Make that Great! The Crew of the Explorer of the Seas were great
All employees were smiling, friendly and anxious to provide whatever was needed at the time. I asked questions. They were patient and explained their answers. When they did not have an answer, they got back to me when they did, sometimes running me down to do it. I will mention just a few names. Arlene, in the Spa made sure I got the services I wanted and was pleased with my visit. Bethany, on the front desk was never flummoxed by a question. Nicole in the My Time dining room was very good at her job. Watching the faces of those at her other tables, I was not alone in enjoying her service and her sense of humor. Ronald, our cabin steward took care of requests large and small and was always handy when we needed him. Ronald repeatedly asked how things were going and what he could do to make things better. He provided extra padding for the abominable sofa bed, more on that in the cabin review. I would be happy to see Ronald again on another cruise. I was truly impressed at how well this crew knows their boat and how to get things done. Their people skills are also admirable.
The My Time Dining Room
We wanted to eat at 7:30. Getting the server you want can mean some compromises. In our case, it was a smaller table and changing assistant waiters. With a little planning and forethought these thing can probably be worked out satisfactorily.
My per person rate was something like $107.00. Where else can you get a balcony room, in the Caribbean, all the food you can eat, and visits to five islands including transportation to each for about $100.00 a day. This was for a triple in a D-1 cabin on deck #9. Cabins without a balcony, on lower decks or inside cabins would obviously be even more of a bargain.
Crown & Anchor Society
Gift in the cabin on arrival, invitations to several parties and events. Most useful and appreciated priority embarkation and debarkation.
The Truly Ordinary has to be the food, menu and preparation, not service.
The phrase, "to damn with faint praise" comes to mind. The food is certainly plentiful, varied, and available pretty much 24/7. Anyone who does not check out each line in the buffet before making selections in the Windjammer misses a lot. The Jade buffet has wonderful things, influenced by Asian tastes. There is a British area where you can find baked beans, British bacon, and some sort of blood pudding, all for breakfast. It would be hard not to find something you like. In the My Time Dining Room, for the first time ever, we were told there was a shortage of lobsters and there would be no seconds. Serving sizes were smaller, not always a bad thing. Steaks were so small I wondered how the kitchen get them browned on the outside and medium rare on the inside. Roast beef was served as ordered, perfectly medium rare. A steak knife was provided and needed. Sauces were disappointing. I do understand sauces are tricky but the Bearnaise was disappointing. Salmon was always available and my "go to" when nothing else appealed. I had hoped for a better fish selection, maybe even a local fish at least once. It was not to be. When the main dining room offered trout at lunch, I was again disappointed, because it turned out to be salmon trout. It was cut like salmon, the color of salmon and tasted like salmon. Nothing wrong with it, unless you are on the trail of a flat,white fish like Sole. Sole was served once, at night, unfortunately with a sort of tomato sauce. The salads prepared in the dining room at lunch were really wonderful, you get to choose exactly what you want. Desserts were fine and if chocolate got to be too much, there were ice cream and sorbet.
There were two formal nights and they were not very formal. I wish that I had taken fewer dressy tops and a sweater or something to keep me warmer in the dining room. Plain slacks and long sleeved blouses would have done just fine most of the time. I got attacked by the salt in the food, I guess, and wish I had brought looser shoes. This was a complaint I heard from others.
The really bad, the sofa bad, has been reviewed elsewhere.
Crown & Anchor Society.
Believe it or not, memory played a big part in how much I enjoyed my cruise. If I did not remember when the first two bottles of water in a cabin were gratis, I would have cheerfully paid for my bottled water. If I did not remember the special hand soaps, the shampoo and conditions, and the hand and body lotions in the bathroom, I would not have been disappointed. If I did not remember and look forward to a towel transformation each night, I would have been happy with every other night towel creatures. If the small chocolate on my pillow at turn-down were not an At Sea Tradition, I would not have been dismayed by its absence. To me, the end of an enjoyable era is being signaled. Perhaps the future for RCCL lies in attracting newer rather than returning passengers.
A first class operation cannot be sustained on the backs of service employees. Decisions taken by middle and upper level management in offices on shore will sooner, rather than later, cause a real dissatisfaction experienced by everyone on board. Expectations created by cruise companies themselves are not being met. In attempting to fill cabins, fares are lowered. These fares will fill cabins, no doubt about that. But the fare will be about the only revenue seen. On board venues like bars and shops will have more "lookers" than spenders. As this revenue drops of, more amenities get cut. On this particular cruise, the last bingo game was cancelled because not enough people were interested in playing. Cheap fares may attract new customers but they do not guarantee passenger satisfaction. What they do guarantee is that returning passengers will be disappointed. Change is well on the way. The new "Sea is Calling" ads show people enjoying the decks and they do not focus on long gone luxury. With the Sunshine ships on order, and the need to fill even more cabins, a new outlook is sorely needed. Perhaps the coming sea change will result in a more rational view of what passengers really want and cruise lines can realistically provide.