My hubby & I took our first cruise on Explorer of the seas, leaving from New Jersey August 2011. 1st mistake was not staying in a hotel nearer the port (that was down to who we booked with) On arrival queue's were really long, lucky us had booked through Virgin so were moved over to shorter queue and only took 1/2 hour to book in & get aboard ship. lifts over-subscribed so walked up to 6th floor to find our cabin which was lovely with balcony. Decided to find our way around before having lunch at the Windjammer amazing choice of food available & staff so friendly, helpful & hardworking. Went up to the 13th deck to watch ship leave port wondering if the dreaded sea sickness would hit, and no it did not,(was worried about this)Drinks before dinner then off to the 20.30hrs sitting table for 8 as wanted to meet new people, poss not a good idea, first 4 people to join the table took one look at us and changed tables (not sure why "were a nice couple") may have been the colour of our skin (We are White) Not too impressed with food in the main dinning room, cold or lukewarm. We did go back 2 other times to eat but had to complain twice before the food was hot, so decided to use the Windjammer to eat in instead as the choice's were great & food exceptional.
Breakfast: We decided to use the coffee area for breakfast, coffee, rolls, raisin bread & danish pastries were lovely, if going late after 11.30 fresh cookies amazing and choice of filled rolls & slices of pizza.
Entertainment in the bars: Musicians were very talented but singers they were not,could bring tears to your eyes, the guitarist was amazing and anyone could listen to him all night long. The bar staff were professional & the cocktails amazing.
Shows: the ice show was fantastic and well worth watching. other shows good & entainers very professional.
Shopping on board:Sales on handbags & shawls good value for money, everything else out of our price range.
Booking excursions: Easy to book & staff very helpful with choices.
Stateroom cleaning: Rooms were cleaned & beds made up as soon as you went for breakfast, beds turned down each eve & towels made up to look like animals very cute.
Pool areas: Stayed by the over 18 pool area, nice & quite, plenty of loungers available & staff to bring you drinks.
Gym: I only used once,liked been lazy, but did enjoy Hubby used most days & also the running track on 12th deck.
Would have liked to have massage/beauty treatment but felt was much too expensive.
People on the cruise were very friendly and the atmosphere relaxing, would definitely go on a cruise again.
On return back to New Jersey were following Hurricane Irene (Bad News) New york was been closed down & we would not be flying home that eve. Not all cab drivers were nice, check prices etc before you get in.Not able to get hold of Virgin to find out what to do, so booked into local hotel, Courtyard Marriott to sit Irene out.Had an extra couple of days in NY before we flu home.