Most enjoyable cruise on a grand ship: Explorer of the Seas Cruise Review by onyourmark
Overall Member Rating
Most enjoyable cruise on a grand ship
Destination: Eastern Caribbean
Embarkation: Bayonne (Cape Liberty)
Thursday; We arrived at the port around 1 pm, unloaded 2 suitcases and continued to the (uncovered) parking lot, pay in advance cash/credit $16 per day, (total $144). We considered other stay & park hotel options, but this worked the best for us. Very short lineup at check-in, with a slight delay in getting the SeaPass card printed due to backlog. (i.e. not enough printers to handle all the registration clerks). Passports of non U.S. passengers require a supervisor's review, so there was another delay. On to the shuttle bus for the short ride and when we More board the ship we're told the room was ready ! Dropped off carry-on and proceeded to Windjammer for a nice lunch and initial walk around the decks. Sign-out books from the library and found our table (number is on the SeaPass. First digit of the 3 indicates the deck number). Also signed up for Murder Mystery at the Promenade. Muster drill was ordinary. Luggage took a long time to get to our room (maybe 8 pm). We had a glass of wine at Dizzy's with free dry roasted peanuts. House Merlot was $5.50 (plus 15% gratuity). We arrived at the second seating dinner on deck 3 dining room and were the only couple at a table for 8. Where is everyone ? Had time to chat with the excellent assistant waiter Willar from Peru who learned our preferences for tomato juice and coffees for the rest of the cruise. I found nice variety in the menu compared to previous cruises. Some Indian, Thai and vegetarian choices. Celtics/Lakers game was projected on the big screen in Studio B. We found a good spot on deck 7 to view the Sailaway Parade at 10:30pm on the Promenade. Then had some tea and good Granola Apricot bar at Cafe Promenade. Despite everyone raving about the cookies, we found them a little too hard for our taste.
Friday - at sea. Breakfast at the dining room. No grapefruit juice - my only disappointment. Took the Digital camera seminar, which offered a few tips, and not too pushy selling products. We went to Captain's Welcome Aboard party. Free champagne cocktails and food on the Promenade and Maharajah lounge. Captain said we had 3,650 guests from 32 countries. At the formal dinner we met our tablemates - two couples from Staten Island and one from Norway - all very nice people. Ship had a nice mix of passengers, maybe 70% from the NY/NJ/CT/MA area. There was also a tour group of 50 - 60 motorcycle riders who were generally very well behaved. Night show was the young singer Delisco who was very good.
Saturday - Bermuda Bought the Bus pass for $12 each just after getting off the ship. Walked to the bus stop and rode the bus to Hamilton's harbor area (1 hr.). Then walked about and found our way to the main bus station and took the bus to St. George (another hour). Since the Ferry does not run on Saturday from the Docks to St. George, it was a little quiet there. They had some actors in costume playing out early American historic events. Walked around the quaint streets and got tasty ice cream at Temptations. We walked up the hill and reached the other side of the island at Tobacco Bay beach. It was a very nice spot to relax for a while. We were actually able to see the ship docked all the way at the other tip of Bermuda. There is a golf course next to the beach, where the clubhouse is open to the public. We took the bus back to Hamilton and opted not to get off at the Aquarium stop for the famous Rum Swizzle and Ice cream. After some more walking in Hamilton we took the Ferry back to the Wharf area for rum cakes samples, art gallery and small beach which was also nice. Ship departure was delayed as we waited for an ambulance to return an injured passenger. The Solarium pool finally opened (it was closed for maintenance for 2 days). We watched a beautiful sunset on the deck just outside Johnny Rocket. Tonight's variety show Fast Forward was very good.
Sunday - at sea Breakfast service at the dining room is a little slow. Light lunch at Windjammer - just a Greek salad. At 3:00 we had the Wine Tasting, for which we used the C&A $10 coupons. There were over 100 people at dining tables with 6 wines to sample. Highly recommended. Welcome back party for C&A members - free rum punch. We went for the early party since we were going to the Murder Mystery at 7 pm. Based on other CC posters we knew what to expect. Starting at Dizzy's with champagne and canapEs there were about 60 guests divided into 5 or 6 groups. The cast was introduced and they were doing some improv on the script. Then we moved in an orderly fashion to Portofino (no other diners were allowed). There was a smaller menu, but excellent food quality and service, with unlimited red and white wine (but extra charge for soft drinks). The mystery continued between courses, and each guest was able to interrogate the suspects and get some assistance from the waiters. We went to Invitation to Dance at Studio B where they selected 4 couples for the "finals" later in the cruise. The late show with comic Jeff Jena was very good.
Monday - St. Maarten We booked Bernard Tours based on CC posters. I thought there will be a large group but there was only one other couple with us in the minivan. We docked at noon, met Bernard at 12:30 and he drove us around (there was some heavy rain, but it cleared up after a while). We stopped at the souvenir store (got a beach mat), Maho Beach before the large planes stopped coming, Marigot market, Orient Beach and back to Philipsburg for shopping before they closed at 6:00 pm. I found the lowest duty free liquor prices here, and the two bottles were taken for storage until the last evening. Pool party after dinner had the crowd really hopping with the sounds of T & T Jewels, the Caribbean band
Tuesday - St. Thomas Did the immigration "dance". Non U.S. went to the level 4 dining room, and there were no lineups. We walked to town (Taxi at $4 per person is better option). We walked in the old town, 99 steps, Blackbeard castle, crafts market, back for Lunch at the ship. Made it just in time when it started raining. Spent the afternoon in the solarium pool and then the Ice show Sprits of the Seasons. Evening event was the "love and marriage" game.
Wednesday - San Juan. Early arrival at 7 am. We docked in Pier 3, right in the old town. We went to the Tourist information booth past the crafts market and got a walking map. Walked around the old cobblestone streets, Pigeon park, Governor's building etc. Shops only opened at 10 am. We found some familiar stores like Marshalls and Walgreens. We hopped on the free open-side trolley, which takes you around the old city with about 25 stops. The place was very clean and safe. Lots of kids around on the last week of school, flying kites in the grassy plains near the forts, which we didn't have time to visit. Actually we felt that if we got off the trolley, there will be no room for us on the next one to return to the ship. We had our "sinful" lunch at Johnny Rocket (Burgers, onion rings, fries, chili), and used our Gold member coupon for a free cover charge. Dinner at the dining room - I had good curry soup and duck main course, dishes I would normally not have at home. The comedian / Impersonator (Scott Record) was very good, but the Quest game at Studio B afterwards was hilarious.
Thursday - at sea We went to a cooking demonstration with the chef - very amusing. Stayed at poolside, solarium hot tub & Sauna. Windjammer lunch. Formal dinner - again only two of us at the table tonight. I had lobster & shrimp. The portions at all the meals were sufficient, but the waiters were happy to bring seconds for anyone who asked. Evening show was Invitation to Dance revue, again very good. Finally we got to spend some time in the Casino (smoke free on Formal nights - a policy some smokers were grumbling about). Made a small profit at the roulette table.
Friday - at sea. Attended some activities: Captain's Corner, Backstage Tour, Learn to Salsa - all enjoyable. More time by the Solarium pool, game of minigolf. Then packing up the suitcases, and lining up for the Farewell Parade. Saturday - disembarkation We got up at 6 am, had light breakfast at Windjammer, and watched the arrival under the Verazanno bridge with the Statue of Liberty and NYC skyline. We needed to get to Studio B for Express walk-off around 8:00am. This was the only chaotic experience with so many guests and their luggage trying to make their way down to level 3, then having to wait until the ship was finally cleared with U.S. authorities at about 8:45am. It was very crowded and we were standing for about an hour. Once our group (#5) was called, we had to make our way down to deck 1 (using elevators or stairs), and it was much smoother from there on, to the shuttle buses, through immigration, and rolling our suitcases right to the car, getting on our way home at 9:30 am.
In summary - excellent cruise in all respects. Less
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