This was our first time on the Elegant Explorer and we were a little concerned due to it's age. The trip began with a rough start. The ship had to be deep cleaned as it had Noro which delayed embarkation by nearly 2 and 1/2 hours. Of course, the ship was under code red which can put a damper on any cruise.
Once embarkation began we were shortly permitted to go to our cabins and our spirits were immediately lifted. Our stewards introduced themselves, asked when we wanted ice and other things each day. (Ice and any other items arrived promptly each day of the cruise after that)
The Deluxe Veranda Suites on this ship are very well laid out. Very spacious with two comfy sofas and a very huge, comfy share. Curtains surround the bed at night so that the sleeping area becomes a separate space. Very nice as I am an early riser and this way I did not wake up my husband. Washroom is very well laid out and very comfy.
While code red was in place for nearly 12 days, the crew worked long and hard to defeat it. Unfortunately some passengers did not report or quarantine themselves or co-operate with the protocols which made it difficult to get the noro under control. Thankfully, it was controlled before the Transatlantic began.
This was our first time on this ship. We loved the Crow's Nest. The Pinnacle Grill was the best I have seen on a HAL ship. The staff there are incredible and the manager, Daniel is the epitomy of excellence.
I have never seen officers (and even the captain) inspecting the cleaning as on this ship. There is no question that this captain runs a tight ship and is proud of her (and rightfully so).
the crew on the ship get to know you easily and quickly and are always greeting you no matter where they might see you.
Unfortunately, the mud slides in Cinque Terre prevented us from going there but La Spezia was still enjoyable. The St. Tropez stop had to be cancelled as well due to storms. our private guide who we had booked was glad that it had been cancelled. She said this wasn't the France she wanted to show us. Apparently even the dock was badly damaged. What i did appreciate from the Captain was the early notification that the St. Tropez port was being cancelled and instead he advised that he was heading to Barcelona and we would overnight there.
The ship ended up with two overnights. One in Barcelona and the other in Cadiz.
A couple of other nice touches - cruising the strait of Gibralter was in daylight so everything could be seen.
The captain got special permission to scenic cruise (very close to the island) La Gomera in the Canary Islands before we left the Canaries and headed across the ocean.
The weather was excellent most days. The transatlantic weather was very good. Despite the captain announcing 3 - 5 metre waves on some days, the Elegant Explorer cut through the waves and the ride was very smooth.
I hunted for all this wear and tear that I have read about. Yes, there are some minor indications but overall the ship was in very good shape. She is scheduled to go into dry dock in 2012. I just hope they don't make any major changes to the ship.
We had some marvelous ports. 2 in the Canary Islands - Fuerteventura and La Gomera. The latter is rarely visited by cruise ships. These are the two least touristy of the Canaries. They were the hardest ports to get information on and turned out to be wonderful surprises.
On the Transatlantic, there were several buffets hosted on the Lido deck at lunch time. These were very good. For those considering an S on this ship, I would recommend the Sports Deck. On bar-b-que days, you could smell the smoke on the lower deck on some days.
The only negative I heard in regards to cabins were some of the aft cabins that had been added. You can hear vibrations in these rooms.
Everyone else had nothing but wonderful things to say about the rooms. Many have walk in closets. There is a hallway to many rooms so that they avoid a lot of noise. Plenty of storage - how can you go wrong?
The food was quite good - except for desserts in the MDR. One way to avoid gaining weight. The Pinnacle Grill and Le Cirque were both magnificent.
This is a ship not a floating hotel and that's probably one of the reasons we liked her.
This itinerary was unique as is the next one we have booked on her.