Explorer of the Seas Cruise Review by icemom: Excellent Cruise out of Bayonne 3/19/12
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Excellent Cruise out of Bayonne 3/19/12
We had a great cruise! There were 12 of us; 6 couples. We were very very lucky as the weather was perfect the entire cruise! The seas were rough on the way down, but like glass on our way back. This is a long review, scroll to the end for a summary!
We arrived at Bayonne about 1:00 PM and within ½ hour we were on the ship. We hired a limo bus from Premier Limo in Berlin, CT to take us to the pier. We arrived, got off the bus and walked into the pier. Our luggage was taken care of by our well tipped driver! That first day was windy and chilly; however, by the afternoon of our first sea day we were able to sit out at the pool and enjoy the sun. It was very windy on the upper decks, but lovely pool level. (So so many chair hogs (everyday) though!!)
We walked the track most mornings; some were so windy that it was difficult to walk. The first two days that ship was rocking and I found it difficult just to walk the track. I'm not complaining though...loved every More minute of our cruise.
It was around 4PM before our luggage arrived. We unpacked, got settled in and headed to the dining room to check our seating arrangement. We had hoped for a table for 12 but found we had two round tables for 6 located at the window, starboard side. It worked out great for our group; but at first we did have our waiters a bit confused as we changed seats each evening so we could visit with the others in our group. Our waiters, Naaja from Tanzania and Danielo from the Philippines. Both were just wonderful -- we couldn't have asked for better waiters! They were always happy/smiling and very very helpful. We quickly learned that Naaja was an expert at recommending the best dishes for the evening. First dinner, I had the pan seared sea bass. All dinners were served piping hot and very tasty. Portions were small, but very sufficient. I loved the chilled soups and was thrilled to see they were still on the menu. The duck was exceptional! I don't eat lobster; everyone else did and enjoyed as many lobster tails as they could eat. I had the prime rib -- very good. I've read that some folks complain about the quality of the food. I have no complaints! They're serving thousands of eaters, it's banquet food and it was great!
Each morning we had coffee delivered to our room. The coffee was on the strong side so I kept extra creamers in our fridge. Coffee in Cafe Promenade was excellent, but I like to have coffee on the balcony before I get ready to leave our cabin.
We stayed in cabin 7570; Jeffrey was our room steward. He was excellent; our room was always spotless upon our return. On day two I had asked him for ice....from then on we always had a bucket of fresh ice. We would carry back two glasses of ice water to put into our water bottle and store that in our fridge. Our fridge was not cold at all, but sufficient for water. I had mentioned in my posting that the temperature on board felt warm. Our room was fine, never too warm for us; but we did for the most part have our thermostat turned up all the way on the cool setting. Yes, you can cool your room quickly by opening your balcony door and your cabin door; however, Jeffrey told us he's seen too many injuries and even a few lost fingers because the vacuum is so powerful when the ship is moving. So, please be careful. We found the dining rooms to be warm also.
We had the 6PM seating for dinner, which worked well for us. After dinner we enjoyed the shows, whether it was the RC dancers, twice we had a comedian! (None of our group was interested in the Ice shows) Richard Spacey was our cruise director and he is just a hoot! Gotta love his sock collection. You must get up to Dizzy's Jazz and listen to the band Take Four!! They are awesome. Elaina was our waitress, keep in mind there were always at least 10 of us sitting together. She remembered all our names and never ever needed to write down an order. She has quite the memory. She was such a pleasure. One night there was a buffet poolside at about 11 or 11:30 PM; that was the only one for the 10 days. No worries, there is always plenty to eat. We would stop by the Cafe Promenade most evenings before retiring for the night. Hubby would have a cookie and twice I tried one of the mini sandwiches. Very very tasty sandwiches. They are the perfect size for a light snack. One evening I wasn't hungry and didn't bother to have a sandwich, they were egg salad with pickles -- I understand they were delicious. Cookies, in my opinion, were over cooked and too hard. Worked out great for me; if they were soft and chewy I know I would have been eating those also.
One evening there was a problem with the plumbing, in the forward section of the ship. We couldn't flush our toilet in our cabin, when I called maintenance they told me they had shut the system down and were working on the problem. After dinner, all was back to normal. This certainly wasn't an issue for any of us.
With two sea days in front of us before our first stop, I must admit that the ship was rockin' and rolling! Most all of us (crew included) could feel the ship moving constantly. I don't know how the dining room and bar waiters keep from tipping and spilling everything. I was so grateful that we had started taking Ginger Root before we left on the ship. I know if I hadn't, I probably would have gotten sick! I do get motion sickness very easily. We found Natural Whole Herb Ginger Root 550 mgs at Wal-Mart. We took two each morning and two before bed. I continued to take them for 3 days after getting off the ship and found I experienced very mild sea legs. On my previous 2 cruises, I did not take ginger root and suffered sea legs for 5 or 6 days after getting off the ship. Not a good feeling.
Our first stop was Labadie Haiti. We did have a lovely day; weather (other than windy) was perfect. I was not impressed with Labadie; actually, it was kind of sad to see the natives behind the fence begging for food, when we had all the food we could possibly eat. We did try to shop a bit but found we were being pulled in too many directions. The water in Labadie is beautiful -- beware of the biting fish - and the beaches were lovely. I had signed up for the zip line but as of 10:00 AM it was cancelled due to the wind. Hubby and a couple of the other men went out on jet-skies. While out, the guide stopped and they were approached by a small boat selling handmade items. Hubby paid $10 for a plastic necklace, I'm not sure what the others bought, but it was obvious this was part of the plan for the natives. I was looking forward to trying the Labadoozees....they were good, very expensive though; $8.25 plus 15%. Not much alcohol in them, but refreshing. Getting back onto the ship was quick as we waited until almost all were cleared out of the main area. Long long lines and we were the only ship in port.
The next stop was San Juan. Before arriving in San Juan at 2PM, we went to lunch at Johnny Rockets. OMG the burgers were excellent! Once we arrived in SJ, we went over to the Bacardi factory. Trying the rum was fun. I hadn't realized there were so many flavors and they were quite tasty. The tour was nice, wish it was the actual factory though. After Bacardi, we went over to Old San Juan, wow, is it ever beautiful up in the forts. The views are spectacular. Then we headed out to do some shopping, but found it just too crowded and headed back to our ship. We enjoyed some wine and snacks on our balcony while people watching below. We didn't have dinner this evening as we were still full from our lunch at Johnny Rockets.
St Maarten is just lovely. Hubby and I headed out for our snuba excursion. I believe it was Great Bay where we picked up the snuba boat, which took us around the corner to Little Bay. The water was on the rough side (thank goodness for Ginger Root). While it was nice, we were somewhat disappointed. Years ago we had snuba'd in Belize, we had gotten off our ship and into a boat that took us about 35 minutes east...to an island in the middle of the Caribbean sea...with about 11 palm trees and nothing else. We were instructed on how to snuba while kneeling on shore, then while on our knees in 2 feet of clear, calm water we practiced breathing. In St Maarten we had to jump off the boat and practice while holding onto the raft. Therefore, there were several who opted to not do the snuba because they just could not get the hang of it while holding onto a small raft in choppy water. The water was choppy enough that one of the passengers on our boat became ill. The water was very cloudy and while we could see a few fish here and there, it was not what we thought it would be. The crew was great and very very helpful. We made the best of it, had a great time and headed back to the ship. We showered, ate a bit of lunch and headed out to check out this side of the island. We ended up walking over to Front Street (saw mountain goats along the road, it's amazing how they can navigate their way through those rocks/trees). We ended up running into the rest of our party and stayed on the beach with them until about 4, when we walked back to the ship. It was truly a beautiful beach and we all wished we could have spent 2 or 3 days there to allow us to really see and enjoy the entire island. We did try a guavaberry drink.........delicious, and now I'm sorry I didn't buy a bottle of two of Guavaberry rum!!
Our next stop was St Thomas. Once off the ship we headed over to the Sky Ride. A 5 minute walk from the ship and well worth the $$. It was early and not crowded at all in Paradise Point. We sat up there and just took in the lovely view. We headed back as we had an excursion booked for the St John Champagne Catamaran, the twelve of us went on this excursion and loved it! We traveled by open-air bus to the other side of the island (about 30 minutes) where we boarded our catamaran. It's another half hour to Honeymoon Beach in St John. It is so beautiful there that we all had wished we could have had a full day tour. The water was amazing; snorkeling in the clear water was unbelievable. I, unfortunately, did not see any sea turtles, but many others did! I did see hundreds of beautiful fish though, and could have snorkeled for hours! The time passed too quickly and we were on our way back. Heading back, the captain cut the motor and we sail away, music, rum punch, champagne, cheese, crackers, fruit, and bread. So very much fun. Our captain Sean and his crew, Joe and Suzanne, were awesome. The waters of St John were just fabulous, as was the crew that took us there and brought us back safely!! By-the-way; we were the group that was "spiking the spiked punch"!! As it turned out some of the girls had shopped before heading out on our excursion. The had purchased a few pint size bottles of the flavored Bacardi rums that they were planning on trying someday at home...well, they pulled them out on the catamaran and we enjoyed double --spiked rum punch that was delicious. That was it, before we knew it we were headed home.
Weather on the way home was great. Even on our last day we were able to sit out in the sun and relax. We were told that the seas on our way home were the calmest they had ever experienced. I must admit the water looked like glass! So much nicer than when we headed out.
All-in-all, this was a wonderful cruise. Every crew member was kind, helpful and happy to help! We never ever ran into any issues at all, other than the toilets not flushing for a couple of hours one evening) The ship was clean, the Windjammer food was fine for buffet food. Cafe Promenade was very nice. Make sure you see the band Take Four -- they are great and a lot of fun! Take the Champagne Catamaran excursion offered through the ship, it was well worth the $$. Bring home some Guavaberry rum, you can only get it on St. Maarten! Your trip will be what you make it. Take Ginger!! We cannot afford to do this very often, our mindset was that we were going to have a great time, and we did. Enjoy! Less
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