My wife and I were on the 12-night Southern Caribbean cruise 2/27/11-3/11/11. We enjoyed sailing out of Cape Liberty as we were able to drive down the day before and see a show on Broadway Saturday night and then set sail on Sunday. We stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn Staten Island which was a great hotel with free parking and a free shuttle to/from the port. We had reservations on the 11AM shuttle and yes, there was some traffic on the port road but we expected that and didn't really care too much because we weren't driving. By 12:30PM we were getting on the bus to head over to the ship so we didn't think that was too bad at all.
Our ports were Labadee, Samana, DR, St. Thomas, St. Kitts, St. Johns, Antigua and St. Maarten. Labadee was totally different than our last visit back in 2006 and is now a beautiful place with many excursions or just a great beach day. Samana was awesome. We did an ATV through Terry which was amazing. Yes, we drove through some very poor towns but the scenery was beautiful. We also visited a very pristine beach and a nice waterfall. St. Thomas is usually our shopping port and did not disappoint. We rented a moped/scooter in St. Kitts and I would highly recommend that as we had a blast. In Antigua we missed the bus for our Kayak tour so we ended up booking the zipline tour through the ship and I was very disappointed with that (if you've never done a zipline it would just be ok, if you've done another zipline course you will probably be bored, annoyed and disappointed). In St. Maarten we shared a Jeep rental with another couple which wasn't as expensive as I thought it was going to be and we visited Marigot and Maho Beach and loved them both.
Our room steward, waiter and assistant waiter were all Superb and we even had a nice amount of interaction with the head waiter this time which was nice. It's true what they say, the crew on the Explorer is great in general with more than a few who are even better. We ran into some very helpful crew at Guest Relations. All of the photographers are great, but props to Celeste and James who were great fun and took some of our favorite pictures.
We thought the food was comparable to our last cruise back in 2006 and never had a problem finding something good to eat on the MDR menu. Windjammer was great for breakfast, especially the made-to-order omelets. Lunch in the MDR was generally better than the Windjammer with the Tutti Salad bar (if you let them know you are in a hurry when you first sit down they will keep things moving). Windjammer and Promenade Cafe were great during snack times and Johnny Rockets is always solid. Didn't try Portofinos as I was unable to convince the wife to pay for food when there was perfectly good food waiting for us in the MDR.
We were concerned about the temperature the first full day at sea, but were pleasantly surprised that it was warmer than we thought (it may have hit 60 that day) and with the sun people were out sunbathing a bit. The second full day was even warmer with the same being true on the last two days of the cruise.
There were plenty of activities to do onboard, at times there were too many any we had to choose. The ice shows were both great. The nightly shows were good, although the shows featuring the RC Singers & Dancers weren't our cup of tea so we skipped or bailed early on most of those.
From many of the reviews I've read I was concerned about the condition of the ship. There was no need for that concern as the ship looks great. Those that complain about the condition are obviously looking for something to complain about. The ship looks great, just as good as the Mariner did back in 2006. Make sure you don't look up at the bottom of the balconies as you walk along the side of the ship on the dock as you may see some rust...oh my!
Disembarking was a breeze and before we knew it were back at the hotel picking up our car and on our way back home until the next time.