First, let me say I never read reviews or look to much into what other people say about the ship or destination I'm heading to. I like to form my own opinions without looking for what others didn't like. I always find it ridiculous when people say one cruise line is better than another, or because they had a bad experience on a ship that they will never again sail with that company. You have to realize that so many things factor into the chemistry of your vacation experience. The ship, destination, weather, staff and crew, fellow passengers, even the cruise director that week, etc. That all being said, after I return I look into the reviews and see how much of what I experienced rang true with other travelers.
The port in New Jersey was easy enough, but I heard differently from several guests. Perhaps it's because we read online that you couldn't board until 1PM so we made our travel arraignments so we didn't arrive until then. We were wrong passengers had been boarding for hours and we were some of the final guests to board so it went very quickly. My advise to avoid the lines would be show up later in the day.
All ports of call were great, I don't overpay for excursions from the ship as we find much cheaper options on the piers, But for ease and peace of mind, Royal Caribbean does a good job offering excursions and I have in the past used the service.
Days at sea can get a little boring especially leaving out of NJ in November. The first few days are to chilly to use the pool deck and the last day and a half or so is the same story. With no one on the pool deck the rest of the ship gets quite crowded and activities are often canceled if they were scheduled outside do to wind and weather sailing up the Atlantic coast. These days were used for kicking back and relaxing. Take a book order a fruity drink and remember you're on vacation, it was still better than being home with responsibility.
I won't comment to much on my opinion of the food as I am a rather bland eater. I can be happy with a hamburger and fries, but my wife was not overly impressed. We specifically requested a table for 2 as our trip was to be a romantic getaway celebrating an anniversary and a Birthday. First night of dinner rubbed us the wrong way as we headed to our 8 person table. We went to the Maitre d to explain and after a rather snotty exchange we got moved to a different dining room to another 8 person table, but were told that we would be the only 2 at the huge table. That was our first and last night we spent in the main dining room. I don't really like eating on a schedule and can do without all the formal stuff. One major disappointment was the lack of a Midnight Gala Buffet. This is one of the main feature I think of when I think of cruising. In fact there seamed to be fewer fruit and ice carvings then I remember from past cruises too.
They are slowly taking the little things away that make you smile. This is the first cruise I've been on that I didn't get folded towel creatures on my bed every night, and the chocolates on the pillow are also long gone. No more are the days you can prepay for your vacation and just go. Make sure to stop at the bank and get at least $100 bucks in 1 dollar bills. I understand tipping is part of vacations now and I'm not talking about the 15% gratuity added to every drink, or the tips for your servers and room stewards. I was surprised to see the bands around the ship all have tip jars, when I did see any fruit or ice carvings, the artist was standing proudly by with a tip jar and if you wanted a picture, it was expected to tip. Even in Labadee (Royal Caribbean Private resort) to sit on the beach, employees jumped to carry your lounge chair to your spot and stood there with hands out waiting for tips. I wasn't prepared for all the cash handouts and often felt foolish because I didn't carry enough cash on me. Even around the ship there are more and more options to keep your cash flowing. There are charges for several restaurants on the ship, a room service charge, and even at your main seating dining, it you want a filet steak, it will cost you extra.
My room steward was a little pushy and rude. The room was not set up correctly as we had 2 twin beds set up. Our room steward was a no show our first night so I did what I could to move furniture around and push the beds together so we could kind of sleep in the same bed to start our anniversary cruise. We were also promised chocolate covered strawberries on our anniversary, but that didn't happen. I never understood, why they have to clean your room twice a day, but I guess that's their job. There were several times when after a dip in the pool we returned to our room and it was being cleaned again, as we stood there sopping wet we were told she'd be done in 10 min. Umm... So we'll go stand in the hallway in our towels. After a few times you could tell it irritated her and she would roll her eyes and make us feel as if we were doing something wrong by trying to use our room. We had a mini bar in our room and even though I always say "No way I'm paying that much for a can of soda" I end up breaking down and going through them (smart move royal c) however after a few nights we were out of coke and after 3 days of expecting it to be filled after the next cleaning.... It wasn't. We finally said something to our steward and again with her eyes rolling she told us it was not her job, but she could make a call for us. Who's job is it? She is the one taking the empty soda cans out, who else would know it needed filled. After another day (last day) it was filled.
The rest of the staff was pretty great. Learning our names, what we liked to drink and always greeted us with a smile.
The live entertainment was also pretty good. I prefer the bands and musicians playing in the various bars and lounges, and they were all top notch. We didn't go to many of the main theater shows, but from what we did see, it was expected cruise ship shows. It would be nice to see them start to switch things up a little bit. I don't know if I can keep watching the same stereotypical "Love and marriage show" or adult scavenger hunt. They have all been done and I could pretty much predict every word that came out of their mouths. But for first time cruisers, or those with short memories, I'm sure they still get a kick out of those things.
Lastly the reason for the name of my review. Throughout the cruise in certain areas of the ship including our state room we would walk into a wall of stink. It was nasty, like raw sewage. Asking the crew got you know where. They acted like they couldn't smell it. One morning we were some of the first to enter the Windjammer for breakfast and it smelled so bad we instantly lost our appetite. The closet thing we got to an answer was a waiter told us it may be the water in the steam tables. Even the cruise director himself acted like he had no idea what anyone was talking about. He hosts a show called the "Late night/Early morning show" that appears on your tv in your room and a few guests even wrote into him asking about it. I was shocked and a little upset to come back and look up reviews from over the last few cruises that described the same exact problem. In retrospect, how could none of the staff know anything about it, especially the cruise director himself? I think this reflects more on Royal Caribbean than anything. It seems their policy is to act like there is no problem while they "try" to fix it, and smile and lie when asked about it. It would probably set them back millions to cancel cruises and dock it and fix it right so instead they try to manage it, and it's just not working. It's unacceptable, now knowing about past problems it explains all the bathrooms that were out of order and overflowing, the stains in the carpet and leaking ceilings. Yuck, I guess I'm glad I didn't know. I hope they fix these problems, the Explorer has great potential and overall a wonderful staff as of now. I will cruise again, but will continue to broaden my horizons and try new ports, ships and destinations. I've been on 7 different ships and the explorer has to be on of the most forgettable ships I've been on. It is in need of a major overhaul. Chipped paint, rust spots, and stained carpet throughout the ship. I really don't let that take too much away from my trip though. And again as a I stated in my opining paragraph, it's all about the chemistry and if you replaced the Maitre D and room steward, fix the sewage system, I would have enjoyed it much more. My overall satisfaction for this cruise would be about a 6/10. If not for the few minor issues it could have been and 8 or 9 out of 10.
Great location. Located near elevators and stairs. Typical interior cabin, small, but gets the job done.