We have cruised many times, including many times previously with RCCL, but this may have been our favorite cruise. The crew of the Explorer was outstanding. They couldn't do enough for us and were always friendly. The shows were good. Our suite was wonderful and so relaxing. The concierge, Carlos, was incredibly helpful. The dining room staff was amazing, especially the dining room managers. The food was great. We would definitely do RCCL again and again and again.....and after seeing how they operate, we are even considering buying stock in the company.
Now the details:
Boarding was easy, fast, and convenient. We were also able to go to our suite immediately, even though we were early. We have stayed in the Royal Family Suite before and loved it. Two bedrooms (one with 4 twins, one with a queen), two bathrooms (one with a tub), a living room, walk in closet, tons of storage, living room, small eating area, doorbell, AND an amazing balcony with a table and 4 chairs and 4 lounges. I LOVED spending my days and nights here. We also had one of the best room stewards ever, Wendell, who my 4 teenage boys adored and who was incredibly helpful and professional. The walk to the elevators is down a kind of long hallway (the suite is in the back of the ship) but the 3 room stewards on the walk down were so funny, kind, and happy that we always looked forward to seeing them.
The suite came with many amenties including access to the lounge on Deck 9. This area is reserved for Diamond Plus, Pinnacle, and suite guests. I met some wonderful people here and enjoyed sitting there from 5-6 socializing. There are also free hors doevres and drinks from around 5-8:30 every night. A continental breakfast is also available every morning in the lounge. I also found the lounge coffee to be significantly better than the coffee on the ship. We also LOVED Carlos, the concierge. He was so pleasant and was quick to accomodate our needs and solve our problems. He was so helpful and truly made our cruise amazing. He also reminded us of events, benefits, etc. We were thrilled with his service. There were other suite amenities, like reserved seats by the pool and at the shows, no wait for ice tickets, special breakfast seating, etc. We also rented a cabana in Labadee for $150 which was fabulous and well worth the cost. It was beautiful and so relaxing. The perks and space in the suite certainly made the extra cost of a suite well worth it.
The shows were good, though many we had seen before. I do wish shows were rotated more frequently. Our favorite was the comedian on the last night who was fabulous. The cruise director, Jimmy, was okay. I may have been spoiled by having Colin the Cruise Director on our first cruise years ago and have come to expect his energy which I have never seen since our first cruise. Jimmy was friendly but I just felt like he wasn't outgoing enough. He was very nice and pleasant.
The food was great. There were many options, and our party of 15 had many special needs which the dining staff did whatever needed to be done to meet our needs. I am a raw vegan and they made sure that I had a salad with dark greens and fruit and grapefruit available. I was also able to bring my own salad dressing and granola on board. Most in my party were kosher, and while the kosher food was not great (Weberman's), it wasn't the ship's fault and they met our needs by providing kosher food and double-wrapping fish to our taste, and providing a buffet of salad at our table every night. The dining staff was spectacular, both in the formal area and in the Windjammer. Oscar, Emrah, and Sethi were amazing.
The most impressive part of the cruise was when a passenger became deathly ill on our return home. We were about 1/3 of the way back to Cape Liberty when a call went out asking people to donate blood. People did. Then, the captain decided to turn around and return to Puerto Rico (the closest hospital) to save the passenger's life. I am absolutely AMAZED and in AWE of this decision. Thousands of passengers were inconvenienced, the cruise ship had to spend a lot of extra money, and a huge headache for everyone....all to save one life. The crew and RCCL was amazing. We were always kept informed of the plans and how the patient was doing. We were able to watch the helicopter land on the ship from a distance, and it was amazing when the helicopter left to a loud and grateful applause. Again, RCCL went far beyond what was required, and did everything they could to help each and every passenger. I was so proud of what they did. We returned on a Saturday, and for religious reasons, we had many issues, but once again, RCCL far exceeded all of our expectations in accommodating us. I can't say enough about this company. If I or someone I know was ever to be sick on a cruise ship, I would pray that it would be on RCCL. They were absolutely amazing.
The captain was very personable, and we could easily understand him when announcements....something that has been challenging in the past. He also kept us updated about what was happening and about the weather ahead. He was very open and personable. I hope to have him as a captain again as I think he was the best we have ever had.
Overall, I give this cruise a 100/10......the ship is a little older, BUT the quality of the crew far exceeds the few signs of age. I can't wait to return to the Explorer of the Seas!!!! Kudos to Adam Goldstein, Captain Henrick, and all of the Explorer crew. Royal Caribbean is truly impressive. Thank you!