Let me start by introducing myself. My Name is Don and my wife is Cathy. We live in Claymont, Delaware and are in our mid-forties. This was our fourth time on the Explorer of the Seas. I booked this trip while on board the Adventure of the Seas February 2011. I received a $150 on board credit for doing this.
I booked a Grand Suite for this trip. This was the first time we have been in a Grand Suite. We usually book Junior Suites.
We left our house in Delaware around 11 AM and arrived at Cape Liberty around 1 PM. This seemed like a good time. We have arrived earlier on previous trips and ran into lines trying to unload the luggage from your car. It seems as though most people like to arrive early. This clogs things up with the people still getting off the ship from the previous cruise. Anyway, we unloaded and parked for the $19 a day fee. That seemed excessive but what are you going to do. Once inside there were two lines, one for suite guest and one for non-suite guest. We went in the suite guest line and were behind a large family and a ton of kids with strollers and other kids gear. The non-suite line moved faster. This was just a condition of circumstance. Once through there we entered the suite check in and we were processed there very quickly. Off to the pictures, shuttle bus and aboard we went. We were on board by 1:30 and our cabin was ready. We went right there and unloaded our carry-ons and explored our suite. It was very nice and in good shape. The wife liked the bathroom with 2 sinks. There was plenty of storage, a wide balcony with a lounger on it and a table with two chairs. It also had a DVD player and surround sound system with a flat screen TV. We read the book left on the coffee table about the suite perks you receive while on board. We went down to the Promenade and got a quick bite to eat prior to our muster drill and read the daily compass. After Muster we returned to our cabin and our luggage began to arrive. One thing we did on this cruise is packed a soft sided cooler. We also brought some soda and a case of water. We placed luggage tags on the soda and water and they were delivered right to our room. I asked our steward to fill our cooler daily with ice. The refrigerators on the ship do not work very well. The cooler was a good idea.
We chose the main seating as we do not like to eat too late. We stopped by the concierge lounge prior to dinner. This is one of the perks you get when you book a suite or reach the diamond plus level of C & A. This area was nice and they had finger foods, mixed drinks, beer, wine and soda that were included in your fare. If you want to make the most use of this you are probably better off with the late seating. The free food and drink is from 5 to 8:30 PM. With Dinner at 6 it does not allow that long to enjoy the lounge. The lounge is open at all times, however we only used it a couple of night before dinner. The Concierge in there is Carlos. He is great. He takes care of any reservations or ship board activities you would like.
Our first couple of days was at sea as we headed from New York to Labadee. Saturday our first sea day was a little cool and left time to explore the ship. We were off the coast of North Carolina so it was still a little cool. This was the first formal night of two. Most people wore suits and a few had tuxedos. Sunday we were off the coast of Florida and it was warm and beginning to get hot. They had the main pools drained due to the ship rocking (it didn't seem that bad to me). They did begin filling them in the late afternoon. Left the pool area and got ready for dinner. They had the ice skating show. Another perk of being a suite guest is you do not need to get tickets. Just show your gold sea pass card and you get in. Also when you go in go to the left and there is a private suite section for seating.
Monday in Labadee I reserved a cabana on Barefoot beach. This is a beach area reserved for suite guest only. They give you a wristband prior to entering and also provide you with a Limo golf cart for when you want to travel around Labadee. The cabana was equipped with a personal attendant and a cooler with ice and water. There also was a private lunch buffet that included shrimp and steak. It was a nice beach day. It was a little windy so the zip line was closed due to safety.
Tuesday we arrived in San Juan PR. We have been to San Juan about 5 times so we walked around and took a carriage ride. Our ship was on port from 2 to 10 PM. We ate dinner this night in the windjammer. It was ok. I'd rather eat in the dining room though.
Wednesday we arrived in St. Maarten. We have never been to St. Maarten before so we took advice from these boards and booked a private tour from Benards. It was a great day to sample the various parts of the island. We went to Orient Beach were half of it is completely nude (we did not participate) and then over to Maho beach where the airplanes come right over your head and land practically on the beach. If you get a chance do not miss this. It was well worth the trip. We went shopping then back to the ship.
Thursday we went to St Thomas. We took a cab over to Coki Beach. We got to the beach around 9 AM and it was pretty empty. Around 11 or 12 it got pretty crowded. This is a great snorkeling place as the water is very clear and tons of fish. Again returned to the ship and the wife did more shopping.
Friday was a sea day as we headed back to New York. It was very hot on deck and no wind. The seas were extremely calm and the pool deck was packed. Another perk offered for suite guest is a reserved section for suite guest. So you do not have to battled for a chair by the pool. They had the love and Marriage show that night (like the newlywed game). It was a very funny and our cruise director was good as well Richard Spacey.
Saturday and Sunday had great weather and calm seas all the way back to New York. We were even in the pool on Sunday the last day. Usually it begins to cool down by then on your way back.
The dining room service was great. Our table was 346 and our servers were Denise and Latoya. They brought us ice tea and bread every night without having to ask. I love that. The food was good some nights and other night difficult to find something I like. It is tough to read there descriptions and identify what it is. They should have a table set up upon entry with the various entrees and appetizers to see what the foods are. This problem was more me as being a picky eater.
The interactive TV did not work the entire week to keep tabs on your balances. Ordering room service was hit and miss on your TV. Also you can order anything from the dining room menu to your room. They put the day's menu in your suite book I spoke of earlier. However they would not update this menu daily. I spoke to the head waiter about this and after two days they were updated daily.
We were off the ship by 9:30 am and back at our house before noon.
Overall it was a great trip and we had great weather. I don't know if I would spend the money for a grand suite or stay with the junior suite. The junior suite has plenty of room for two people.