We've returned from a 12 night southern Caribbean itinerary 1/16/11 on the Explorer and it was another great cruise! We took a balcony cabin for the first time as we booked this cruise close to sail date and the cabin was comfortable for us on deck 10 and we had our luggage by 3pm and were unpacked before muster. Ports visited were Labadee, Samanna, St. Thomas, St, Kitts, Antigua and St. Martin. Perfect weather and great ports!
In Labadee we took the Kayak tour which we enjoyed. Bring some money as you will stop in a small cove where you will find local crafts to buy.
In St. Kitts we did the Fan Ta Sea Catamaran tour again which is fantastic, 70 ft cat, great crew, open bar with rum drinks and soft drinks, beer and snacks and after snorkeling they take you to a beach in Nevis for a BBQ and beach time.
In Antigua we went to Dickerson Beach which is always a great day!
In Samana we booked the beach day with water toys included. This is a little misleading as you only get to use the kayaks, peddle boat or snorkel equipment for 1 hour total. Unfortunately if you want to get off the ship you must pay for some kind of tour as the ship does not dock so all tours are tendered in to the resort. Tenders were suppose to run every half hour but we didn't get picked back up until after 3pm so be prepared to spend the day there. Not thrilled with Samana and would prefer another port and would look for another excursion then just the beach for the next cruise there.
In St. Thomas we did the snorkel excursion on the Binimi Breeze catamaran. Great cat and crew, 2 great snorkel areas at Christmas Cove and at Honeymoon Cove where we enjoyed beach time also in St. John's. Open bar with rum, beer and soft drinks included.
In St. Maartin we did the deep sea fishing tour. I would save your money if you are thinking about this excursion as it was very disappointing. We were met late by a small 30 ft boat with a Captain and one crew mate and the captain quickly informed us that his safety and safety of his crew mate was the most important on the boat but we could find life jackets up in the flybridge if we needed one. Definitely NOT a normal RCCL excursion. It was limited to 6 people and the captain also informed us he really only does private charters but occasionally if he's not busy he'll do one for the ship. Next we headed out about 8 miles or so, all poles are fixed and riggings are put out by crew member, lines are prebaited and basically you sit there until a fish gets on a line and the crew member will pull it in close to the boat and then you get to sit in chair for the last few minutes and pull the fish in. The captain explained we may get 15 minutes each in the chair if we caught enough fish in the 4 hours. We only caught 3 fish so only 3 people got to hold the pole for a few minutes. It was not what any of us expected and for 225.00 a person it was definitely not worth it.The first 2 hours was hard as we sat and stared at each other and finally some of us just fell asleep until the sound of a reel woke us up. 3 barracudas in 4 hours with 6 people hoping to use a pole was not what we expected at all. Don't waste your money on this one! After we came off the boat at 1pm we headed right to the beach and enjoyed the rest of our time in St. Martin.
We only dined once in dining room with the Captain and the rest of meals were in Portifino or Windjammer as we prefer them over the dining room. Food was very good in all locations this time. The dining times changed to 530 for main seating and 830 for late and My Time is from 5:30 on. The casino has a good deal, buy 20.00 of chips get 10.00 for free and look for form at cashier desk if you play the tables. D plus coupon books were good we thought with a free wash and fold laundry bag in each one so we had two loads of wash done for free which was nice on a 12 night. 45 minutes free internet in each coupon book, still the 3 match plays and 3 spins to wins in each booklet, 25% off logo shopping, there is a free dinner coupon at Portifino if you go the first night of the cruise, etc. Everyday a plate of something arrived from the chef for a snack, several phone calls to be sure everything was ok, etc. We received excellent service as usual.Portifino's wonderful as always and the T bone steak is very good!
The ship looked good, service was excellent, weather was perfect and a great relaxing cruise to escape the snow and ice we had while we were gone!We are D plus but avoided the CL on this cruise as people were wondering about the new changes coming to the C & A program. When we returned home we received the booklet from RCCL explaining the new point system and we have plenty of points to maintain our D plus status and I do think the new system is fair. We are very happy with all the benefits we receive from RCCL and I still say they have the best loyalty program out of all the cruise lines.
Getting in and out of port was easy despite the snow we returned to although the people without cars in port did have to wait longer because as always they get those with cars out of there first and cabs/limos/rides were waiting in line to get in when we pulled out. If you plan a winter cruise be sure to throw a shovel/ice scraper/gloves in your car as you will be snowed in from the plows so you'll have to shovel your car out. The Explorer is a great winter escape for those of us who live close to port!