Explorer of the Seas Cruise Review by mikebz: Good, but not great
Overall Member Rating
Good, but not great
Destination: Canada & New England
Embarkation: Bayonne (Cape Liberty)
A little background first. Both my wife and I are early fourties and have travelled and cruised extensively before. We decided to go to New England and Canada because we have never cruised there before and liked the convenience of Caape Liberty. Some reviewers have mentioned that there seemed to be a lot of seniors on this cruise. There were, but not more than other cruises we have done. I would say somewhere in the middle. Not as much as a Panama cruise, but more than a three day booze cruise. Longer cruises tend to have more seniors. And the weather? Lot's of comments from other pax. Yes it was windy, maybe a little rain, but you do realize that you are in the northeast in late fall heading north? Enough said, typical fall New England weather. I expected it, and it was one of the reasons we decided to do this cruise.
Sorry, I cannot help with airport information, transfers or hotels. We drove thirty minutes to the port. Having lived in the metro area More all my life, I can tell you this: Plan for delays when deciding flight times. The area is served by three major airports: Newark, LaGuidia, and JFK. Newark is the easiest to get to, but usually LaGuidia is cheaper to fly into. Take your pick. I prefer Newark. Drop off of the bags was easy, and parking was also easy. Yes it is an industrial area, but I didn't feel unsafe at any time. Check in was easy, but then you had to take a bus to the ship. First time for the bus in any embarkation port. Also, do yourself a favor, and look at the 9/11 memorial on the pier. Very well done.
Windjammer was typical, average food. I never had a problem getting a table, but we are early risers, and usually don't do lunch or dinner there. We usually just grab a burger and go for lunch. We did late seating (always do), and suggest on a ship with many seniors, that late seating is the best, as it tends to be less crowded. We had a table for eight with only six people. After the second night, one couple left, so we were down to four. I don't know why they left. When we tried to engage them in conversation, they would simply answer the question and then go silent. Saw them during the cruise and would say hello, only to have them turn away and not even acknowledge us. Go figure? The other couple we got along with well, and they helped make the cruise memorable. This is why we cruise. One word of advice. Take one day and eat at Portofino's. Service was great,food was better. Exceeded expectations.
We opted for a Promenade stateroom. I did enjoy watching the parade from my stateroom as opposed to standing and getting stepped on. Room was big enough, and storage was more than enough, even with all of our shopping in the ports. Bed was comfortable, and didn't have a problem with sleeping. Yes the ship moved a little, but we were pretty much in the center of the ship, and we are used to a little rocking. Cabin attendent was very good. We did put things in the window, but I think we were the only ones.
Went to the dancing and comedy shows. Variety shows were okay. Not great, not bad. Would much prefer a musical rather than a review, but that is just my opinion. Comedy shows were better. Didn't go to most of the lounges or casino, as the smoke effects me. The Love and Marriage show. Go to it, you will laugh. Almost got picked to participate. Maybe next time. Quest. Definately go and participate if you can. It is what you make of it. I was one of the leaders, and had a blast. Just don't take yourself too seriously, and you will have a great time. The ice show was really good, don't miss it. Went to some of the craft activities. They were usually held at Dizzy's, but there was no dedicated space, so there usually ended up being no room, as people tended to fall asleep in their chairs for the day. Towards the end of the cruise, the outer decks were closed due to high winds. I do not remember the rock wall ever being open, probably due to the winds.
Did not like this at all. They call your number, and you leave the ship to wait for a bus. Long wait. Then you sit on the bus as they line you up to get off. Longer wait. One word of advice. If you can't walk well, and have a lot of bags, please get a porter to help you. Oh, and listen to announcements instead of talking to each other. It makes things go so much easier. I think in the future, I would leave from Baltimore instead of Cape Liberty, as the difference in time from ship to home is only 30 minutes longer from Baltimore. That is because Baltimore handles passenger much better.
Overall, I would have to say a good cruise, but not a great one. Cruising to me is about the ports anyway, so that is what I focus on. Less
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Port and Shore Excursions
Hands down, the best port. You had to be tendered in, and some people were upset that you weren't aloowed to take their scooters, but it is a safety issue. Booked a trip with Acadia National Tours, and really enjoyed it. Colors were near peak, and the guide was very knowledgable about local history. Shopping along main street was very good. In addition to the usual tourist type stores, there were some really nice local stores. There was a local woodcrafting store that was very good. I would definately return on my own, and spend more time exploring the park.
We took the ship's tour to Salem, as it was close to Halloween. Really enjoyed it, and the witch museum. The museum is factual, not Hollywood. There are Hollywood type atractions there as well. After coming back, we took the shuttle to Quincy Market. A quick disclaimer: I have been to Boston too many times to count, that's why I wanted to go to Salem. I had never been there around Halloween. My wife had never been to Boston, so we walked around part of the Freedom Trail. You could easily spend the day walking the Freedom Trail, and not be bored.
Halifax was great. Walked off the ship onto their boardwalk and walked to the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic. Really well done museum focussing on shipwrecks in the area, most notably the Titanic. Very well done. Interactive exhibits, and some movies. They had an exhibit there of naval art that I thought was very well done.
After that, we walked to the Citadel. A word of caution: it is a long, steep hill to get to the base of the Citadel, and then another steep climb to get in. I enjoyed it, and thought it was worth it. You may not. There is a guided tour every hour. Take it if you can. This site is not ADA approved in my opinion. The parade grounds are dirt, gravel and uneven. The ramps to get above the wall are worse, and the tunnel to get between the walls is worst yet. If you are at all unsteady on your feet, do not take the tour. The tunnel is especially uneven and dark/claustrophobic.
We took the ship excursion to Freeport. Thirty minute bus ride with a knowledgable guide. Learned some history, but it was mostly a shopping trip. Freeport was nice. L.L. Bean is big there, but went to other shops as well. I can go outlet shopping here, but I did manage to find some things, especially in the smaller non outlet stores. I had, hands down, the best chowder and lobster roll here. I don't remember the name of the place, but if you turn down the street by Cool As A Moose, it is tucked in the basement. Local place, and not fancy, but definately worth it.
Arrived back with time to spare, so walked around the town. Nice town, felt safe, and found the narrow gauge railroad. It is a train ride along the coast, but not far. Really enjoyed it. You could also just walk along the coast on a paved path with no vehicular traffic. Most locals do.
Ah, St. John's. Didn't really like this port. Went to the market, and it was nice, even picked up some local ice wine. Went to the Loyalist Cemetary, nicely done. Went to the Loyalist house, and the oldest church, and it was okay. Even went to the reversing falls to see the tide change. It was interesting, but okay. It wasn't that St. John's is a bad port of call, it is that nothing stands out in my mind. I would give it another chance, but I need to plan better.
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