Explorer of the Seas is a well run ship. The public rooms are nice. The entertainment is mostly pleasant. We met several nice people on the cruise.
However, the staterooms need serious refurbishing. Our suite #1314 was large and comfortable BUT the bathroom stank to high heaven. There was a sewage odor coming from the drains in the sinks and bathtub. We were told that the ship's engineers were working on the problem. By the end of the trip it did not improve. :( (Fancy toiletries and bathrobes don't make it go away) That was a big downer for a first time cruising couple like us. The balcony wasn't big but it was nice. It's a beautiful place to look out over the sea and stars. (Always get a outside balcony, if possible)
Our room attendant was attentive to our needs and very personable. He was always willing to chat and ask about our time on the ship. Our room was always neat and straightened up. The ice bucket was always full. I love the towel animals. We were surprised by the big flat screen TV with a DVD player.
The food on the 10 day voyage was good but not spectacular. We booked 'my time dining' as we were with friends and family. Our waitress Maria was terrific. She took very good care of us and was always smiling. Maria took the time to learn our names and food preferences. The appetizers and desserts were highlight of almost every meal. Ice cream was available every meal. Mmmmmm.
I would not suggest eating at the Windjammer unless you have to. The food was generally bland and unimaginative. The tables are very crowded. Portofino, the specialty restaurant, is an excellent choice for a change of pace but be aware of the $20.00 surcharge per person. The ship has a Johnny Rockets that was fun to visit. The waiters sing and dance. The food was nearly the same as most Johnny Rockets in the states. Unfortunately they did not know how to make a proper malted. JR has a surcharge too but worth it. I did not take the beverage plan on the cruise. Personally I think it is a ripoff at the price. You have to drink at least four fountain sodas a day to break even. Sodas per can weren't a bargain at $2.25 either. Liquor was fairly priced with a generous pour.
Luke Aerosmith the cruise director was energetic. How does he keep up the maniac pace, I do not know. Luke always seemed on duty. The production shows improved as the cruise continued. The smaller venues were much better and more intimate. They could improve the specialty acts like the juggler and magician. Reminded me of the Ed Sullivan show when I was little. The ice show was a nice surprise. Who expects that in the middle of the Caribbean sea?
The pools and whirlpools were pretty but I never dipped a toe in water as the weather was too windy for me. I wished I had. They looked so nice.
Most suites qualify for concierge services. It is worth it. Our concierge Carlos Ortiz, was professional and helpful at all times. We were able to board and disembark early. There was continental breakfast available in the mornings and hor d'orves with drinks in the evening at the concierge lounge. DVDs were available to borrow but most of the titles were rather old. Besides who goes on a cruise to watch DVDs? Concierge service includes priority seating at the production shows and ice shows. A nice bonus.
The ports were a mixed bag. Some were better than others. St. Maarten looks so sad compared to St. Thomas. St. Thomas is a shopping mecca. The stay at Puerto Rico was too short for more than a quick walking tour. Labadee Beach was an unexpected treat. Lovely beach. We even went jet skiing there. WOW!
It is important to fill out the guest review form at the end of the cruise, especially to recognize good service. The Royal Caribbean main office and staff take it very seriously. We booked 'my time dining' which automatically adds gratuities but we liked the service by the crew so most that we added a bit more. My only beef about tips, is what did the head waiter do for us and why should we tip him/her?
It's sad to return home. I miss my towel animals