My husband and I went on 9 day cruise to New England & Canada, sailing from Bayonne NJ on Royal Caribbean's Explorer of the Seas. We drove to NJ and stayed in Newark the night before. Hotel offered free parking during cruise, but we needed to pay additional $40 each way for driver to transport us to/from embarkation location. Process was easy and uncomplicated. Boarding ship was orderly and quick. Be prepared with boarding paperwork and ID in hand to help avoid delays. Also, baggage tags should be on luggage before arriving at port since baggage handlers will quickly collect your bags from the shuttle bus or taxi.
Lunch was readily available and plentiful once on ship. We managed a window seat without much effort, but it is nice to finish and allow others a chance to enjoy window once you're done with the meal. Food was hot, appealing. Not very exciting selection, but adequate to get everyone fed in due order. We were able to go to our staterooms early which was great. Until emergency drill, travelers can explore ship, but then must report to assigned muster areas. Info is announced over loud speakers as well as on boarding paperwork. If there are questions, room stewards are available and assisting with process. If you do not want to deal with stairs, use elevator early to reach your assigned area. Exercise is not very long, but you must stand out on open deck while being given emergency instructions. It happened to be pouring rain during our drill, but only the crew was getting wet since they had to stand out by railing.
Free beverage selection was limited on this cruiseship. There was coffee, tea selection, hot chocolate, weak lemonade, water, unsweetened tea, and a not-so-pleasant vitamin water offered during buffet meals. Off hours, free beverages are located on the Promenade ... but it took us a couple of days to locate it, unlike Carnival cruises. There was also no lemonade or vitamin water off hours.
Of course, cruisers can buy soda or wine plans ... very expensive. Unless you buy more than a couple of a sodas a day, it is cheaper just to buy a soda when you want one.
Beverages are available throughout the ship and at performances ... and easily charged to your account. Alchoholic drinks are worthwhile ... I particularly enjoyed the MUDSLIDE. They also make an excellent virgin Pina Colada.
Our interior cabin was quite small. There was no room to walk around to sides of bed, so if you are not able to easily get to your spot by crawling from end of bed ... you should get bigger stateroom! My husband and I will not tackle this again. Two people can not easily get dressed at the same time either, since there was so little room especially with small coffeetable in middle. Suitcases fit well under bed. Closet and drawer space was plentiful ... with numerous crannies for extra stuff. Recommend bringing a power strip for anything you need to plug in, like computers, cell phones, etc. There were 2 plugs in middle of room and that is it. Hairdryer had its own connection in drawer where it was located. For people with arthritis in their hands/shoulders, this could be a bit of a problem. Cord was not long and has to be stretched a little .. plus hand must hold down control to keep dryer turned on to dry hair.
Bed was extremely hard. When I called for help, steward brought an egg crate pad; however, pad was extremely thin and even when doubled, was not much of a cushion. I DO NOT RECOMMEND PEOPLE WITH ARTHRITIS BOOK AN INTERIOR CABIN!!!
Another issue we had with interior cabin ... we had no idea what time of day it was. Cabin was very dark with lights out, at any time of day. I had brought a small nightlight which used one of our 2 electrical plugs in the middle of the room. But outside light was blocked totally. There was no other means of night light. So, we had to use a cell phone to wake us for programs and breakfast instead of waking up naturally to light of some sort.
Service throughout ship was outstanding! Dining room staff was especially terrific and bent over backwards to meet our needs and exceed our expectations in a delightful way. We easily bonded with our servers and were quite happy with their ways of pleasing us. We recommend tipping them extra for all their hard work and care to making the cruise great.
By the way, it is not necessary to wear formal wear on the two formal dinners. We dressed nice, business casual and fit in well. Some people really enjoyed tuxes and dress-up, but none of our table members went that route.
Performances were outstanding. We enjoyed them all. Attending the ice show was a treat. Suggest getting your seat well in advance of the show ... we went early and enjoyed a drink, getting to know the servers and watching the crowd come into the theaters.
Process of leaving the ship was more lengthy. We were given assigned departure time and went to a designated area, but once our group was called, process went smoothly and without much hassle. Access to ground transportation was easy and expedient. Finding our luggage was not difficult. Although we hauled our own bags, there were porters everywhere to help. Next time, we will do that.
About mid-trip, the ship offered a $25 special for washing things like underwear, pajamas, shorts, t-shirts. A bag was left in the cabin ... $25 for as much as would fit. Other items would be washed at prevailing rate. Anytime, laundry services are available, but it was costly.
A couple of glasses were available in cabin bathroom, but we got plastic glasses from Promenade beverages to use in room. Tap water tasted great ... as did water at beverage location.
We never tried room service since our room was not comfortable for lounging. Also, food was readily available and we were full from our meals. Promenade beverage location also has other free desserts, pastries, fresh fruit, pizza, cookies.
Due to the bed, we probably will not cruise again with Royal Caribbean. More costly staterooms appeared to have better beds, but we were distressed that lesser beds would be provided in any room.
Also, we were young (55-58) compared to majority on this cruise. Average age was between 65 and 85. Many scooters, wheelchairs and walkers. We only saw a few teenagers and a handful of little children. For most part, this was not an issue since we were relaxing, but older cruisers were slow and clogged the elevators throughout the cruise. I guess this was a benefit to help us burn calories.
During bad weather, top decks may be closed. We had rain most of trip and ran through effects of hurricane, so using upper decks for pingpong, wall climbing, roller blading, etc was difficult if not closed entirely.
Spa was extremely expensive. During port days, there are bargain prices, but still expensive.
We had a wonderful time, but likely will not return to Royal Caribbean.