ships at King's Wharf it never seemed crowded and the area around the Dockyards was super clean.
We had purchased bus/ferry passes on the ship so we took the "pink bus" to Horseshoe Bay. The bus was packed so we ended up standing the whole way. It was almost like a roller coaster ride and my arms got quite a workout as the winding roads are hilly & narrow. Horseshoe Bay was beautiful and we ended up spending most the day there both in the water and exploring the paths and grottos to the left side of the beach.
Since we were having such a great time on both the Explorer and in Bermuda we decided to book the same cruise for 2011. Because of this we chose to stay in Kings Wharf and the Dockyards area to explore the museum, snorkel park & shops. It was a great relaxing day and we will go to St George & Hamilton next time.
We met up with about 20 of our CC roll call members in the casino on the return sea day for a slot pull. This was a lot of fun, the idea of MedicKen. Each of us put in $15.00. The money gathered was put in a slot machine and we each got 5 pulls. When all was said & done we each received $13.50 back. Not winners, but definitely worth $1.50 for the great time we all had!
Before we knew it it was time to disembark. We went to our assigned area, had a 5 minute wait until out color/number was called, and then went right along off the ship, onto the shuttle, into the baggage area to pick up our luggage and then right through customs without any other waiting or lines. Four hours later we were home, already dreaming of our next cruise on the Explorer.
We absolutely loved the Explorer and Bermuda. The people were all friendly, fun, and super helpful. The shows were all great. We ate breakfast and lunch in the Windjammer each day and had dinner in the Main Dinning Room 4 nights. All food was delicious. There are so many choices that people should be able to find something that they will enjoy. The wait staff was amazing and we shared lots of laughs with them.
Here are a few other tips that we learned:
Pool Towels - Pool towels are available on deck 11 between the pool & Solarium. You will need your seapass card to check out a towel. We had a late dinner the last night, leaving the room at 8:30pm & returning to our room about 10:30 where we saw a notice on our bed stating that towels had to be returned before 8pm or you would be charged a $20.00 fee per towel. A quick trip to Guest Services w/the towels revealed that we had already been charged the towel fee. No problem however, we were able to turn in the towels & have the fee removed.
Heliport/bow - Want to feel like "King of the World"? Take deck 4 to the bow of the ship on the starboard side. When at sea it can get pretty windy up front, we guess it was a steady 50mph as we sailed back to Cape Liberty.
Business Cards - We met a lot of people who we would love to keep in touch with, both fellow CC members and other cruisers. I was always looking for a pen to exchange email addresses with. The last day while saying goodbye to "MedicKen" & his wife Deb he handed me a business card with his info telling me that someone had passed along the tip to him on a previous cruise. Just buy a cheap package of business card paper & print your own with your name, email & any other info you want. Quick & easy to be able to keep in touch with all the new friends you will meet!