Explorer of the Seas Cruise Review by annchan
- Sail Date: November 2011
- Destination: Southern Caribbean
Make that Great! The Crew of the Explorer of the Seas were great
All employees were smiling, friendly and anxious to provide whatever was needed at the time. I asked questions. They were patient and explained their answers. When they did not have an answer, they got back to me when they did, sometimes running me down to do it. I will mention just a few names. Arlene, in the Spa made sure I got the services I wanted and was pleased with my visit. Bethany, on the front desk was never flummoxed by a question. Nicole in the My Time dining room was very good at her job. Watching the faces of those at her other tables, I was not alone in enjoying her service and her sense of humor. Ronald, our cabin steward took care of requests large and small and was always handy when we needed him. Ronald repeatedly asked how things were going and what he could do to make things better. He provided extra padding for the abominable sofa bed, more on that in the cabin review. I would be happy to see Ronald again on another cruise. I was truly impressed at how well this crew knows their boat and how to get things done. Their people skills are also admirable.
The My Time Dining Room
We wanted to eat at 7:30. Getting the server you want can mean some compromises. In our case, it was a smaller table and changing assistant waiters. With a little planning and forethought these thing can probably be worked out satisfactorily.
My per person rate was something like $107.00. Where else can you get a balcony room, in the Caribbean, all the food you can eat, and visits to five islands including transportation to each for about $100.00 a day. This was for a triple in a D-1 cabin on deck #9. Cabins without a balcony, on lower decks or inside cabins would obviously be even more of a bargain.
Crown & Anchor Society
Gift in the cabin on arrival, invitations to several parties and events. Most useful and appreciated priority embarkation and debarkation.
The Truly Ordinary has to be the food, menu and preparation, not service.
The phrase, "to damn with faint praise" comes to mind. The food is certainly plentiful, varied, and available pretty much 24/7. Anyone who does not check out each line in the buffet before making selections in the Windjammer misses a lot. The Jade buffet has wonderful things, influenced by Asian tastes. There is a British area where you can find baked beans, British bacon, and some sort of blood pudding, all for breakfast. It would be hard not to find something you like. In the My Time Dining Room, for the first time ever, we were told there was a shortage of lobsters and there would be no seconds. Serving sizes were smaller, not always a bad thing. Steaks were so small I wondered how the kitchen get them browned on the outside and medium rare on the inside. Roast beef was served as ordered, perfectly medium rare. A steak knife was provided and needed. Sauces were disappointing. I do understand sauces are tricky but the Bearnaise was disappointing. Salmon was always available and my "go to" when nothing else appealed. I had hoped for a better fish selection, maybe even a local fish at least once. It was not to be. When the main dining room offered trout at lunch, I was again disappointed, because it turned out to be salmon trout. It was cut like salmon, the color of salmon and tasted like salmon. Nothing wrong with it, unless you are on the trail of a flat,white fish like Sole. Sole was served once, at night, unfortunately with a sort of tomato sauce. The salads prepared in the dining room at lunch were really wonderful, you get to choose exactly what you want. Desserts were fine and if chocolate got to be too much, there were ice cream and sorbet.
There were two formal nights and they were not very formal. I wish that I had taken fewer dressy tops and a sweater or something to keep me warmer in the dining room. Plain slacks and long sleeved blouses would have done just fine most of the time. I got attacked by the salt in the food, I guess, and wish I had brought looser shoes. This was a complaint I heard from others.
The really bad, the sofa bad, has been reviewed elsewhere.
Crown & Anchor Society.
Believe it or not, memory played a big part in how much I enjoyed my cruise. If I did not remember when the first two bottles of water in a cabin were gratis, I would have cheerfully paid for my bottled water. If I did not remember the special hand soaps, the shampoo and conditions, and the hand and body lotions in the bathroom, I would not have been disappointed. If I did not remember and look forward to a towel transformation each night, I would have been happy with every other night towel creatures. If the small chocolate on my pillow at turn-down were not an At Sea Tradition, I would not have been dismayed by its absence. To me, the end of an enjoyable era is being signaled. Perhaps the future for RCCL lies in attracting newer rather than returning passengers.
A first class operation cannot be sustained on the backs of service employees. Decisions taken by middle and upper level management in offices on shore will sooner, rather than later, cause a real dissatisfaction experienced by everyone on board. Expectations created by cruise companies themselves are not being met. In attempting to fill cabins, fares are lowered. These fares will fill cabins, no doubt about that. But the fare will be about the only revenue seen. On board venues like bars and shops will have more "lookers" than spenders. As this revenue drops of, more amenities get cut. On this particular cruise, the last bingo game was cancelled because not enough people were interested in playing. Cheap fares may attract new customers but they do not guarantee passenger satisfaction. What they do guarantee is that returning passengers will be disappointed. Change is well on the way. The new "Sea is Calling" ads show people enjoying the decks and they do not focus on long gone luxury. With the Sunshine ships on order, and the need to fill even more cabins, a new outlook is sorely needed. Perhaps the coming sea change will result in a more rational view of what passengers really want and cruise lines can realistically provide.
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Port & Shore Excursion Reviews
AntiguaI think Antigua is a pretty island with its many colored buildings sourrounded by a vivid sea. I took my own walking tour from dockside. There were lots of local arts and crafts sellers and the usual perfume, jewelry and liquor stores. The prices are such that locally produced products may be the best and certainly the most original things to buy. My only purchase was a pair of sunglasses. The price was pretty much what I would have paid for them at home, but I had not found the style and fit at home. I asked why my cruise identity was needed to complete the sale. The clerk said it was so I could avoid the 25% local tax.View All 1,546 Antigua Cruise Port Reviews
The image that remains with me is that there were practically no overweight people to be seen in Antiqua.
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Bayonne (Cape Liberty)Embarkation: Looked chaotic, but actually went pretty fast. I came up from Baltimore via Amtrak, the first time I have not flown to a departure port. From the Eastern Shore of Maryland, using the Wilmington rather than BWI Amtrak station would have been faster and cheaper. I also heard about a bus from Baltimore that drops passengers off right where RCCL assumes responsibility for their bags. This might be the best option of all if you have trouble handling bulky bags. There is a tendency to pack more with no airline weight restrictions and Redcaps can be hard to find. I did take a cab from Penn Newark and it cost $48.00 plus tip, exactly what I read on the Cruise Critic site. It was almost dark when we got away from the dock. We went on deck to see the lights of the city and it was frigid. I had a hat, scarf and gloves plus my coat and still could not stand it for very long.View All 724 Bayonne (Cape Liberty) Cruise Port Reviews
I was worried about the first two sea days being cold, but even the first day out was much warmer and quite comfortable in the sun and out of the wind.
Labadee: The one and only day of bad weather during the entire cruise occurred in Labadee. It rained hard for pretty much the entire visit. I ventured off between showers and hurried back aboard before the real downpour started.
Debarkation: We got our numbers in the process the night before. Members in our party had different times, but our room steward made it possible for all of us to go at the same time. We gathered where told and were soon off the boat. Our bags were easily found among a fairly small group of bags. I remember this having been a problem in the past, so I think having smaller groups of bags is a very big help. We found a ride to Penn Newark on the spot at less than $20.00 person, and even waiting for the cab to fill, we were still at the station an hour and a half early for our 11:51 train. Fortunately we were able to find a Redcap to handle all the bags and get us seated together.
View Cruise Critic's Bayonne (Cape Liberty) Cruise Port Review
San JuanI give San Juan only a 4 because of the time in port. Arriving in port at 1400 and leaving at 2200 means that, at this time of year, fully half the time in port is in the dark. We had hoped to go out to Dorado, where we once lived, and see changes and play golf. We found that we would run out of time or light,whichever came first. We did not want to miss the boat. I did a little local shopping and my family took a walking tour. There were many cabs lined up, so all sorts of tours could be arranged on the spot. We had no interest in having dinner in San Juan, having already paid for the one on board.View All 3,767 San Juan Cruise Port Reviews
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St. Kitts (Port Zante)St Kitts is another British Island. If I could have made selections, there would have been only one British Island. Prices were comparable to Antigua and local arts and crafts were the best buys for my money. IView All 1,691 St. Kitts (Port Zante) Cruise Port Reviews
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St. MaartenSt Maarten was a lovely stop. There were scattered showers but nothing of any consequence. I took one of the shuttles into town. It was fun just to wander around and look into the shops. There was "Boardwalk" but it was not made of wood, separating the shops from a very nice beach complete with umbrellas and lounge chairs and towels. Servers were out and about selling drinks and local arts and crafts. People on segways were whizzing by and I saw a bicycle or two.View All 4,728 St. Maarten Cruise Port Reviews
I did walk back to the ship from the beach area and it took me about ten minutes. If you do any organized walking, it is not far but it is hot.
The rest of my family went out to the airport to see and experience what happens as planes land and take off. They came back with hilarious pictures and embedded sand in unusual places. I gather it was a very good time.
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St. ThomasI know that it is almost impossible to take a Caribbean cruise without a stop in St. Thomas. There has been a change here since my last visit, and while it is handy to shop in a big complex right at dockside, all the flavor of St. Thomas hs been lost. The narrow winding alleys and archways with a profusion of colored blossoms curling around may still be there, but you will have to make the effort and go into Charlotte Amalie to see them. I missed the coolness of the alleys after the bright sun of the streets, the aroma, not so much.View All 4,646 St. Thomas Cruise Port Reviews
Here again, we had plans visit earlier homes and here again we missed. My fault entirely because I did not insist that it was necessary to be pretty much off the boat first in order to get over to St. John and back. We did get a cab and got out to Red Hook just in time to see the last ferry that we could use pulling out. In retrospect, I should have known ferry times before I left home. We did go on to a nearby beach for sunning and swimming and some diving and snorkeling. On return, I stopped dockside and bought perfume.
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