My husband and I sailed on the October 27 sailing of the Explorer of the Seas heading to the Eastern Caribbean. This was our second time on Explorer, our 5th on RCCL and our 7th cruise overall. Our main purpose of this cruise, besides seeing the various ports, was to rest and relax and we certainly accomplished that goal.
We took a charter bus arranged by our travel company to the port. Embarkation went smoothly and took less than 45 minutes. We went up to the Windjammer for lunch and were in our room around 1:00 PM with our luggage arriving shortly thereafter. Unfortunately, it was raining, so the sail away party was moved indoors. The party was not nearly as fun as if it had been up on deck. Throughout the day we met some of our cruise critic roll call friends who were easily identified by a t-shirt that someone in our group designed.
We chose My Time Dining as we like to be flexible to let our days play out as well as be around to see the sunset. Prior to sailing we received several emails from RCCL asking us to pre-book our dining reservations. However, we thought that pre-booking our dining times would defeat the purpose of My Time Dining. When we got to the ship, we discovered that we would be enjoying "their time" dining as we had to take whatever times were available. We also had to share a table a few times when we prefer to have a table for two. One evening we had to wait over 30 minutes for our table with a reservation. This was such a change from our last sailing on Explorer, when we sat in the same area, with the same waiter, at whatever time we chose, and sat at a table for two every night. I can't be positive, but it seemed like there was less staff in the dining room and things seemed a bit chaotic at times. We still had a good dining experience and everything we ordered was of good quality. We also tried quite a few of the sugar free desserts along with sharing a dessert most nights.
We also ate in the Windjammer, Cafe Promenade and had room service. All our experiences were positive ones.
We felt that the ship was in good shape and kept quite clean. The staff, as always was very friendly, but as stated above, it felt like there was less staff. For instance, on our last day at sea there was only one employee in the store that sells the cigarettes and liquor. The line was out the door onto the Promenade.
Our cabin was on the 7th deck mid-ship on the starboard side. It was convenient to the stairs and elevators. We had a balcony room which had plenty of storage. We spent a lot of time on the balcony reading and had room service meals there a few times. I do want to mention that there was a very strong sewer odor on many of the decks. The cruise compass started running reminders not to flush anything other than TP down the toilets. Apparently something was flushed down a toilet causing a block and then a burst of sewer pipes.
We only went to the theater once because the shows were the same as our last sailing on Explorer. We did enjoy the entertainment in the bars and on the promenade. We attended the farewell show and thought the comedian was very funny.
We didn't have trouble finding chairs on the pool deck; however one day we did have a confrontation with some people who had walked away from their chairs for over an hour. The chairs were prime seating and people in the row behind stated that several people had wanted to sit there, but the people who left their towels behind had been gone over 1 hour. The chair hogs came back as we were talking to the others and started arguing about how long they were gone. We found other chairs and the chair hogs proceeded to leave one of their party behind going about their merry way leaving four prime lounge chairs vacant.
We booked two shore excursions through the cruise line. One was the St. John Coastal Cruise of National Park Beaches. The ferry picked us up right at the pier. We had a tour of the coast and nearby islands and then were dropped off in St. John with time to go to a beach or walk around. Our second excursion was the zip line on Labadee. The tickets we received in our state room stated that we were to meet at the Dragon's Breath Pub 15 minutes before our reserved time. When we got to the pub, the bar tender told us to wait down stairs. When the meeting time arrived and we were the only ones waiting we knew we were in the wrong place. We should have gone to the building that said "Dragon Flight Line Sign In." We felt kind of foolish having followed the directions on the ticket because no one else had a problem knowing where to report. We got our harnesses on and listened to our instructor, practiced on the practice line and then were trucked up to the platform. The Dragon Flight is 500 feet above sea level, 2,600 feet long, with speeds between 40-50 miles per hour. (I had a bit of anxiety having zip lined before, but the harness on this flight line makes you feel so secure. The harness almost forms a chair so you actually feel secure like you are sitting down.) We had an awesome flight -â€" very exhilarating.
Part of what made this cruise so great was our Cruise Critic Roll Call group. We had a very active message board with over 4300 posts. Some of the people in our group had already bonded as they had been on this cruise together last year. Our meet and mingle was scheduled for the first day at sea and about 85 people attended. RCCL provided lemonade, water and some food. They also had some raffle prizes and gave everyone a RCCL gift. Some of us participated in a grab bag gift of our own. Our group also held a slot pull where we all met in the casino and pooled our resources in a slot machine. We each put $15 in a slot machine and took the appropriate "pulls." When we were done we had less than $10/person left. As previously agreed, if we didn't have at least $10/person we would either keep playing the slots or do something else with the money. So we chose to put our money on the roulette wheel. We put most of the money, $100, on black and then chose a few numbers. The ball landed on black, we let it ride and the ball landed on black the second time and also one of our numbers. We called it quits and walked away with $17 -â€" each having won $2! Our last day at sea was raining so by word of mouth we organized another slot pull. Not quite as many people as the first, but still so much fun. This time when we got to the roulette wheel we had $150 which we turned into $600 -â€" each receiving $35 -â€" having won $20! We were all very excited and caused quite a commotion in the casino.
Although not perfect, we had a great time on a beautiful ship. Yes, there was some rust on our balcony, but we didn't let it detract from the beautiful views and sunsets we experienced.