We had a balcony stateroom on the port side, 9520, and we loved it. First balcony from the front on the 9th floor, so nobody on our right side as we looked out. It was very quiet. Just two lawn chairs and a table, though, because the balconies are too small for loungers. In Haiti and Bonaire, we faced out to sea while in port, in Aruba and Curaçao, we faced the port.
As far as food goes, next time I would not bother spending the extra money on a Dining Package. The Main Dining Room serves the best food on the ship (in my opinion) For example, the horseradish crusted salmon was perfectly done, moist all the way through, and so flavourful! Seafood vol au vent spectacular, beef stroganoff elevated like I have never had, and the tiramisu properly done with ladyfingers soaked in liqueur. At Windjammer, which is the buffet, I wasn’t a fan of breakfast...the Eggs Benedict were done too far ahead and the hollandaise wasn’t good. The French Toast was too thin. However, I simply changed my choice and had delicious bagels, cream cheese, lox, fruit, and hot and cold cereals, which were plentiful. In the Windjammer, they had unusual and very flavourful soups, such as roasted poblano and lemon shrimp...wonderful!
The first meal of our 3 meal Dining Package was at Chops Grille. My appetizer was a crab cake served over chipotle mayo, which was good, but not as good as the one in the Main Dining Room. I chose a 9 ounce filet mignon. Although it was tender and flavourful, it was underdone. Unfortunately, the Mac and Cheese was doughy and without much cheese. I was really looking forward to apple pie a la mode, but what a disappointment! The crust was so tough, it was impossible to cut with a fork.
Izumi, RCL’s Japanese restaurant , was very disappointing. We were told that we could order up to $70 worth, and then would pay the balance, not including drinks, but we ended up not using the $70. I could not eat the gyoza and sent them back. They were stuffed with nothing but chunks of somewhat tough pork. The sushi rolls looked beautiful, but the rice didn’t seem to contain any vinegar-based seasonings and tasted completely bland! We didn’t bother with dessert or coffee.
Giovanni’s Table started badly. I ordered a salad, which proved to be literally a bowl of arugula with a few chopped tomato pieces and a tasteless dressing. The linguini carbonara, however, was delicious, as was the tiramisu, so the restaurant was redeemed in my eyes.
The Over the Water Cabanas at Nellie’s Beach in Labadee, Haiti, are comfortable, but overpriced for just the two of us. If you can share the cost with other couples, they are great. Thankfully, we got #2, which had sun from the time we got there around 8:30 until about 2 pm. I would have preferred #4 which has sun longer and has a better view. The ones on the other side of the cove appeared to be in shade until about noon, so depending on what you prefer, you may be disappointed. If you are not prepared to be descended upon by extremely high-pressure sales folk, do not go into the local market, where RCL has allowed Haitian locals to set up stands. Oh my! Very high pressure! They make Mexican beach vendors seem like beginners! Such respectful and polite people though...
For excursions on Bonaire, Aruba, and Curaçao, we chose narrated bus tour and then drop off at a local beach for the last couple of hours. In Bonaire, (Chill Out at Ocean Oasis Beach Club & Southern Island Drive) the microphone on the bus wasn’t working, nor were the shocks, but we managed to hear a bit and the beach was beautiful with a kind of naturally protected pool. In Curaçao, (Curacao Highlights and Beach Fun) we were on one of those big tour buses with tinted windows and high seats, so we couldn’t see as much as we would like, but the tour was informative. We had to pay $4 each for lawn chairs when we got to the beach. Best of all was the Kukoo Kunuku Bus Tour in Aruba, which was an open air bus with Lesley, the best tour guide ever! Within 5 minutes, he had us laughing, singing, and shaking maracas to upbeat music while telling the most hilarious jokes about the local attractions. There are two of those buses, and we were lucky enough to get Lesley as our driver and guide. I don’t know how one could request his bus, but he is made for that job and absolutely made our day...the most fun we have ever had on a tour!
In Miami, we booked an Eco Adventure Tour of the Everglades with airport drop off for disembarkation day. You have to be out of your room by 8 am, our meeting time on the ship was at 8:30, and at 9:40 we were still waiting to get off. I pitied the people who had squeezed in a last tour before a flight, since we were staying overnight in Miami and had lots of time. Anyway, we finally got off the ship and onto the tour bus 1 hour and 20 minutes late. I thought: oh well, we’ll just start the tour late, but no...that time was deducted from the length of the tour because one person on the bus had an early flight. So we were rushed through the Everglades Park, taken on a quick airboat ride, then herded back onto the bus! The tour guide, who did his very best to get us around to everything, told us that this is always happening with Explorer of the Seas.
In the Entertainment category, the skating performance was spectacular, with professional skaters, brilliant choreography, and stunning costumes. The comedian was hilarious. I found the music in the nightly performances tiresome...a lot of big band stuff, standards like Frank Sinatra...I guess to appeal to an older crowd. The dancers are good, but not exciting when dancing to that music.
This was our third cruise, as noted above, but first with RCL. We would definitely give them another try.