First - I must explain that I had NO IDEA that President's Week meant that we'd be on a ship with 1100+ kids. President' week is not a week long break for schools in PA....their lucky if they get to keep the Monday off if they don't lose it to snow days. So of course we weren't too pleased with that as we are a couple in our mid 30s (my husband's in his early 40s) without kids. There were not many travelers like us on the ship - the vast majority were families w/ children and then a few older couples. That being said, I will still give an objective review of this cruise as RCL can't control that. We had cruised Celebrity's new ships (Solstice and Eclipse) the past 2 years and enjoyed them thoroughly but we had previously cruised w/ RCL and always felt they were more "fun" ships than Celebrity. That's why we decided on RCL this year. We chose Explorer simply to avoid air-fare for the trip as the air was very expensive that week. Neither the itinerary or ship itself was a big draw for us as we had cruised Voyager class before and had been to all ports of call other than Labadee.
The ship itself is what we remember of the Voyager - nice/big/cool features (namely the promenade). However, you can see the age of the ship in areas, especially the staterooms (see below). There was a smell as some reviewers mentioned sometimes I smelt it faintly in our bathroom, as well as some of the public restrooms, it seems like its from the running water/sinks. We smelt it pretty badly when we walked the aft of deck 4 one afternoon.
The dining was REALLY disappointing. Windjammer was one of the worst selections of food I've ever encountered on a cruise - that includes 1 Carnival which I felt had sub-par food. We opted for "My Time" dining....total nightmare....very disorganized. We had a standing 7:30 reservation - we waited in line to be seated every night - usually for about a half hour. This sometimes caused us to miss shows, which really annoyed me. The first night we were served ice cold coffee and tea, each time we ordered the fish option it was either fishy or dry. I have to mention here that it was Ash Wed. during our cruise and they really didn't offer any good Lenten options for those that observe. I feel they also missed a fun opportunity to do something for Fat Tuesday that week too. All of the servers that waited on us each night (we had many as we were seated in different sections each night) were all very nice and accommodating. The issues are really more process driven it seems - the people are great. Though I heard a rumor that some of the waiters were sick on this cruise so I think we felt something that we never felt before on a cruise - the sense of the dining room being short-staffed.
Portifino's - unimpressive. We've done the speciality restaurants on each cruise and had actually done this one on Voyager before and remembered being impressed - not this time. Service was lack luster and food was just ok.
Pool deck - Forget it. Total nightmare as you could imagine with that many kids. We had no desire to be near the pool itself but the first nice day at sea we walked the decks 3-4 times trying to secure even 1 chair to lay out and couldn't because of all of the "savers". Finally we found one, dragged it to an area that had more room and my husband and I shared it until someone felt bad enough that they gave us one of their "saved" chairs. In regards to the "adult" pool - it didn't exist on this cruise - there were many kids in the Solarium each day.
Spa - good services, high prices, high pressure sales pitch at the end of each service - enough said.
Gym - unfortunately I only made it once but my husband went more often, it was quite nice.
Bar Service/Starbucks - very good service and good drinks almost everywhere. The only word of caution would be the wine. We really enjoyed the wines in the dining room but found the wines we ordered in any other bar outside of the dining room to either taste "turned" or just not good.
Entertainment - Ice show was really good, Quest was really fun, the Schooner bar had a good piano player at night, production shows were ok. We spent quite a few nights in the Casino. Not much to say about the casino other then we lost - allot!
Overall - I don't think I'll do Explorer again, definitely won't sail out of NYC/NJ on presidents week again (or even take vacation that week if we can avoid it) but will still sail on RCL again. Still looking to do either Oasis or Allure but think I'll give Voyager class a rest. All that being said - we made the best of it - it was 11 days that were weren't at work, we had beautiful weather and got to spend some time together in the Caribbean....there are much worse things in life.