This is my 15th cruise overall, and my 6th on Explorer itself. On this cruise was myself (40), my husband (39), my daughter (12), my mother (60) and my father (71). The morning of the cruise, we arrived at the terminal at around 11:30. We were onboard around noon. The check-in was painless, and the wait for our bus was less than 5 minutes. Our rooms were ready after 1pm, all our bags were waiting for us, so we unpacked, and began our vacation.
We started this long cruise with 3 sea days, as we made our way to the Caribbean. I was actually looking forward to three sea days like you wouldn't believe, because of events that had been making my life hectic the couple of months prior. The sea days didn't disappoint! I slept until I wanted to, got up and went to the gym, then joined my parents on their balcony for coffee, and waited for my husband and daughter to wake up. Once they did, we would all head up to the Windjammer for breakfast. After that, we had our pick of many activities. We took advantage of the trivia games and scavenger hunts that the ship offered, which made for a great time! We also used the cards and games from the game room up near the Viking Crown Lounge. Also on this cruise was something I hadn't seen on a cruise before; they offered "Enrichment Lectures". Every sea day, they would have a couple speakers on different subjects. We took interest in Daniel Lynch, who would speak about fitness and health for a half hour on every sea day in the Schooner Bar. Very interesting information! I thought that was a great idea by RCI. Then once the weather got nicer, we sat out by the pool and just relaxed. Dinner every night was at 6pm, and the food was great to outstanding. Our servers Nilesh and Ritvan were outstanding, and we had the best head waiter of any cruise; very helpful and visible and attentive. Ekran was his name, maybe? I can't remember. On the first night, I had ordered a cake for my parent's anniversary, and it arrived with celebration! The staff sung "Happy Anniversary" to them, and lit the candles on the cake. We celebrated with some Asti Spumante, and it was such a fun and special time. After dinner we would hit 8:00 trivia in the Schooner Bar every single night. We won a number of times. A bar waiter named Kendall in the Schooner Bar always took great care of us. RCI also had "Interactive Trivia", which is like an NTN trivia. First time I ever saw that on a ship! It was great fun, as you are given handheld devices to record your answers. Lots of fun! During the week, we also took advantage of the Mini Golf and my daughter did the Rock Climbing. On the first sea day, the Cruise Critic Meet & Mingle was held in The Chamber. This was the ONE morning I woke up so late and had to rush to get there (one minute late), and then I had to leave RIGHT after the M&M so I did get to meet only some CC members, but then I had to spend the rest of the cruise looking out for the rest. I did find many more, so that was nice! I do NOT like the M&Ms in The Chamber, however. It is so dark in there, it's not very conducive to meeting and greeting! Also in the evening, there was guitar music with Igor in the Schooner Bar. He was excellent as well, and nice to sit and have a drink and wind down the night to.
I didn't take advantage of all the late-night activities, because I am one to be in bed early and up early. (Total reverse of the 'old me'! LOL)
This was my daughter's first time with the 12-14 age group on the ship. Because there weren't many kids, the teens were combined and it was ages 12-17. But it didn't matter, because the scheduled activities for the teens only depend on IF the teens want to do it. It is unlike the younger Adventure Ocean groups, where the scheduled activities always go on. Not so with the teens. If no one wants to do it, then it gets cancelled. Which was a bit of a bummer for my daughter. The teens are allowed to come and go as they please, so they would hang out in Optix (the teen lounge) and then just decide to take off and roam around. Well, sorry, but my 12 year old was not allowed to roam around with teens she just met! She was allowed to do the teen Scavenger Hunts as long as she was WITH a partner and ONLY stayed in public areas, not outside, and no cabin hallways. They did hold Teen Ice Skating, and she did attend that, but only about 5 or so kids actually skated. So those times were fine, but other than that, she stuck with the 4 of us. Which was fine, she actually enjoyed the trivia games and some of the shows we saw.
The ports were all wonderful. In St. Maarten, we took the Water Taxi to the nearest beach and rented chairs and basked in the sun all day. In St. Thomas, we went to closeby Emerald Beach, and it was beautiful! In Puerto Rico, we took a horse and buggy ride. And Labadee...well, this is my favorite spot in the world! Absolutely beautiful! And the Labadoozies are the best. The new pier is so much better than tendering! And when we were sailing away from Labadee, we were fortunate to be on our balcony on the starboard side of the ship so we could see the Haitian dancers performing for us as we were sailing away, and waving us off! It was beautiful, and it really left a great memory of that island.
We only saw some of the shows after dinner. For the second time on Explorer, we saw The Unexpected Boys. They are a cover group of The Four Seasons. They are excellent! My parents, who are big fans of the Four Seasons, especially enjoyed them. They sounded just like them! We also saw a juggler/comedian, who was very good at what he did, but it's just not my cup of tea, and neither are production shows. In addition, we saw a man who was once with The Drifters. I cannot remember his name, but he was 79, and he was awesome! Even my 12 year old daughter enjoyed it very much. He put on a wonderful show.
We really could not find a horrible thing about this vacation. We had a starboard balcony cabin on Deck 8, and our stateroom attendant Elmer went above & beyond to help us out. The ship looked good and the staff was great. At the Meet & Mingle, the speaker said that the Explorer of the Seas has the highest loyalty following, and you can see why. It is a great ship with a great staff. We booked yet another cruise on her for next Fall.
Debarking was also painless. We breezed through customs, although we heard that we may have just made it in time. We heard there were people waiting on buses behind us for quite a while because of some issues with passengers and customs. But all in all, it was an absolutely wonderful vacation, and cannot wait for our next Explorer cruise!