703 Bayonne (Cape Liberty) Royal Caribbean Explorer of the Seas Cruise Reviews

We are long time cruisers of Royal Caribbean, but the Explorer of the Seas was a new experience. The crew were all wonderful. We had the best stateroom attendant and dining room wait staff that you could have ever ask for. All of the ... Read More
We are long time cruisers of Royal Caribbean, but the Explorer of the Seas was a new experience. The crew were all wonderful. We had the best stateroom attendant and dining room wait staff that you could have ever ask for. All of the staff were wonderful. The food was good. The room was wonderful, and very comfortable. Our only complaint which was big -- cigarette smoke was everywhere on the 4th and 5th floors and the open centrum area on the 3rd floor to the dining room. The promenade on the 5th floor is open on both ends with stair cases and below on the 4th floor is the casino. Also a staircase opens from the casino to the promenade in the middle of the promenade and the smoke just fills the promenade area in the afternoon and nighttime. We could not enjoy any of the nightclubs in that area as they were located just outside the casino doors or the staircase. It was really awful, since my husband and I are both very allergic to smoke. So, I ended the cruise very sick! To go from the back of the ship to the front, we always had to go to the 6th or 7th floor and walk the halls. We were recently on the Navigator of the Seas and I did not remember that problem at all. The ports that we stopped were great, and the cruise of wonderful except for the cigarette smoke. Hope that issue is addressed when the ship goes to drydock in March 2015. Also, we had 6 in our party and had 4 massages. That seems to be an area that has also changed. No one thought their massage was very good. Heard the same complaint from people on Celebrity. Have they changed companies? Read Less
Sail Date November 2014
My DW and I were so looking forward to this getaway. We had a balcony cabin 6290. I tried to book so many things prior to our leaving and could not. Okay, Royal Caribbean said corporate was not listening to what sales was saying. Okay, I ... Read More
My DW and I were so looking forward to this getaway. We had a balcony cabin 6290. I tried to book so many things prior to our leaving and could not. Okay, Royal Caribbean said corporate was not listening to what sales was saying. Okay, I get that. When I finally was able to book things, I bought a little something for night three, four, five and ten. To my surprise, everything was delivered in ten minute intervals on night three. I went to guest services, they told me I must have put the information in wrong. Amazing, they got the day ten thing right! No attention to detail. I booked the three night deal at Portofino's, our luggage didn't make it to the cabin by the time we were to go to dinner, and I was a little self conscious about eating there in our traveling close, but the meal was superb as always. I requested, and was approved by Royal, a table for two, first seating (no wait list). I say this because of the garbage my TA was given when I told her about what they did. It was so nice of them to put me at a table for twelve. We missed the first night (we were at Portofino's) and if we asked to change after the second night it looks like we were not pleased with our table mates. It wasn't them. We wanted US time. Now, Royal said it was at capacity, but that was amazing because we could see three empty table for two's from where they stuck us. We were at table 341 (or better known as the entrance door). Our waiters and even the side captain were exceptional. Thank you gentlemen. At this point, I want to commend each and every member of the crew, as to the way they handled our rogue wave. I never truly felt like our life was in any danger. Professionals! Our room steward, in my opinion, also did just the bare minimum. I sent some shirts to be pressed for later in the week and I had to ask about them five days later. I also set some things to be washed and folded on the second Sunday and after asking twice, I got them back on th Thursday before we disembarked. My DW and I didn't plan any excursions, as this was just a relaxation getaway. Which brings me to disembarkation. My family has been on the Enchantment and Explorer and did the self-carry off. This debacle at Port Canaveral should have cost someone their job. I'm tired of hearing about this or that. I am in the service industry and you MUST roll with the punches. This is what Royal Caribbean does for a living. It was dreadful. Apparently, no one in charge, except to send the woman and her group straight from the elevator to the disembarkation line without standing for an hour and a half like the rest of us. I have a family cruise booked with Celebrity in August and I'm really looking forward to getting away from Royal to see if it is an industry decline or just Royal Caribbean. As for the Explorer, she needs work. After dry dock, I hope she stands tall. Four time on her May just be enough. Read Less
Sail Date November 2014
We were with another couple who came to visit us first from Georgia and we flew from Florida to Newark and stayed at a local hotel. The next morning we were driven back to the airport where we connected with our Royal Caribbean shuttle to ... Read More
We were with another couple who came to visit us first from Georgia and we flew from Florida to Newark and stayed at a local hotel. The next morning we were driven back to the airport where we connected with our Royal Caribbean shuttle to take us to the port. Getting to the ship and then onto the ship was a nightmare. It seems all we did was sit and wait, shuttle and wait. Finally, we got on board. Went to the Windjammer for lunch - spent 1/2 hour looking for a table. Very inconsiderate people - they had their lunch and were sitting there talking and relaxing. They kept announcing to please leave when done and give others a chance but no way. Found a table, had lunch and went to cabin. The cabin was the - usual balcony cabin, large enough for the two of us. The cabin needs some fixing but bed was comfortable and had all the necessary room, hangers, etc. Balcony door rattled a lot and brought this to attendant's attention and he fixed it the next day - no more rattles. We had a very rough night, rogue wave hit about 5:00 am but damage only to 2 lifeboats and some broken windows - not in cabins. We were mid-ship but still felt the rocking and rolling. We took on quite a bit of water and rugs needed replacement and drying out where possible, aft elevators were out for a while, but nothing we couldn't handle. The captain kept us well informed as to what was happening. Our first port was St. Marten (after 3 sea days) and the captain informed us that the safety commission came on board and gave us a clean "bill of health." Good to go, no problems. We've been to most of the ports so we really didn't do too much. Went to the beach in St. John's - water and beach were great, just a little rough as it was quite windy. Took a tour of Bonnaire with a very knowledgeable driver - learned all about the salt, how it is "mined" and about the slave trade in early days. It was a wonderful tour and not one that was offered on the ship. We did get off the ship at each of the 7 ports, if only to walk around and look at the local wares. As to our dining experiences, we ate in the main dining room every night except one, when we went to Portofino's. The MDR food was not exceptional but very good, especially the appetizers (really good soups). Portofino's was excellent - too much food, too many calories. Lunches were mainly in the Windjammer and breakfast was either in the Concierge lounge, Windjammer, dining room or room service. Food always tastes the same on these cruises so there isn't much to say about it. We had a couple of lunches in port in between shopping and looking. As we are Diamond Plus members, we went to several parties which were supposed to be by invitation only. However, they didn't take our invitation and many of the passengers that were not Diamond, Plus or Pinnacle were also there, making the rooms very crowded. Speaking of Pinnacle, I do not understand the mind set of most of these people. They looked down on us as though we were below them. They should remember they were once where we are now. In fact, most of them didn't seem to really be enjoying themselves - maybe they should step back and take a look at how they are acting. I will probably never get to Pinnacle, but if I do, I hope I have more manners than these people did. Not all of them were that way but there were 45 on our ship and most acted very superior. Not withstanding this, we had a great time with other Diamond, Plus, Emerald etc member we met on the ship. There were only 30 youngsters on board and all that we met were very well behaved and polite. Thank you to them and their parents for their upbringing. As this was a repositioning cruise, the majority of the people were older (like us) and most seemed to be having a good time. Other than that, we spent our time in the Solarium pool area, in the casino, and just various areas around the ship. We did go to a few of the shows which were excellent. The ice skating show, as always, was fantastic. There was an Elton John show which we really enjoyed, and a couple of shows with the RC singers and dancers which were very enjoyable. We got into port about 7:00 am but could not get off until after 9:30 (those who had checked luggage). People walking off were allowed to leave by 8:30 but it was very slow and many people who needed to catch flights may have had a problem. As we live in the Port Canaveral area, we weren't in too much of a hurry except we had someone picking us up. Traffic getting into the port was extremely slow, the slowest I have ever seen. Our friend waited almost 45 minutes to get in to pick us up. I really hope this doesn't become the norm as we do cruise out of this port quite often. Overall, it was a very enjoyable trip for the 4 of us. The service was wonderful and everyone who worked on the ship smiled and greeted us when we met them. Our waiters were exceptional (Omar & Eric), our room attendent (Dwight) was excellent, and every time we needed help, someone was there to accommodate. Our next will be in January from Tampa - I hope it is just as good. My only complaint is, why, if you are on a cruise, being fed and taken care of all the time, can't people smile a little more. We see so many people walking around with a scowl on their face as if they are not happy. If that is the case, I suggest you take a different type of vacation. Enjoy yourself.   Read Less
Sail Date November 2014
The Bayonne terminal was a bit of a nightmare; hopefully the new one is up and running when March rolls around. All of the crew and staff were great you cannot say enough about them. We know Explorer is headed for a refit, but they may ... Read More
The Bayonne terminal was a bit of a nightmare; hopefully the new one is up and running when March rolls around. All of the crew and staff were great you cannot say enough about them. We know Explorer is headed for a refit, but they may have delayed it too long. Our balcony needed a paint job, something I have never seen on a Royal ship before. We had a large balcony so it fit a couple of chairs and a couple of lounges, but none of them could be called pristine. On the upper deck one of the hot tubs had a canopy held down with rope; come on folks this is not a major repair. When you looked at some of the decking and steps around the pools they are showing their age We had never been to Bonaire and were pleasantly surprised, it’s a nice little port. We've never sailed from Port Canaveral before, disembarkation was far from smooth. I know they were trying to lift a life boat but it put me off of sailing out of there again; also it's a long trip to the airport.   Read Less
Sail Date November 2014
On a chilly, damp November 1st morning we left Baltimore on a 3 hour bus ride to Port Liberty, NJ for a 2 week repositioning cruise to the Caribbean on RCCL’s Explorer of the Seas. After arriving at the port, we sat on the bus for ... Read More
On a chilly, damp November 1st morning we left Baltimore on a 3 hour bus ride to Port Liberty, NJ for a 2 week repositioning cruise to the Caribbean on RCCL’s Explorer of the Seas. After arriving at the port, we sat on the bus for another hour as it worked its way through the backup until we could unload our luggage. The terminal was as cold and damp inside as it was outside; a cheerless place much like the staff directing us and checking us in. They recited their canned speeches without the slightest hint of friendliness or even a slight smile. Being accustomed to the friendliness and efficiency of the Baltimore cruise terminal, this was a shock. After boarding, we quickly found our room and had a brief lunch before the safety drill which was held outside on the deck in the cold with the wind blowing the rain on us. It took a while, but our bags eventually found their way to our room, one before dinner and one after. This was confusing because we had placed both of our bags, side by side, onto the same luggage pallet and expected that they would be delivered to our room together. The first morning out, we were awakened by a cheerful announcement by the Captain informing us that a 30 to 40 foot rogue wave had hit the ship at 5 AM severely damaging one of the lifeboats, soaking the aft part of the ship from deck 4 downward and temporarily knocking the aft elevators out of service. The crew did a superb job dealing with the situation and the Captain kept us informed over the next few days. The Captain stated that he had never experienced a rogue wave in his 40 years at sea. (Wikipedia lists about 35 rogue waves that have hit ships in the century and a half since 1861, so it was a very rare occurrence.) We settled into a routine of eating, having fun, eating, having more fun and eating, and then eating some more as the ship worked its way to the Caribbean. Our cabin attendant for stateroom 8483 was friendly, hard working and always available. The wait staff for table 629 in the Columbus dining room were probably the best we have had in more than a dozen cruises. The food was good and the desserts were excellent. Activities in general seemed limited and repeated often. (For example, some of the trivia contests during the second week actually repeated the previous week’s questions or songs exactly.) The cruise director was OK and his assistant (“Erky from Turkey”) was great. Entertainment the first week was very good. The second week did not seem as good – the singers and dancers turned in some nice shows, but the “special guest stars” were poor – a “mechanical” Elton John impersonator, a lackluster Led Zeppelin tribute band, and the worst “mentalist” that I have ever seen. Many passengers were seen abandoning the theater after the first few minutes of these shows. For some reason, the cruise line installed a chimney disguised as a staircase from the casino to the promenade area one floor above. The promenade is where the shops, some bars, and a few eateries were located. The smoke from the casino rolled up the stairs and made it difficult to breathe when passing through the promenade. It kept us from trying one of the nearby bars and limited our shopping. During the 2 week cruise, we never saw anyone use the stairs to or from the casino. The ports were very nice except for Bonaire which wasted a whole day and for Aruba where we were limited to ½ day – we could have easily spent several days there. Up until debarkation, the crew was first rate - then they disappeared! We stupidly followed the directions for the self-assist debarkation and even arrived early in the assigned debarkation lounge so that we could get off the ship quickly. The one crew member there directed us to our place in line – happily, we were only 25 or 30 people back from the front of the line. Others who came after us were directed into the line, many followed the directions, many refused and waited near the exit, some refused to come into the departure lounge at all – absolutely nothing was done about this. Eventually, the crew member gave up and left the lounge. A security guard walked through the lounge and the couple in front of us asked him to do something about the mess – he shrugged his shoulders and walked away, never to be seen again. After almost an hour, debark started – without any crew to provide direction or control, it quickly degenerated in to a mob of pushing, shoving, angry passengers. When we finally got out of the lounge (about another ½ hour) we saw the crew member who had abandoned us in the lounge talking with another crew member. This crew member’s job appeared to be to listen to her walkie-talkie to hear how many passengers were left on board and then to complain that it was taking too long. These 2 crew members even allowed passengers to come down the stairs and elevators with their luggage and to push their way in front of the people trying to get out of the debarkation lounge. We were relieved to get off the ship only to learn that we now had to deal with the staff at Port Canaveral. Their jobs were to be to yell at anyone who tried to go down the escalator with a suitcase. When we got out of the terminal building we had to try to find our bus to the airport. Fortunately our bus company had emailed us information about locating the bus, otherwise we would have had problems finding it because the terminal staff wasn’t any help. After another, but smaller mob scene, we finally got onto our airport bus and left. We made our plane, but not by much. Another couple in our group had decided on the regular debarkation and bought their airport transfers from RCCL. They became victims of the mob, the lack of control, the lack of responsibility by RCCL and of having 1 piece of their luggage placed on the wrong carousel. They missed their plane home. This was absolutely the worst debarkation that we have ever experienced. It ruined the cruise. After experiencing debarkation on RCCL, the neglect by the staff, and the lack of direction and control; we are thankful that the rogue wave and damage to the ship did not require us to go to our lifeboat stations – it would have been a disaster. So what did we learn? We learned that Port Liberty is opening a new cruise terminal soon and that, if we ever sail out of there again, we had better wait until the new terminal is open and until their staff has some kind of customer service training. We learned that a good cruise can be ruined at the last minute by the cruise line disregarding its passengers and by its lack of concern for their well being. We learned that, if we ever sail with RCCL again, we need to use regular debarkation, to book our return air much, much later than we would with other cruise lines, to ignore the debarkation instructions, to skip the debarkation lounge, and to head directly for the exit whenever we feel like it.   Read Less
Sail Date November 2014
We are seasoned cruisers with RCI and Celebrity, cruised once with NCL in Febuary 2014, and we use this as a benchmark for quality and VFM. Flew to NYC early to have a couple of days doing “touristy” things, walking the High Line, ... Read More
We are seasoned cruisers with RCI and Celebrity, cruised once with NCL in Febuary 2014, and we use this as a benchmark for quality and VFM. Flew to NYC early to have a couple of days doing “touristy” things, walking the High Line, MOMA and a show on Broadway . On Saturday morning we took a shuttle car to Bayonne/Cape Liberty, this trip was a little hint of things to come. On emerging from the Holland Tunnel it became obvious the driver had only the vaguest idea of the way. He wanted the Zip Code of Cape Liberty as if I could produce this out of a hat. With me, a visitor to his fine country, navigating from the back of his cab, reading out the basic directions from our Guest Ticket Booklet we eventually made it taking a scenic route through New Jerseys fairytale landscape. Many horns were honked at us but we assumed it was the local way to make visitors feel welcome. On our arrival at the wet and dismal pier we felt privileged to be passengers on the first Royal Caribbean ship to ever use the Cape Liberty facility. This can be the only rational explanation for the bedlam at the pier.The luggage drop was in a sort of canvas tent where one guy kept shouting to go to the other end and after wheeling our suitcases the length of the tent his mate shouted at us to go back again. Check-in took an age with pleasant but clueless clerks, endless hanging about, shuffling from queue to queue and eventually boarding a bus which decided the best way to reach the nearby ship was to head out into a traffic jam for 20 minutes. Diamond Plus was unknown in Bayonne. RCI take a bow. The ship and cruise itself was what we expected from RCI, once again the star was our cabin steward, Mr Dublin from St Vincent, a 5 star guy. Food was good, some fine dishes and some not quite so fine. MDR was always tasty and well presented but portion size could be on the small side. The Windjammer had plenty of variety and quality was acceptable, once again the staff put plenty of effort into arranging hot plates at the salad bar and cold plates at the carvery. Just what were the supervisory staff doing? Drink was plentiful, no complaints there. We enjoyed the entertainment with some exceptions, Led Zepplin was wrong group on wrong ship, at the wrong time; trying to entertain a ship full of waltzers. Don’t forget some bright boy somewhere, booked Led Zepplin, Friday evening/Monday morning decision? Half the theatre walked out. The dancers were colourful and energetic, the singers, as usual, couldn’t hit or hold a high note. Why do they persist. The girl from Nashville was the worst offender, she should stick to country music. We want Dolly! We want Dolly! An Irish guy gave enrichment talks about aviation, what a pro. knowledgeable and humourous and able to keep talking while his powerpoint shut down. 10 out of 10. First two days out of Bayonne was a bit lumpy with a following sea. During the night one and after some initial confusion, two lifeboats became partly detached from their davits. A rogue wave was blamed although there was scant evidence to support such a theory. The Master did well to explain the safety/regulatory situation to the passengers. Someone once said that it was better to travel than to arrive, this was certainly true of our arrival in Port Canaveral.If embarkation was a shambles words fail me to describe the absolute dogs dinner of disembarkation. Hang about, hang about whilst those carrying their own luggage queued endlessly in the alleyways.Eventually our number was called and then queued in three locations in the terminal before reaching the baggage hall. Bags retrieved the US Customs and Immigration Officials were efficient and pleasant, wishing us a good flight to England. Things then started to go downhill. We, like many others booked airport transfers through RCI and were abandoned to an out of control, threatening and aggressive dispatcher outside the terminal. The queues, the shouting and the total confusion was like a re-enactment of Ellis Island in the 1880’s. A number of passengers failed to make their connections in Orlando Airport, on our coach the driver from Empire Coach Line was a great help and gave the advice we should rightfully have been given by RCI. Did no RCI employee/manager see this performance and take charge? Why would you outsource your reputation? Take another bow RCI. Wow. To sum up, a great holiday cruise coloured at the beginning and end by incompetence in the areas we expect RCI to be experts in. It’s not as if most ships don’t embark and disembark tens of thousands of passengers every week. A little bit of grip is needed in Head Office. Anyway onwards and upwards, where is that 2015 brochure? Read Less
Sail Date November 2014
Where should i start.Getting into cape liberty was a mess. I think it was because a lot of people were beinging dropped off. They presented a traffic problem. We have cruise six or seven times out of Cape Liberty and never experienced this ... Read More
Where should i start.Getting into cape liberty was a mess. I think it was because a lot of people were beinging dropped off. They presented a traffic problem. We have cruise six or seven times out of Cape Liberty and never experienced this much of a problem. The ship was hit by a rouge wave, no one was hurt and it was handled well. We lost two life boats. The captain kept us well informed The menu was suppose to be different each night. But it did not live up to RCCl quality. The shows were good.Although this crowd did not like Lead Zeplin. Now for our cruise director the TURK wonderful, wonderful. After 47 cruises on different cruise lines, he was the best. His partner was really in tune with him. Now getting off the ship took three hours, a lot of people missed their flights at 1:30. We were lucky i booked ours at 5:20, so we were alright. BIA Read Less
Sail Date November 2014
Explorer OTS repo from NJ to Port Canaveral – Nov 1 to 15, 2014 Friday, October 31, 2014 – Travel day Good morning everyone. It is 6:40am on October 31, 2014. I am through security at LAX and I am waiting for a 9:10 flight. If all ... Read More
Explorer OTS repo from NJ to Port Canaveral – Nov 1 to 15, 2014 Friday, October 31, 2014 – Travel day Good morning everyone. It is 6:40am on October 31, 2014. I am through security at LAX and I am waiting for a 9:10 flight. If all goes well, in about 10 ½ hours I should be landing in Newark. So, as I listen to muffled announcements (that I think are being made in English) regarding the boarding of flights, I thought I would tell you a little about myself. This is my 26th cruise, eleventh on Royal Caribbean, fourth on a Voyager class ship (I have not been on the Adventure OTS) and first on the Explorer of the Seas. I will become Diamond Plus on this cruise. I am also Platinum on Carnival and I have taken two cruises each on Princess and NCL (and one other cruise on the Universe Explorer 1999). At the suggestion of someone who wanted more details, I have been writing my review while still on the ship, while things are still fresh in my mind. Then, when it became clear that people enjoyed seeing photographs with the review, I added photo editing software to the laptop, so hopefully, upon my return, the review will be ready to post. I am taking three cameras with me. One camera is waterproof to 33 feet (for those underwater shots), another camera is a Nikon D5200 (a DSLR) for those nice clear photos, and the third camera is a good point and shoot (P&S) camera that fits in my pocket for those shore excursions where I don’t want to drag the heavy DSLR with me. I am flying first class, so I was put in the TSA pre-check line. This means that you don’t have to remove your shoes, your belt (basically, you don’t have to get undressed) or take the laptop out. However, I got stopped so that they could check my hands for explosive residue. All the people behind me were waved on. So I asked if I was the only one that looked suspicious. The TSA agent pointed out that the lady in front of me was also screened. Basically they take whoever is next after they finish wiping the hands of the last person. I wonder if the lady making the announcements for the flight to San Francisco understands that she should take the microphone out of her mouth before speaking. I’m at the next gate over and the person at my gate had to walk over to the other gate and tell a group of people that it was time to board. Then he made the same announcement in a nice clear voice. Yes, the lady at the other gate is that bad. I was going to take the Flyaway bus to LAX, but the day I made the arrangements the Flyaway bus website was not working, so I made arrangements with a limo. I asked to be picked up at 6am. At 5:40am when I called the driver to see how far out he was; he said he was here. So from my door until I cleared security was one hour (I had allowed for two hours). And so here I am, my review is current, I’ve already checked in with my roll call, and there is still about one hour until boarding. So most likely, the next time you hear from me, I’ll be in my hotel room in Newark. Well here I am in Newark. I’m at the Holliday Inn across the street from the Newark Airport. It is a nice sized room with a very good setup for a Holiday Inn. It has a very large screen TV and a work desk that rolls out from under the stationary desk. I would say this room earned the 3.5 star rating that Hotwire gave it. I got it for $78 per night plus tax. While the room is nice, the buffet dinner was only average. Not worth the $26.95 fee. However, I did meet someone from the roll call who I am sharing a van to the port with tomorrow. So that made the cost of dinner a little more palatable. The plane ride was nothing special. I did see three other jets going the other way while we were cruising at altitude and one jet alongside of us while we were landing in Atlanta. The first class seats in the Delta 767 are really nothing more than wider coach class seats with more legroom. Nothing like the first class seat I had on American Airlines. The American Airlines first class seats are something special. If you get a chance, try them out. As for Delta, save a little money and get their comfort class coach seats. The eggs for breakfast were good. The chicken dinner was okay. I also had a hot dog during the stopover in Atlanta. One other nice thing, while looking out the plane’s window I saw my luggage being loaded, so at least I knew it and me were headed to the same airport (twice on the trip home that was not the case). Well, I’m tired now. I’ll catch up with you later on the ship. Good night. November 1 – Embarkation day People on the roll call said two things about getting to the port. One, it could take an hour from Newark Airport because of the traffic and two; it would cost $65 dollars by taxi. It is only eight miles, taxis do not charge eight dollars per mile and how much traffic could there be on a Saturday? Nonetheless, when someone from the roll said he was at the same hotel as I was, I agreed to share a car service with him. So, here is how the morning went. The person who organized the car service found three more people also staying at the hotel to go with us. So the total cost with tip was $15 per person – very reasonable. We were supposed to meet in the lobby at 10:45 for an 11:00 ride to the ship. The car service was thirty minutes late. Meanwhile two other drivers approached us and offered us a ride. Given the amount of luggage we had I don’t know if anything short of a full sized van would have fit us all. At best one more person could have fit and this was a full sized twelve person van with plenty of room for luggage in the back. To avoid the traffic the van driver took us the “back way”. We made it to the sign that said one mile to the terminal in thirty minutes. From this point on it is a two lane road to the terminal (one lane in each direction). That last mile took us close to an hour. The reason a car service is less expensive than a taxi is that a car service charges a fixed price while a taxi’s meter would still be going all this time. Once inside the terminal the process was quick and easy. We dropped off our luggage, obtained our SeaPass and had our security picture taken. Then there were the photographers to take the embarkation photo. After starting out one hour later than I wanted to (had I been on my own I would have hired a taxi at 10:30). The person who hired the car service wanted a 10:00 pickup but the earliest the car service could get to us was 11:00 (and was still late). Then waiting over 45 minutes to cover the last mile I was in no mood for an embarkation photograph (I have plenty of those already and the pictures are overpriced). The bus ride to the ship from the terminal was quick and easy. The new terminal will eliminate the bus ride, but it will not ease the traffic issue during that last mile. They need to add a third lane. Then have two lanes out up until 11:30 and have two lanes in after 11:30. Until the traffic issues are resolved, I have no interest in returning to this port. This is not a closed loop cruise. I have both a passport and a passport card. I wanted to see if the passport card would be accepted. The person checking me in asked for my passport. I handed him my passport card and he said, oh, a passport card, that is just as good. I thought the passport card was only good for closed loop cruises. Of course the person checking me in is not the authority on what is or is not acceptable. However, he was the only one who really cared what it was. Sure, the person allowing us into the tent wanted to make sure the name on the Setsail and my ID matched, and that the picture on the ID kind of looked like me, but even a driver’s license would have worked at that point. The person who gave me the key to the ship was in this case the final word on this. Finally I am on the ship. I head off to my cabin to drop off my carry-ons. Then I grab my camera and start taking pictures. It is raining outside so I take a few pictures outside and then head back to the cabin to change lenses. On the way I find my luggage and drag it back to the cabin. After taking pictures of the Royal Promenade I head over to the Windjammer for lunch. Then more picture taking. Then the announcement that the muster drill would take place in thirty minutes. I haven’t finished my picture taking yet, and then I remember I boarded the ship about ninety minutes later than I normally do. However, in this case I am really not upset about it. It is raining and I know we have three days at sea before our first port. I figure I’ve got plenty of time for picture taking. I did notice that the looooong line of cars to get into the terminal was down to zero by 2:30. The muster drill was at 3:30. The captain is Captain Rick. He has a sense of humor. Apparently his officers are not used to going to St. Maarten directly. Normally the ship heads to St. Maarten after stopping at Bermuda. So Captain Rick is concerned that his officers will be able to navigate directly to St. Maarten without a stop at Bermuda. He then gives us a weather report. We can expect fifty knot winds and rough seas through tomorrow. The weather should improve sometime in the afternoon of the second sea day. We depart at 4:30. I have cruised out of all three New York area ports, and only those ships leaving from Manhattan cruise past the Statue of Liberty. At any rate, because of the weather, not many people were outside when we passed under the bridge, so there was not much cheering when we passed under the bridge and into the North Atlantic. I retire to my cabin, read the handouts, unpack and meet my cabin steward. I tell him I like ice (I use it to make cold water) and I decide to try something new. In the past I have assumed the cabin steward knew my dining schedule (I have late seating, which has been moved up to 8:00 for this cruise). I’m hoping that the cabin steward will stop attempting to turn down my bed before I leave for dinner. No such luck. My cabin steward comes in at 7:30 while I am still tying my shoes. It may be a big ship, but it doesn’t take thirty minutes to get from my cabin to the restaurant. Royal Caribbean is doing something to reduce the crowding in the Concierge and Diamond Lounges by loading three free drinks on the SeaPass card of everyone who is Diamond and above. It says, “We are excited to introduce an additional option for you during this cruise: a nightly happy hour from 4:30 – 8::00 pm to be enjoyed at almost every venue throughout the ship with your friends!” It is not clear if being with your friends is a requirement to get the free drinks. At any rate, this is how it works: “Drink vouchers have been pre-loaded onto your SeaPass card to enable you to enjoy the flexibility of up to three complimentary beverages each night at almost every bar throughout the ship. You can still enjoy the exclusive experience of the Diamond Lounge and the Concierge Lounge (for Diamond Plus and Pinnacle Club members) plus all the other options available to you!” I’m still trying to figure out the meaning of “almost every bar”. I assume it means all the bars except the one I am at. The three drink vouchers per day will be applied to each eligible (C&A level Diamond and above) SeaPass card. The drink vouchers are not accumulative throughout the cruise. Drinks may not be redeemed in the dining room, specialty restaurants or Windjammer Café (I didn’t know they served drinks in the Windjammer). There is a menu: Spirits (ghosts?) - Bacardi Rum, Bailey’s Irish Cream, Tanqueray Gin, Finkandia Vodka, Dewar’s White Label Scotch Whisky, Jameson Irish Whiskey, Jack Daniels Tennessee Whiskey, Jose Cuervo Gold Tequila, Couvoisier VS Cognac and Sanderman Port (but not starboard) Wine. Non-Alcoholic Drinks (does this include water?) Wines by the glass – St. Martin Chardonnay, Zonin Pinot Grigio, Beringer White Zinfandel, St. Martin Cabernet Sauvignon and St. Martin Merlot (no word if the free St. Martin drinks continue after we leave St. Maarten). Beers – Budweiser, Miller Lite, Amstel Light, Corona and Heineken. I enjoyed a Dewar’s White Label Scotch Whisky and a Jameson Whiskey before dinner. I liked the Jameson Whiskey much better. It was smooth; the Dewar’s White Label Scotch Whisky was not. I am sharing a table with seven other people, many of whom were part of the roll call. I was hungry as I did not have breakfast and I had a light lunch. I had a shrimp appetizer, a two sliders appetizer (three sliders is a main course dish) and the prime rib. Toward the end of dinner the weather kicked in. A tray full of utensils almost rolled into one of the people at the table. Walking back to the cabin most people were weaving back and forth, except the drunks, they were the ones walking straight. Once back to the cabin I am tired. I take a ginger tablet (to avoid the ill effects of the “motion of the ocean”) and I am going to sleep. November 2, 2014 – Day at sea Well, I got a lot of exercise last night trying to stay in bed. The ship was definitely rolling last night. The Meet & Mingle began at 8:30am today. A lot of people on the roll call were complaining about the early hour. However, from what I could see, there was a very good turnout. Over 350 signed up and I would guess that at least seventy percent of them showed up. Royal Caribbean was prepared for a large turnout with lots of door prizes (none of which were doors). There were thirty movies, twenty bags, a dozen bottles of wine and one Royal Caribbean key ring. The Group Coordinator and the Activities Director (aka the Assistant Cruise Director) were the Royal Caribbean representatives at the Meet & Mingle. The Activities Director was from Turkey. He left Turkey because he liked chicken more than turkey (his joke – not mine). He after a couple of people in the far end of the Maharaja’s Lounge won prizes he decided to try and combine prizes so he wouldn’t have to run around as much. We all booed, so he went back to one prize per drawing. He tried to combine the prizes a second time and we all booed again. Judging by the constant smile on the Group Coordinator face, she had a great time. The Activities Director kept calling out all six numbers on the tickets. I got to draw one of the tickets (I didn’t draw my own ticket) and when I handed it to the Activities Director I told him to just call out the last three numbers as the first three numbers were the same on all the tickets. During the Meet & Mingle the Captain made an announcement. Last night the waves were four to six meters (that is about 13 to 20 feet) with an occasional seven meter wave (that is about 23 feet). However around 5:00am the ship was hit by a rogue wave that was ten meters (about 33 feet) high. It lifted lifeboat twenty high enough to not only damage it, but also to release the front end from its hook. The lifeboat hit deck four. It has now been secured; however, that portion of deck four is off limits. Hopefully those passengers assigned to lifeboat twenty are all good swimmers. Actually the Captain said that if something should happen we still have enough lifeboat capacity for all the passengers. The ship is certified to 3840 passengers. There are 3039 passengers on this sailing, so there is plenty of lifeboat capacity for all the passengers. However, the lifeboat was not the only victim of the rogue wave. The water came into the ship on deck four and got into the aft elevator shafts. So, the aft elevators would remain out of service until the electricians certify the elevators to be in working condition. And finally, due to the weather, all outside exposed decks (four and eleven up) are off limits. One of the people on the roll call made door signs for all of those that posted on the roll call. I know at least 110 people posted, so that is a lot of door signs. They are very nice and professional looking. Also, they have magnets so the door signs stick to the doors. Now there are a lot of people with door signs, at least on deck seven, including me. On the way back to the cabin I noticed a lot of vacuum cleaners capable of sucking up water (okay, any vacuum can suck up water, but these can do that and keep working property) were being used near my cabin. I could not understand why. I’m on deck seven, which is a lot higher than deck four and my cabin is dry. Later in the day I walked passed the cabin and while I did not hear much, what I did notice were to very unhappy passengers speaking to someone from the hotel department (I assume) complaining about the room being flooded. I don’t know how it got flooded, but it wasn’t from the rogue wave. I assume some sort of a plumbing problem. At any rate, since going outside was not much of an option, and since today was Sunday, I decided to grab a late breakfast, work on this and then watch football. Eventually it was time for dinner. Tonight is formal night. I wanted to have my picture taken with the Captain. After the picture I asked the Captain a question about the muster drill announcement that every mile we traveled it would get warmer. I asked, was that statute miles or nautical miles? He said nautical miles of course. So then I said, then that will take fifteen percent longer. He got the joke. After the picture I went to the combination Connoisseur Club and Diamond Lounge, which is the Maharaja’s Lounge (just above The Palace Theatre, which is the main show lounge). This time I had the Jack Daniels Tennessee Whisky and the Jameson Irish Whiskey. I like the Jack Daniels Tennessee Whisky better than the Dewar’s White Label Scotch Whisky, but I think that the Jameson Irish Whisky is the best of the three. Four people at our table went to Portofino for dinner tonight. The restaurant is on the starboard side of the ship, so it should be called Starofino. At any rate, our tablemates told us their plans last night, so we knew not to wait up for them. So tonight the head waiter shows up and asks about the four empty chairs. We told him where the four people were. Then I asked him, if he was a head waiter, how come he didn’t have on a red jacket. He wears a black jacket because he is a senior head waiter. I then headed to The Palace Theatre for the first production show. However, since the ship was rocking too much the product show was changed to tomorrow and one of the headliners took the stage. Though the guy was funny, it was not what I wanted to see and I was tired. So I sneaked out and returned to my cabin. Back at the cabin I caught the Sunday Night Football game and then went to sleep. November 3, 2014 – Day at sea Today we wake up to a mostly clear sky. The sun is shining and last night I didn’t spend half the night trying to keep myself from rolling out of bed. Life is good. So I get up to catch the sunrise, which I knew would be a bust. There are no clouds overhead, but there are plenty of clouds on the horizon. The exact opposite of what is needed for a picture perfect sunrise. The clouds on the horizon means the sun has to rise higher before making an appearance. The higher the sun, the more light there is which causes any colors to wash out. Of course there is no color because there are no clouds overhead. We are heading south south east and my cabin is on the port side, so I have a clear view of the sunrise. Since I knew it would not be a good one, I did not go up on deck. I did take a few photographs from my balcony just to prove I was up that early. There is a welcome back party for C&A levels Diamond and up at 11:00am today. So I decide to sleep in and then get up in time to attend. The reason the group was broken up into two is that there are more Crown & Anchor members on this cruise than can fit in The Palace Theatre, which is the biggest lounge on board this ship. There are over two thousand C&A members on this ship. The Gold and Emerald members will have their welcome back party tomorrow. We were told that there are 667 Diamond members, 379 Diamond Plus members and a new record for this ship, 45 Pinnacle members. The person with the most points on this ship has over three thousand points. Even at two points per night that works out to fifteen hundred days at sea or more than two hundred weeks at sea. Wow! I understand the person with the most C&A points has over five thousand points. He is known as Super Mario and he travels solo, so I believe he is currently earning three points per night. I met him on the Allure in September 2013 when he had around 4200 points. So he has gained eight hundred points in about 390 days. That means he spent over 265 days at sea or over 35 weeks at sea. Even the captains don’t spend that much time at sea (the captains work half the year, or about 26 weeks per year). After that it was time for lunch and then some picture taking. But first it was time for the Captain’s noon time status report. We are more than halfway to St. Maarten, our first port of call. This is good, because we are at the half way point time wise, so we are on schedule. The Captain mentions that the closest land is 479 miles away and there is over 16,000 feet (over 4850 meters) of water beneath the ship. After the Captain’s status report I go get some good pictures of people actually enjoying the sun while at sea. Then it was back to the cabin to work on this and to catch up on the sleep I lost the first night. Soon it was time for the production show that I wanted to see last night. Only this time it was at 6:45 instead of 10:15. Nonetheless, they did not change the Cruise Compass, which states that Brad Cummings, the guy from last night, would be on tonight. The production show is Fast Forward, featuring a VCR running at high speed. Oops, my bad, it features many of the dancing movie musicals that made it to Broadway, such as Dirty Dancing, Footloose, Flashdance and Saturday Night Fever. The show had lots of energy and I enjoyed it. They don’t allow flash photography or recording, but still pictures without a flash are allowed, and I took many pictures (as did someone sitting one row in front of me). After the show it was almost time for dinner, so I headed over to the Aquarium Bar for some Bailey’s Irish Cream. The Captain walked by (and apparently recognized me) and said hello to me. Not wanting to pass up a golden opportunity, I mention that at his noon time status report he said that we were 479 miles from the nearest land. He nodded. I then said that we are only three miles from land (while pointing straight down). The Captain replied that he was not sure that was land. I said it is dirt, isn’t it? He said he didn’t know, as he had never been there. I figured saying that he wasn’t planning to visit during this cruise would have been in bad taste, given what had happened with the rogue wave, so I just said goodbye. At dinner tonight the headwaiter showed up again and introduced himself to the four people who were not at the table last night. Soon we got to talking about things we missed. One person asked for the fake sugar that comes in the yellow wrapping (I don’t remember the name of it) and the head waiter went and got some for her himself. Someone else mentioned something else and the head waiter called some to find out if the requested item was available. So I decided to ask about Baked Alaska parades. The head waiter pointed out that there have been no Baked Alaska parades for eight or nine years. He even told us why. I thought it was because some drapes caught fire. He said no, that it was actually Cherries Jubilee and one of the waiters not only caught himself on fire when the stopper came out of the bottle, but the liquid (which is very flammable) also splashed on some of the ladies who were in formal evening wear and they received some burns to their exposed skin. This was quickly followed by an e-mail stating that there will be no more cooking (open flames) in the dining room. So, after a dinner and the post dinner conversation it was off to the cabin for me so I could catch the Monday Night Football game. November 4, 2014 – Day at sea I woke up to skyless cloud. The Cruise Compass said it would be partly cloudy with chances of rain. Well, the only part that is not cloudy is the ocean. Yuck! However, I did open my balcony door and it is noticeably warmer. So the ship did not make a “U” turn during the night and head back to New York. Nothing much happening today, so I head up to the Windjammer for breakfast. No reason to bring breakfast back down to my balcony, so I eat in the Windjammer and then try to get some good video of the thing (I don’t know what to call it) in the Viking Crown Lounge. The “thing” is one of those motorized things that brings balls up to the top and drops the balls down a track. The golf balls come to gates and go in whichever direction the gate directs the golf balls. From there the balls either ring bells, do loop-de-loops, bounce into a basket, or gather until the weight of the balls causes the bucket to spill. It is kind of mesmerizing, but very difficult to record on video. Given the weather conditions, I decide to take a few more pictures of the Royal Promenade and then head back to my cabin to upload the pictures and bring this up-to-date. At the Captain’s noon time status report he apologized for the weather, then blamed it on the National Weather Service. He assured us that we are heading in the right direction as the weather we are having today is basically the same as we had in New Jersey, except that it is warmer. It is about 72 degrees and it is expected to get up to 84 degrees tomorrow. We should also expect partly cloudy skies with scattered rain showers. The Captain reminded us that partly cloudy means mostly sunny (which is true – it actually does mean that). Hopefully it doesn’t rain, as I have a helmet dive scheduled and I don’t want to get wet. Having brought this up-to-date and having backed up my pictures, I decide to relax for a while. Later in the afternoon I head up on deck to take some outside pictures. Nothing doing, it is raining too hard. Oh well, it has been a tough year for me and now that things are back to normal, a new normal, but normal nonetheless, I’ve been looking forward to this cruise for about three weeks (yes, things finally fell into place for me about three weeks ago) and I have two goals for this cruise. One is to get away and leave the bad memories of the prior six and one half months behind and two, to relax. So, with no other choice but to remain inside I go back to the cabin and relax. Prior to dinner I head to the Aquarium Bar to try out the Bacardi Rum. Then I decide to use my Diamond free picture to purchase the picture with the Captain. When I do I am told there is a special for Diamond members, five pictures for fifty dollars. I posed in front of five different backdrops on formal night, so I choose one of each plus and album, which includes a picture of the ship) and head off to dinner. The album and free picture cost as much as an 8 x 10 photo, $22.95. I hide the album and pictures under my napkin during dinner. But once we are done, I take it out to look at it. One of my tablemates asks me if I am getting good reception. What??? She thinks I am looking at an iPad. I state the reception is good, but the picture never changes. Actually I am looking at a map of the cruise. From a distance I guess it could look like a leather covered iPad with a map of the Caribbean being viewed. After that I head back to the cabin and check the TV for the results of the election. However, we are one hour ahead of the Eastern Time Zone (we did not move out clocks back when the rest of the US, except Arizona, changed from Daylight Saving to Standard Time) and only the results from the Eastern and Central Time Zones are available. Finally I am tired and tomorrow we will be at our first port and my first shore excursion since January, so until tomorrow morning, good night. November 5, 2014 – Saint Maarten I wake up to good weather. It is 5:30 and the Cruise Compass says sunrise is at 6:15. Well, it is already light outside. The sun is arriving early and my camera is still inside the cabin. I keep my cabin as cold as possible. Even so, I still have to throw the comforter off the bed or I will over heat at night. The problem is that the camera is cold. When the camera is taken outside, the moist warm air quickly condenses on the glass surfaces, like the lens. Attempting to take a picture in this condition is like trying to take a picture in dense fog. It takes about forty-five minutes for the camera to warm up enough that the lens stays clear, meaning that the camera can focus properly and a good quality picture will be the result. So, a sunrise picture is not going to happen this morning. After the failed sunrise photograph opportunity I went back to sleep, as my shore excursion is scheduled for 1:00. The Caption told us told us earlier that we would be meeting the pilot around 8:00am. At 7:30 I figure I have plenty of time until I remember that in Saint Maarten the pilot meets the ship just outside the harbor. Sure enough I look outside and realize we are cruising past the island. I quickly get dressed and got some pictures of the three ships already here (the NCL Epic, the Celebrity Reflection and the HAL Westerndam. The Oasis of the Seas arrives soon after us. There must be over 15,000 passengers here today. I decide to take it easy (cool down) for a while in the cabin, then I go for brunch around 11:00. After brunch I head into town for a couple of shot glasses for a friend that collects them. Because of where we are docked, I must have walked close to a mile round trip for these shot glasses. He better like the two shot glasses I picked out for him. Today I am doing the helmet dive. The helmet weighs seventy-five pounds on land and fifteen pounds in the water. The helmet is filled with air, and the wearer simply walks along the bottom, or at least that is the idea. However, in actual practice one cannot lean to far forward or the water level will rise inside the helmet. If one leans too far back (such as trying to look at the surface) large bubbles come out from under the helmet. Part of the mask is flat, and looking through the flat portion of the mask is normal. However, by looking left or right one is looking through the curved portion of the mask and the view is distorted. Finally the water is about twenty feet deep and it is not stationary. There is a current under the water and standing still to take a picture is not easy. The ticket said to bring some money, which I did. But after everyone has made it to the staging point on the pier, and signed the waivers, we are told the pictures are thirty-five dollars. I’m not bringing that much, nor am I bringing a credit card. So I will not be buying any pictures. As it turns out, the three selfies I took match the quality of the pictures that were for sale. One little hiccup did occur. The group was split in two. I was in the second group. While waiting we were allowed to snorkel. I was concentrating so much on getting my snorkel gear set properly that I forgot to keep track of my camera, which was now lying on the ocean floor, twenty feel below me. Perhaps in freshwater I could dive that deep, but not in saltwater without a weight belt. Fortunately one of the divers was able to retrieve my camera for me. Upon my return to the ship I take a nice freshwater shower and then head up to deck eleven for a snack, some nice cold ice cream, which is free on the pool deck (or one can pay extra and get ice cream at Ben & Jerry’s on deck five). I grab a bowl and spoon from the Windjammer and go outside to get my ice cream. The machine is down for cleaning. Back inside the windjammer I settle for two cholate chip cookies and some watermelon and pineapple slices and a nice tall plastic cup of ice water. After my snack I head back to my cabin to upload and view the photographs. I find that there is a mixture of good and not so good underwater photographs. But, since electronic photographs are free, I don’t mind the photographs that didn’t work as long as I get a few keepers, and I did. After viewing the photographs I update this. I check tomorrow’s schedule and realize I am doing another water activity. So I recharge the battery for the underwater camera. I only have one battery for the underwater camera, two batteries for the DSLR and three sets of two AA batteries for the point & shoot camera. Then I decide to relax until dinner time. At dinner the topic of conversation is what each of did during the day. I had gourmet meatballs as an appetizer and New York steak for the main course. The steak was so good I considered ordering a second steak. However, I got caught up in the conversation and ended up with only one steak. After dinner I return to my cabin. My early morning shore excursion was changed to an early afternoon shore excursion, so I get to sleep in. I stayed up until past midnight. So until later this morning, goodnight. November 6, 2014 – Antigua This time I put my camera outside before I went to sleep, so that there would be no fogging issues in the morning. However, with heavy clouds on the horizon and almost no clouds overhead, there is nothing worth photographing. I notice we are going really slow and figure that must mean we are getting close to our port. However, I quick look around reveals that we are not near land. Then I remember that Saint Maarten and Antigua are only about 85 nautical miles apart. A speed of seven knots will get us there. Sure enough, about an hour later I can see the island. Unfortunately we are headed directly toward the sun, so there is no reason to get the camera out. Looking at the island is like looking into a spot light. I’ll get some pictures after the sun is higher in the sky. The next time I look out from my balcony I see many of the crew headed ashore with their lifejackets on. Are they afraid the island is going to sink? Is there something the Captain told the crew that he has not shared with the passengers? Apparently today is crew safety training day. While walking the deck to take some photographs I notice one of the life rafts (not a lifeboat) is in the pool and some of the crew getting instructions on how to enter the life raft from the water. The lifeboats are for the passengers (except for those in lifeboat twenty) and a few of the crew. The life rafts are for the rest of the crew, and if they are good tippers, the passengers assigned to lifeboat twenty. Then I go outside to get some good pictures of the ship and lifeboat twenty, and a shot glass for my friend. First I found a Caribbean shirt for myself. Then would you believe it, I had to actually search for a store that sold shot glasses. I thought there was a law that at least fifty percent of the stores in the dock area had to sell shot glasses. Even the ship sells shot glasses. With the administrative duties out of the way, I returned to my cabin to change into swim wear for my feed the stingrays shore excursion. This one is almost as good as Stingray City in Grand Cayman, and they provide more food. The water was a little cloudy but I got some good pictures and bought a couple from the Antigua Stingray City photographer. All in all a very good day, since I still have all my fingers. This is the fourth time I have done this shore excursion (plus three times in Grand Cayman) but it is the first time without some kids on the excursion (there are only about thirty kids on the ship). The combination of the strange shape and the name can scare the kids. Young kids do not do well on this excursion or the one in Grand Cayman. Don’t even consider the one on Pearl Island in Nassau, that one is a waste of money in my opinion. Back on the ship it was time for a fresh water shower and just before leaving Antigua, an announcement from the Captain. Seems lifeboat twenty, with its bow on deck four and a crushed safety rail below it is not going unnoticed. The shore based safety inspectors have been inspecting the ship and have been satisfied with the steps that have been taken. So far the ship has been allowed to continue its cruise. Just before leaving New Jersey the Captain said that this was a historic voyage for the Explorer, as it has been based in New Jersey for about fourteen years. Given what happened the first morning, I have a feeling that Captain Rick will remember this cruise for a very long time. Like sunrises, sunsets can also be ruined by clouds on the horizon. The problem is the sun ends up setting while still fairly high in the sky which washes out any color in the clouds that are overhead. Sunset was a bust, so I went inside and uploaded my pictures, updated this, started the process of picking out the pictures I want to post with my review and then headed off to dinner. Again the topic of conversation among my tablemates was what we did for today. As to the food, for dinner tonight I decided to try the Chops’ steak. The menu lists the price as $16.95, but it is actually $19.49 because they add in a $2.54 tip. It was good, but the free steak (more correctly, the included steak) I had earlier was just as good. Since I have an early morning tour tomorrow, I decide to go back to my cabin and go to sleep. So, until tomorrow morning, goodnight. November 7, 2014 – Saint Lucia When I wake up I look at the window and there are heavy clouds on the horizon. However, since I went to bed early, I decide to get up, sit outside and hope for the best. The first thing I notice is that it is warm (and the sun is not even up yet). Sunrise was a bust again. I took a few pictures, but that was at the time the sun was supposed to rise. I wasn’t going to wait for it to make it over the clouds. Instead I came inside where it was nice and cool and worked on this. I also filled the laundry bag I got from my room steward yesterday (I had to ask for it) with enough clothing to make it thought the rest of the cruise (I only packed for ten days). The wash and fold (no pressing) fill the bag cost thirty dollars and Diamond members get a $10 discount. Then I watch as we cruise into the harbor, and again, right into the sun. So I’ll take the area pictures later. It looks like it rained here last night. The Captain is spinning the ship to face out, which is what the Captain did the last time I was here (on the Serenade in 2008). After we arrive I shave, shower and dress for the shore excursion. Today’s shore excursion was interesting to say the least. When I checked my ticket it said to bring a swim suit. I know I purchased this shore excursion for its photographic opportunities. As a result I didn’t bring anything to carry a wet bathing suit and towel in. Oh well, I’ll just skip the bathing in the warm mineral pools. However, when I get back I see I have purchased the Saint Lucia’s Historic Diamond Estate tour and the tour I am on is the Breathtaking Soufriere & Warm Mineral Bath tour. Did Royal Caribbean change my tour? No, a little research reveals that the two different names are for the same tour. To be honest, I would have preferred more photographic opportunities. However, I am glad I didn’t take my DSLR, as we did some hiking (and the DSLR is heavy and not fun to hike with). Instead I took my much smaller point and shoot camera. The camera and the hat were the only two things I brought with me, so I was traveling light. On the tour I found a shot glass for my friend, which I stuck in the same pocket as the camera. While the tour was not all I had hoped it would be, the tour guide (his name is Jay) was much more than I expected. He was great! Also on the tour was Veronica, who is from the shore excursion department. She was evaluating this tour, as it is the Explorer’s first stop at this island. At any rate, Jay was my equal wise guy wise. So while driving along (and there was a lot of driving) our van of twelve passengers had a great time. The first stop I was expecting, as it was an opportunity to take a picture of the ship from a vantage point. I have a similar picture of the Serenade of the Seas when I was here before in 2008. Our next stop was overlooking a bay where the yacht owners tie up their yachts during hurricanes, as the bay is very well protected by tall mountains. The tour guide then purchased some local bananas for all the passengers. He asked us to save the skin to feed to his kids. At first I thought he was kidding. However, he assured us that his kids love the banana peels. So I figured, okay, I can see a young child (say three or four years old) enjoying some rather strange food. However, soon we stopped at a house with four or five young goats (aka kids). As most people know, goats will eat almost anything, and these goats were expecting to be fed as we exited the van. Okay, he got us with that one, but now I am wise to him. Game on. Next we stopped where we could get good photographs of the Pitons (two tall mountain peaks). I took one picture through the window. Then someone asked if our guide could open the door, which he did. My second picture is of the side of the door. A photograph I knew I could have some fun with. As it was I quickly announced that I now had a beautiful picture of the side of the door. I then took several more pictures of the Pitons though the open door. We then stopped at the Diamond Botanical Gardens. After short walk we came to a waterfall where the guide used our cameras to take our picture with the waterfall in the background. He took several of me, some from some interesting angles. Still, it would have helped if he understood photography a little better. In this case it would have been better to step back and zoom in a bit. The background then looks a little more to scale. Using the wide setting from close make me look as big as the forty foot waterfall. Then we stopped where most took a dip in the warm mineral pools. I bought a shot glass for my friend and some water for myself. Then I found the picture of the side of the van door and showed it to Jay, saying, “Would you like to see what the side of your door looks like?” He was quite concerned, as it was he who opened the door, until I showed him that I had some good pictures of the Pitons. Okay, I can be a wise guy too. On the hike back Jay look behind him to see that everyone had stopped. I told him that everyone was looking at the hummingbird. With just the two of us standing there, I asked Jay if he knew why the hummingbirds hummed. He didn’t. So I told him it was because they didn’t know the words. Old joke, I know. However, Jay thought it was funny and shared it with the group. They all laughed. Perhaps the joke is so old that the younger set (anyone under forty years old) or those from other countries (we had a couple from England and a couple from Germany) had not heard it before. On the drive back he asked everyone in the van how many turns we had taken. Most guessed between fifty and one hundred. I guessed one, figuring that this was all one long turn. Others guessed as I thought about this some more. There was no way Jay could have been counting the turns. Then it hit me, the answer is two. We had taken some right turns and some left turns. Jay gave me a high five. Since I was traveling light, upon my return to the ship I went directly to the Windjammer for lunch (I had not eaten breakfast) and brought it down to my balcony to eat. Then I laid down to rest. The next thing I knew it was 6:00pm. I uploaded my photographs and updated this. Then it was time for dinner. At dinner I had the cream of mushroom soup and Chicken Cordon Blue. The soup was fine, but the Chicken Cordon Blue was a little different than I expected. The cook had not removed the bone. It was kind of like Chicken Cordon Blue on a stick. Starting from the bone free end, it was possible to eat eighty percent of it with a knife and fork. The remaining twenty percent was more like eating a chicken leg. It was good, but it was the first time I had Chicken Cordon Blue on the bone. Once again the topic of conversation at dinner was what we did on the island. I told my story that you just read above. Seems feeding the goats banana peels is fairly common among most of the tours. Someone made the comment that most of the tours seem very similar. I pointed out that on Saint Lucia everyone wants to see the Pitons and that in Acapulco everyone wants to see the Clift Divers. Thus, all the different tours end up making a stop at these popular places, even if the rest of the tour goes to someplace unique. I am not a heat and humidity person, so after dinner I went back to the cabin and went to sleep. So until tomorrow morning, goodnight. November 8, 2014 – Barbados I guess I am more tired than I thought. When I wake up it is light outside, even though the sun has not officially risen yet. Still I can see there are clouds on the horizon and I don’t even bother getting out of bed. However, soon I see land so I go out to see how close we are. It feels a little cooler this morning compared to yesterday morning. I can see what looks like a cruise ship in the harbor. I looks a little like a Princess ship, so I am guessing P&O. Sure enough it is the P&O Ventura. I decide to quickly dress and go up to the helicopter pad to take some pictures. Once again we are headed directly into the sun, so I grin and bear it and do the best I can, given we are only going to approach this harbor once. Since this is a commercial dock, there is nothing worth wasting free film on once we are inside the harbor. The Ventura has the best location. We are directly across from the Ventura; however, it looks to be about a half mile walk to get to the town side of the dock (we are on the ocean side of the harbor). According to the Captain’s announcement, which I cannot hear inside the cabin with the door closed, there is a shuttle bus to take us to the edge of town. Well, I have a 9:00 tour scheduled, so it is time to shave, shower and dress. I’ll see you later this afternoon. There are shuttle buses to take the passengers to the passenger terminal. From there I’m on a large tour bus with 27 other passengers plus a tour guide and driver. It turns out to be a lot of driving along roads in need of some maintenance. We make three stops and I grab a few pictures at each stop. However, because of the weather, which is completely overcast, the scenic photographs don’t look so good. Also, the tour guide is more or less average. Good, but not nearly as good as Jay was yesterday. The first stop is at a church. I’m not sure why every island likes to include a church on its tours, but I’ve been on a lot of tours hoping for good scenic photographic opportunities (according to the description of the tour) and I have ended up seeing a lot of island based churches. I found the profile of a rock formation that might have been carved, since it looked like there was a nose sticking out. I took a picture of the rock and showed it to the guide. She agreed it did look like a nose, but was unaware of any faces carved into a rock formation. Next we stop at a scenic beach, which would have been a lot nicer if some sunlight had been included. There is someone with a green monkey who expects a tip if you take photographs of him and the monkey. I took two pictures and was going to give him a couple of dollars; however, he wanted five dollars. Okay, lesson learned. However, I did get to pet the monkey, which mouthed my finger, but did not try to bite me. The final stop was at another scenic point, which once again would have benefited from a little sunlight. We received a free drink. There were several options. I choose the run punch. I also bought a shot glass for my friend, so now I am all set. Then we head back to the ship. I decide to walk back to the ship so that I can take a few pictures of the two ships in port as I walk back. Again, traveling light, I am able to head directly up to the Windjammer to get lunch and head back to my cabin to enjoy lunch on the balcony. Though with nothing happening around the ship, there is really nothing special about eating lunch on the balcony. After lunch it is nap time again. However, I get up in time to watch the sail-away from my balcony and then listen to the Captain’s announcements. He provides the time for sunrise tomorrow and then refers to sunset tonight. Then says we cannot see the sun and doesn’t give a sunset time. We have a little over five hundred nautical miles to go to our next port, so tomorrow will be a day at sea. However, he is predicting better weather for our day at sea. After that I upload my photographs, update this and back everything up. Then at 6:30 I head down to The Palace Theatre to take in the second production show. So I’ll be back at you after dinner. The production show tonight was Wild, Cool & Swingin. It was good, but did not have as much energy as the prior show, so I did like it as much. Though I got some good pictures, when they put the spot light on the singers, they wash out because the rest of the scene is much darker. They end up looking like glowing ghosts in the photograph. After the show I had stopped at the Aquarium Bar for a double of Baileys’ Irish Cream. Then for dinner I had the shrimp cocktail and the always available (meaning every night) free steak, which once again was very good (it is better tasting at the Chops’ steak, but not as tender). Tonight’s conversation began with the usual, what did you do today. However, the post dinner conversation was about the changes Royal Caribbean has been making on the ships. In general most of the changes have not been well received, at least by my tablemates. I have more of a wait and see attitude, but from what I know about the changes, I don’t view them as “upgrades”. After dinner I returned to my cabin to check out tomorrow’s Cruise Compass. My day of rest has turned into a busier schedule than I had hoped for. I’ll see what I can do given that there are some schedule conflicts and plan my day tomorrow morning. So until tomorrow morning, goodnight. November 9, 2014 – Day at sea When I wake up we are traveling west, so the sun is rising behind us. I can also see that I forgot to put my camera outside. No, wait, I didn’t forget, I purposely did not because it had rained during dinner and I didn’t want to take a chance on my DSLR getting wet. No matter, with the camera inside and the cabin as cold as the air conditioning can make it, there is no way I can heat the camera up in time for a sunrise photograph, assuming that there might be one worth photographing. I can see there are clouds on the horizon, of course that is to the south, I don’t know what kind of cloud cover is behind me and I see no reason to get up to find out what there is. Now it is almost 10:00 and I have shaved, showered and dressed. At 10:30am there is an “Exclusive Top Tier Event” (exclusive being all the tiers except the lowest tier). Until then, I am updating this and uploading my photographs from last night. As I look outside I see lots of clouds but it is still only partly cloudy, nice and warm and best of all, nice and bright. I wish it was like this yesterday, it would have made my scenic photographs look a lot more scenic. Nonetheless, it appears we are going to have a good calm day at sea. So until later, it is time to go out and take advantage of what Mother Nature has given us. There are four things I am interested in today: the Exclusive Top Tier Event, the ice skating show and two lectures. The first one is Digital Living, Discovery the Possibilities – Imagine a world where digital devices are not only compatible with each other, but are compatible with your lifestyle. The second one is Aviation – How does the pilot get you safely from point A to point B?). First was the Top Tier Event. It was nothing special. Then I went to the technology lecture. The guy starts off explaining how you can charge several USB devices at once. I already know how to do that, so I left to take some pictures around the ship. There I saw the family that was part of the roll call who has six kids on the cruise. Back down to the cabin to change lenses and grab the bag of cookies Royal Caribbean give me. Then back to deck twelve to give Mom the cookies I received on the first day. I am sure the kids will enjoy the cookies more than I would. The Captain gave his status report at noon today. We are 274 nautical miles from our next port, which means we have to average about 15.25 knots to make it on time. Also, the Captain announces what everyone has already figured out, the weather is beautiful. A quick look at the full decks and pools will confirm that. Next is the aviation lecture, which was interesting. Afterwards I asked the pilot if he had heard the story about the pilot on a continuing flight who offered to give the blind passenger’s dog a little exercise. The passengers see the pilot of the plane disembarking the plane with a Seeing Eye dog, which scares the passengers. The pilot laughed. In Mythbuster terms, he rated the story plausible. Finally was the ice show. It was good, but in my opinion, nothing special. Back in the cabin I caught the end of the San Francisco verse New Orleans football game. My friend is a big 49ers fan. I can only imagine the range of emotions my friend went through at the end of the game. Tonight is our second formal night, as I thought it would be. I could not believe it when some on the roll call argued with me and claimed the second formal night would be after we left one of the islands. Today being a sea day was a natural choice for the second formal night. At any rate, I bought a Caribbean shirt in Antigua that I am going to wear tonight. So I’ll catch up with you after dinner. I posed for several pictures and then headed to dinner. The topic of conversation stated with the various comedians, but soon switched to funny lines from older TV shows and movies, such as my favorite line from Planes, Trains & Automobiles, “Those aren’t pillows!” After dinner I returned to my cabin to find out my favorite team, the Green Bay Packers were playing. A few minutes into the second quarter I started to feel bad for Chicago (it was 28 to nothing in Green Bay’s favor). At any rate it is now 10:30 and I have a 9:15am shore excursion tomorrow morning. So for now, goodnight all. Oops, now it is 35 to nothing. I think I’ll turn off the TV at halftime and go to sleep. November 10, 2014 – Curacao Good morning everyone. Sunrise today is supposed to be at 6:30. Yesterday we were headed west (our heading was 267). At 6:00am when I woke up I decided to check on the status of the sunrise. I turned on the TV to the ship’s information channel (channel forty) and discovered that our heading was now 308. This meant that the sun would rise directly behind the ship. If I wanted a sunrise photograph I would have to leave my cabin, something I have done before to get good sunrise photographs. I went out on the balcony and looked back; there were clouds on the horizon. Then I looked straight up and there were no clouds. I decide to go back to bed. Winter time is not the best time for sunrise pictures. However, if one is going to enjoy a two week repo cruise, one does not get to choose the time of year. Around 7:00 I notice we are next to land. The ship is turning to approach the pier with the port side toward the pier, just like the last time I was here (in 2011 aboard the Carnival Miracle, which departed from Fort Lauderdale the day after the Green Bay Packers won the Super Bowl). The captain made it a little hard for the people responsible for handling the forward lines. The first throw was short. At least three times a gun was used to shoot the line to the pier, all three fell short. Finally the pilot boat had to come out, get the lines and drag the lines over to the pier. It is 8:30am now and all aboard is twelve hours from now. Our next port may be closer than the pier was when docking. So we have all day to visit this very colorful port. I’ve got a submarine to catch at 9:00am so I’ll catch up with you later. Oops, it is not a submarine, it is a semisubmersible. However, one advantage of this is that the guide can go to the top deck and feed the fish. In fact, the fish were following the boat waiting for breakfast. So we did see more fish than I did from the submarine in Saint Thomas. Nonetheless, I liked the real submarine in Saint Thomas better. Back at the dock I bought a couple of shot glasses for my friend and another Caribbean shirt for me. Then back on the ship to have brunch, cool down and get a different lens for my walking tour of Willemstad. Last time I was here I did not cross over the river to the other side. This time I did. The Vision of the Seas must have arrived after I left on my tour. It was docked on the other side of the movable bridge. On the other side I stopped at a shore side restaurant to take in the sites, rest and have some ice cream to help me cool down. During this time the moveable bridge was opened and closed. The woman from the shore excursion staff that was on the tour in Saint Lucia was at the same restaurant I was at. I took a picture of her. But when I paid my bill she disappeared. Once the bridge was closed I headed back to the ship. I changed into my bathing suit and took a dip in the nice cool salt water pool. Then back to the cabin to take a fresh water shower, upload the photographs, update this and get some rest. At 5:00pm I went down to the shore excursion desk to show Veronica the picture I took of her and to verify some information about my shore excursion to Port Canaveral before my flight home. Seems we have to self-disembark at 7:30am. There was nothing about this on the Internet when I signed up for this tour. Veronica said that a letter would be given to us later. This is a two week cruise and not everyone has managed to pack everything into one suitcase (though there are those who claim to be able to pack for two weeks using only a carry-on). Fortunately I can easily handle my entire luggage (one suit case, one laptop backpack and one smaller camera backpack). So this is no problem for me, but it is still important information that should have been provided to me earlier, instead of my having to find out from someone complaining about it at the dinner table. Well, it is after 6:00pm. I am waiting for it to get dark so that I can take some nighttime photographs of the ship. Then it will be time for dinner. So I’ll be back after dinner. I got some good nighttime photographs of the ship, dropped off my camera in the cabin and headed off to dinner. I like the free steak, so I order that and some chicken for dinner. Tonight’s conversation started to get into politics. I hate politics. As far as I am concerned, all the politicians are in it for either their own self-interest (money, power or to help out their friends) or they are incompetent. We started to talk about inflation and what actions the government can take to control it. I said a few things, but didn’t want to get into any arguments. Eventually the discussion turned toward phone, television, the Internet, the providers of these services and the various ways of providing the service (wireless, cable and fiber optics). After dinner I returned to my cabin. Even though tomorrow is a day of rest for me, I just wanted to go to sleep. So until tomorrow, good night. November 11, 2014 – Bonaire Once again the crew could have rowed and we would have arrived on time. This is the first time I’ve been to Bonaire. I looked at the various shore excursion offerings three times and I could not find anything interesting. Tomorrow we will be in Aruba and will be leaving Aruba early. I wish we could have gone to Aruba today and left Bonaire early tomorrow. I’m not the only one that feels this way. I woke up at 5:00 and put my camera out on the balcony to heat up. But then when I checked the TV I found that our heading was 28 degrees. That meant that sunrise was on the other side of the ship. I looked outside and just and just did not feel like getting dressed. I left the camera out so I could use it coming into port. When I notice the pilot boat speed up and cut in front of the ship after dropping off the pilot I realized I was going to have to get dressed anyway and head over to the helipad to get the coming into port pictures. Well, it turned out the port was on the left side of the ship after all. It looks like Bonaire is building up the port area. Lots of new shops are visible. I know the shops are new, because they look new and there is nothing in the shops yet. None of the vendors have set up shop yet. So, with nothing planned, I figured I would go over some odds and ends: 1) Early in the cruise my room steward saw me leave the cabin. However, he didn’t see me come back. He walked in on me while I was getting ready to leave again. It was no big deal to me, as I am using the dead bolt to control when the room steward can come in. But it apparently got to the room steward. The next time he saw me he apologized and said for now on he would only come in when the blue make up the room card was out. I have been using the make up the room card, and this has worked out well with two minor hiccups. The first was one morning when I was out of the cabin for a while, but he had not made up the room. Then I came back, dropped off some things and went out again for a short time. I should have removed the room card because I knew I was coming back soon and I had to change for my shore excursion. Sure enough, when I returned the room steward was cleaning my room. The second time was yesterday morning when I forgot to put the card out. But the day was young and I put it out before exploring Willemstad and when I returned, the room was clean. 2) Why is the bathroom light switch next to the hinge side of the door, outside the bathroom? Most people have the bathroom light switch inside the bathroom. So once you walk in and realize the switch is outside of the cabin, you cannot just reach around. You have to exit the bathroom to turn on the light. Why can’t they put the light switch on the latch side of the door, where it would be easy to reach? 3) The Explorer is the second of the five Voyage class ships. The first three have the balconies inside the structure of the ship. Thus the balcony is inside a steel box. It does not have the open air feeling that the Navigator and Mariner (the last two of the Voyager class ships) have. The balconies on the Navigator and Mariner are outside the structure of the ship. The Navigator and Mariner are my two favorite Royal Caribbean ships. I have been on the Freedom and if you have young kids I would recommend the three Freedom class ships over the Voyager class, as the three Freedom class ships have the H2O Zone. I have also been on the Allure, but it is just too big. My favorite Carnival ships are the four Spirit class ships. The Spirit class ships are about the same size as the Radiance class ships; however, I do not like the layout of the Radiance class ships. 4) I must have pulled a muscle the first night trying to stay in bed. The right side of my hip hurts me when I am standing, trying to stand from a sitting position, trying to sit from a standing position and when lying on my back in bed. However, it does not hurt when I am walking or sitting, so it has had very little negative effect on the cruise experience (but I would be happier if it didn’t hurt). 5) Every evening at dinner I have two pieces of bread. One with cheese and one with pumpkin seeds. And every evening the assistant waiter gets the cheese bread right and then tries to give me the sesame seed bread. 6) Carnival has pool side food and drink stations. That way if you are wet and wearing a bathing suit you don’t have to dry off just to eat. And since a waiter (or assistant waiter) prepares the drinks on Royal Caribbean, it is hard to get ice. Carnival has ice at all the drink stations. However, I have heard that you can get ice from the Freestyle Coke machines on Royal Caribbean even if you didn’t purchase the soft drink package. 7) When the people on the pier are too far way for someone to throw the rope, they use a gun to shoot the rope over. The Explorer of the Seas needs a new gun. The weighted ball that was supposed to land on the pier fell short and went swimming every time. Well, that is it for now. I’m going to relax some more, then have brunch and then go explore the area around the port. So I’ll see you later. So, here is how my day went. A little before noon I left the cabin and boarded the elevator for a ride up to deck twelve where Johnny Rockets is located. I boarded on deck seven. Someone on the elevator wants an express ride to deck eleven, where the Windjammer is located. I guess he is really hungry. So he holds the number eleven button in hoping the elevator will skip all the other decks. The elevator stops at deck eight to allow someone else on. The person holding the number eleven button is visibly disappointed. I’m left wondering how someone so naive about the operation of an elevator can earn enough money to afford to cruise. Finally I make it to deck twelve, only to discover that Johnny Rockets is not open. Since Johnny Rockets was closed, I headed down to deck eleven for brunch. While looking for something yummy I spot the first officer having lunch. I say hello. After I gather a plate full of food, I find a seat near the windows overlooking the ocean. The weather looks good. Done with lunch I catch an elevator heading to deck one, where the gangplank is located. Once on the dock it starts raining. At first it is light, but very quickly builds to a major down pour. I quickly duck under the tent where security is located. I know this is one of those famous ten minute tropical downpours. Once the rain stops I head to town to get shot glasses for my friend. Then head back to the ship. I debate exploring more, however, one look at the sky and I realize it could rain again. Unfortunately there is a line to re-board the ship and sure enough it begins to rain. I don’t charge my friend for the shot glasses I buy him, but he better appreciate what I have gone through to get the shot glasses for him. Back in the cabin I take off my wet clothing and put my wet shirt outside to dry. It is nice and sunny now. Okay, I get the message. I’m not leaving the cabin. I lie down and take a nice long nap. I wake up about the time everyone is due back on board. Of course since it is humid outside the shirt has only gone from soaked to damp. So I dry it enough to put on with the hair dryer. Then I head down to the photo gallery to find the photographs from the last formal night (the photo gallery was closed all day yesterday). I pick out five pictures and again take advantage of the Diamond five for fifty dollars deal and I bought another photo album (I don’t know why I did that). The normal ten picture photo package is $175. I have eleven (one free and two five for fifty) for only $100. Then I head back to the cabin to upload my few photographs (the ones in my camera, not the ones I just bought) and update this. Dinner is in about one hour, so I’ll back everything up, and get ready for tomorrow’s shore excursion. I hope it doesn’t rain, as I am taking my DSLR. It is the same shore excursion I took in 2011 when I was here, except this time I’m taking a better camera with me. We are only in Aruba for a short time, so we can make it back to Port Canaveral on time (or at least that is what the Captain said as we left Bonaire). I think it is because the way back is up hill (take a look at a globe). At any rate, my shore excursion meets at 8:30. So, I’ll catch up with you after dinner. I had the shrimp cocktail, the sliders and free steak for dinner. Then, because of the early shore excursion, I head back to my cabin and hit the bed. November 12, 2014 – Aruba It is amazing what a half day’s sleep plus a full night’s sleep can do for you. I’m up a 6:00 and feeling pretty good (except for the right side of my hip). I watch the pilot boat speed away after dropping off the pilot. Then I head to the helipad to get some pictures (which look dull with no sun) and some sunrise photographs (which are just that, the sun rising, as there are no clouds overhead and plenty of clouds on the horizon. We are cleared to go shortly after 7:00am. However, there are no vendors out and about that early. My tour ends at 11:45am and the back on board time is 12:30pm. We leave at 1:00 for the two and a half day trip back to Port Canaveral. There is a message on the TV (for those that actually read the messages) telling the Port Canaveral shore excursion guests that they will have to carry their own luggage off the ship. I can’t wait for the problems that is going to create. At any rate with nothing better to do, I decide to get breakfast and then head down for my tour. I’m a little early so I decide to sit and wait, until someone else shows and gets shown the bus to get on. So I follow and find out I’m actually one of the last to show up. Our first stop is the butterfly farm, which is the reason I brought my good camera. Those butterflies are not the most cooperative photographic subjects I’ve tried to photograph, but I did get some good photographs nonetheless. However, I am drenched in sweat chasing (walking) after the butterflies in the shade. It is hot and humid. I find a shot glass for my friend at the butterfly farm, so life would be good except I also want to get a Caribbean shirt, as Aruba has the best prices for these shirts and we are docked a long walk from the street vendors (and the bus cannot let us off outside the gate). The next stop is the natural bridge. Back around 2005 or 2006 the big natural bridge collapsed. All that is left is a pile of rocks and the smaller bridge. I take a few photographs and then head back to the bus. Our last stop is bunch of boulders. There is some debate about how the boulders ended up where they are. One theory is they were blown out of a volcano and a second theory is that the boulders were pushed up out of the sea by some geological force. The weather conditions have etched some of the boulders into unusual shapes. But from my point of view, these are still just boulders - yippee! The place is called Ayo Rock Formations (in case you develop a boulder fetish and feel like traveling to Aruba to satisfy it). Upon our return to the ship at 11:35am I headed over to the street vendors (dodging all that did not have Caribbean shirts) and found what I was looking for. The price was $15 which is at least five dollars less than any place else on the other islands that sell the Caribbean shirts. I made it back to the line to get onto the ship by noon. And what a line it was. EVERYBODY was coming back at the same time. They even had two security stations for boarding the ship and the line was still moving at a snail’s pace. Fortunately it was hot and muggy, so that besides the joy of a slow moving line, everyone had the chance to feel hot and muggy (in the shade, in the sun - it really didn’t matter much). At any rate, back on board I had lunch and went back to the cabin to change out of my sweat drenched clothing and took a shower. Then I watched an overpriced movie, (thirteen dollars via pay per view) on the TV in the cabin, where at least it was nice and cool. After that I uploaded my photographs and updated this. It should be sunset soon and since we are traveling north (actually NNW) and since I am on the port side of the ship, I can watch the sunset from my balcony. Unfortunately there are no clouds overhead and plenty of clouds on the horizon, so I will not waste any free film on the sunset. Then I’m just going to relax until dinner. So I’ll be back at you after dinner. I had the shrimp cocktail, the included steak and tempura for dinner. Actually everybody at the table ordered the tempura. Tonight’s discussion centered on future cruises. One person booked a repositioning cruise from Boston to Tampa Bay for next October on either the Radiance or the Brilliance (I forget which one). That is a thirteen night cruise with a similar, but better itinerary than this one, mostly because they get to spend a full day in Aruba. If I recall the itinerary correctly, the ship spends three days to get to Saint Kitts, then Saint Lucia and Barbados, another day at sea, Curacao, Aruba and three days at sea back up to Tampa Bay. And even though tomorrow is a day at sea, I decide to just get a good night’s sleep. So until tomorrow morning, goodnight. November 13, 2014 – Day at sea I wake up at 6:00 and look outside. We are heading northwest which means sunrise is on the other side of the ship. I decide to skip getting dressed and going out to the rear of the ship for a possible sunrise photo. Per the ship’s information channel we are approaching Haiti. The ship will have to turn to the northeast to make it between Cuba and Haiti. Then it will turn northwest again as it heads toward Port Canaveral. We are traveling at about eighteen and a half knots. Yesterday we were going just below twenty knots. As I set up my computer this morning I realize my cabin is turning into quite a zoo. I have a rabbit on the night stand, a monkey hanging from the lampshade, an elephant on the table and a dinosaur standing on top of the TV. The Captain’s Corner is at 10:00am and I am looking forward to that. After I finish updating this and backing everything up, I figuring I’ll grab a quick breakfast and then head over to The Palace for the Captain’s Corner. Then after the Captain’s Corner I check out the stores to see if there is anything interesting that is worth buying. That should give the room steward enough time to clean the cabin. After the Captain’s Corner I come back here and update anything of interest from the Captain’s Corner and then continue picking out pictures to post with my review. So far I have only sorted through day one (embarkation day). I have taken 2615 photographs and videos which are taking up 23.7GB of disk space. I can back up a total of eighty gigabytes. By that I mean that I copy everything from the computer to a flash drive so that if the computer’s hard drive fails I have not lost everything. I have 128GB of storage on the memory cards that I use in my DSLR alone (the other cameras have their own separate memory cards) however, after I back everything up, I erase the memory cards so I don’t get different day’s photos mixed up. I store each day’s photos in a separate folder on the computer. And in case anyone is wondering, the review is currently twenty three single spaced type written pages and over fourteen thousand words. Basically I have everything a need for my computer and camera. I have an extension cord for the cool (dry) evenings when I like to update things on the balcony. I have extra batters for all the cameras except the underwater camera (which does not get used as much) and of course I have chargers for each. I also have surge protectors and multi-outlet plugs (they are smaller than a power strip but serve the same porpoise). And I have plenty of memory cards to story the pictures on. Well, it is about two hours before the Captain’s Corner. So I’m going to stop here, back everything up, get dressed and head out for breakfast. Well, there was a change in plans. The weather is nice, so I took my breakfast back to the cabin. Then it was off to the Captain’s Corner. I asked why the one lifeboat had not been hooked up and moved back into its normal position. First there were a few jokes about liking the look and doing the same with all the other lifeboats. But actually there are apparently some mechanical issues. None of the ports we visited had the equipment necessary to fix it, so it will be fixed in Port Canaveral. Also, not one, but two lifeboats were damaged. Lifeboat twenty two was forced up and has damage on the top. One lifeboat will be replaced by a spare lifeboat that is available when we dock on November 15. One of the lifeboats will be repaired and a will then rejoin the ship when it returns to Port Canaveral on November 24. At that point the ship will then have its full complement of lifeboats. The Captain explained that SOLAS (Safety Of Life At Sea) requires the same number of lifeboats on both sides of the ship. So, even without four of the lifeboats, based on lifeboat capacity and the number of passengers and crew, the ship is still within the SOLAS requirements. Someone mentioned the propulsion issued this ship had a month ago. It seems the center fixpod (it does not move) has something wrong with it that requires the ship be taken out of water to fix. So, they have removed the screw (the propellers on a ship are called screws) and the ship is running on just the two azipods. I was wondering why I only saw two wakes coming off the back of the ship. Nonetheless, this has not created any changes in our itinerary (the half day in Aruba was in the schedule long before the propulsion issues became known). The ship will go into dry dock in Spain in March. The fixpod will be repaired; three new specialty restaurants will be added as well as four additional tender boats (as Europe requires a lot of tendering). This ship will then spend time in Europe, Asia and Australia. A Flowrider will be added and other changes will take place. The dry dock is scheduled to last five weeks and cost about sixty five million dollars. Someone asked about fresh water. The ship can make its own water, but it has to be moving forward at at least six knots to do so. As a result, the ship cannot make its own water in port and thus will sometimes buy it locally. Someone asked if any security camera footage of the rogue wave would be included in the Cruise in Review DVD. The cruise director is in charge of what goes on the DVD and his answer to this question was NOOOOO! One person asked if we crossed the equator. Really? Again, how do some of these people earn enough to afford to cruise? After the Captain’s Corner I returned to the cabin to update this, upload my photographs and as I look out at the ocean I can see we are having beautiful weather and very smooth seas, something which was confirmed by the Captain at his noon time announcement. The Captain says we can see Haiti off our starboard side and Cuba off our port side. So I am going to take a break from this and head up to deck twelve to see what I can see. It does look nice outside. However, while Haiti was visible off the starboard side, the land we saw off the port side was not Cuba, but rather some little island about 74 nautical miles east of Jamaica. In fact, even now, two and one half hours later, we are still about sixty nautical miles from Cuba, which puts Cuba beyond the horizon. I attended another aviation lecture entitled How Does an Aircraft Fly? This is the second of three lectures on aviation that I have attended (I missed the first one) and there has been audio visual issues all three times. The most interesting part of these lectures, to me at least, is the cause of accidents. Pilots running through a check list but didn’t actually confirm the settings; they just said what the setting should have been. Another time the pilots didn’t realize they had the nose of the plane pointed too far up, causing a stall. At any rate, I’m back in the cabin and I am going to review my photographs to see which ones I want to add to my review. Then as dinner approaches I shave, shower and dress for the last formal night. Tonight I have soup, pasta and the free steak. Back at the cabin I decide to check out the football game, which was not really competitive, so at halftime I go to sleep. November 14, 2014 – Day at sea Well today is our last day – boo! I am up in time for sunrise. To catch it I have to leave the cabin. It doesn’t look like there are many clouds overhead, but it also doesn’t look like there are many clouds on the horizon, so I dress and leave the cabin. It wasn’t a great sunrise, but it wasn’t a bust either. It would have helped if the clouds overhead were not so thick. Instead of showing the color of sunrise, it was just black. In fact, soon after the sun rose, it rained for a short time. Since I was near the Windjammer I decided to have breakfast. I secured the basic ingredients for an Egg McMuffin and made a couple for myself. At 10:30am there was a sale I wanted to check out. However, there were too many other people buying things, and since I had already eaten breakfast, I decided to find a chair in the shade on the pool deck and relax for a while. I needed to give the room steward time to clear the cabin. I noticed that they were setting up grills around the pool deck and decided to just wait until lunch was served. There was watermelon, pineapple, salads and BBQ chicken and ribs. Then back to the cabin for BBQ sauce removal and a quick rest before attending the last aviation lecture. This time all the equipment worked properly. The lecturer mentioned the economics of the aviation business. So at the end of the lecturer I asked him if he knew how to makes a small fortune in aviation. He asked how, and I said, start with a large one. He laughed and then said yes, he has heard that one. After that it was back to the cabin to rest and prepare for departure. I am being forced to self-disembark in order to attend the shore excursion which will take me to the Kennedy Space Center, and then to the airport where I have a 6:50pm nonstop flight back home. I’ve decided I don’t want to carry my DSLR around the Kennedy Space Center, so I use my point & shoot camera. The sun is setting just outside my balcony. Again there are no clouds on the horizon, which is good, and no clouds overhead, which is bad. So all I am getting is a big bright orange ball on the horizon. Still, that is better than nothing, so I take a few photographs of my last sunset at sea. I checked my account and it is almost $290 (after the $150 onboard booking credit). That seems rather high given that I didn’t buy that much. However, about half of that amount is gratuities, and $150 over gratuities for two weeks is not bad. So now that I have everything organized for tomorrow, I’ll back everything up, shave, shower and dress for my last supper. So I’ll catch up with you after dinner. I had shrimp cocktail, pasta and the included steak for my last supper. Our after dinner conversation centered around Port Canaveral, Alaskan cruises and airline miles. Then we all said our good-byes and I headed back to my cabin to update this. We are setting out clocks back one hour tonight to match the time in Port Canaveral. So I am using the extra time to update this. Then I’m going to watch the rest of Rambo: First Blood and then go to sleep. I have to be ready to leave at 7:30 tomorrow. So, until the jet is at ten thousand feet, good night. November 15, 2014 – Travel day Well the Captain said that we would meet the pilot boat at 6:15 and sure enough I saw the pilot boat pull up next to the ship at 6:15. However, both of the damaged lifeboats were still on the ship as we docked. There were three other ships in Port Canaveral today; the Disney Fantasy, the Carnival Liberty and the Carnival Sunshine (formally the Carnival Destiny which was the first cruise ship in the water to exceed one hundred thousand gross registered tons, which is a volume measurement, not a weight rating). I got dressed and went down to the helipad to watch us come in. Then over to the Windjammer to grab a quick breakfast and back to the cabin to eat it. Then it was time to go to the casino to debark. Someone asked if I had all my luggage – yes. Then she tried to direct me to one of the lounges. I said that is not my meeting place. She asked where I was supposed to meet. I said the casino. She asked how I knew that. However, before I could pull out my shore excursion letter directing me to the casino, someone else asked if I was on a tour – yes, and into the casino I went. Soon after arriving at the Aquarium Bar, which is just outside the Casino and where my tour (there are two) was meeting, an announcement was made that the ship had not been cleared yet. This was quickly followed by a request for everyone in the tour to line up. Standing for a long time hurts my back and it was clear we would be standing for a long time. I have no idea why everyone was asked to stand (for about thirty minutes before we were cleared) but I stayed seated. Once inside the terminal there are two lines, one for the elevator and one for the escalator. If you don’t have one hand free, you are directed to the elevator. The elevator is small and the line is long. I had a free hand (the other one cost a lot of money – HA HA) and went down the escalator. The customs officer wanted to know if had any alcohol (no), tobacco (no) food (I pointed to my stomach – the customs office said I could keep that food). Then he asked me if I was traveling alone (yes) and when I bought my ticket (September 29 of last year – the day I boarded the Allure of the Seas). At which point I was reluctantly allowed back into the United States (or at least Florida). This time again I was able to use my passport card (though I did have my passport handy just in case). Once outside the terminal I was then directed to the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) bus. I was amazed to see people there to board the ship. Who wants to wait in line for over three hours? Even I only try to arrive about thirty minutes early. The bus driver asked everyone except me which airline they were on. After he put my luggage under the bus, I asked him if he was sure he put it in the right place. He assumed wrong and had to take my luggage out and place it in the correct place. I saw the workers working on the two damaged lifeboats and I saw the cranes arrive. However, we left on our tour before the damaged lifeboats were removed from the ship. As we left the port area we passed by the spare lifeboat that would be put on the Explorer for the next voyage. We had a super tour guide who was very enthusiastic. Turns out that this is a fully guided tour. I didn’t realize that, as I was hoping to go on my own. However, this tour guide was so good that I really didn’t mind. Besides, I am booked on the Freedom next April, and all I have to do is either come a day early or book another late return flight and take the tour, go out on my own and just make sure I am back to the bus on time. This tour includes the upgraded tour of the launch pad, where the tour bus gets real close to the launch paid. One of the new facts I learned from our tour guide is that all of the astronauts have to be five foot eleven inches or shorter. There is not a lot of room inside those space capsules. For souvenirs I bought and ID tag for myself, a shot glass for my friend and two ice cream sandwiches for my two nephews. I hope they don’t melt (they shouldn’t, they are both freeze dried). After the tour we were taken to the airport. I had not eaten since 7:30am and it was now 3:30pm. All I wanted was a quick snack, since I only had three hours until I board. Since I am in first class, I’ll get a meal on the plane. It will be airline food, but at least it is food. So I grabbed a Big Mac meal. Yesterday I almost bought a second bag since I was concerned that I might be overweight. I decided to chance it. Well, I was overweight at 52 pounds. However, Delta allows first class passengers seventy pounds. Saved! No special security line for me, just an express line to get into the security line. So I have to remove my shoes, belt and laptop. Also, I had to take everything out of my pockets. Well, there is a reason I was wearing a belt. I have no idea how many people I mooned (at least I was not going commando). Also, I was concentrating so much on getting everything out of my pockets I forgot that I was wearing a backpack. However, I was reminded of that fact when I approached the scanner with, “SIR, YOU HAVE TO REMOVE YOUR BACKPACK!” Oops! Ever try removing a backpack while trying to hold up your pants? That is when the people behind me got mooned. Sometimes I wonder how people earn enough to afford to fly. After clearing security (and turning down a few marriage proposals) I decided to update this. The Orlando Airport needs more electrical plugs. I found an open one behind an empty seat. I must have had to lean forward more than a dozen times because others were plugging in, or unplugging, from the outlets behind me. I have not flown out of Orlando in eight years. The airport has been upgraded since I was here. The upgrades are rather impressive in my opinion. Unless something unusual happens during flight and/or ride home, I have come to the end of the review [which is now 27 single spaced type written pages long (almost two pages per day) and just under seventeen thousand words]. So what were my impressions? 1) The Captain (Captain Rick) was fantastic. 2) This was my second fourteen night cruise (my first cruise was also fourteen nights). 3) I have no plans to return to New Jersey to cruise unless there are some improvements made to traffic flow (I have cruised out of Manhattan and Brooklyn and I would not mind returning to either of those two terminals. 4) Given the lousy year I have had (which is finally looking up) this cruise was just what I needed. 5) It was nice that after the typical one week I was only half done. Nonetheless, even two weeks now seems too short. 6) The crew was great. 7) The cruise director was also very good. Very few cruise directors have impressed me. This one did. Nonetheless, I don’t depend on the cruise director to have a good time. 8) There were not very many children on the cruise. I heard the number thirty mentioned. I have noticed the cruises with a small number of children seem to have less energy. I know I certainly did. 9) I had a great time. I arrived safely at LAX without incident. I then found the Prime Time Shuttle representative and waited, and waited and waited. Fifty minutes later I was finally in a van and headed home. For half the price I could have taken the FlyAway bus to Van Nuys and a taxi home in the same amount of time. When I told the Prime Time representative at the curb this, he just shrugged his shoulders. Next time I'll either take the FlyAway/taxi route home, give Super Shuttle another try (Super Shuttle was great the one time I used Super Shuttle) or for only about thirty dollars more, use a limo service that is prompt and actually cares. For those that care, I have a total of 2951 photographs taking up 26.5GB of space. That is almost 9MB per photograph. And this ended up at 28 pages and 17,360 words. Well, hopefully you found something interesting and/or entertaining in the review. The Explorer of the Seas will only be in Port Canaveral for about four months. So until April (my Freedom of the Seas cruise), good-by. I am going to add a PS here. Before the Explorer cruise the GS cabin I wanted for an April 2016 cruise was advertised by Royal Caribbean, on Royal Caribbean's website, for $3,810 before taxes. After the Explorer cruise the same cabin was advertised by Royal Caribbean for $3,893.88 after taxes. The "best" price Royal Caribbean could give me when I purchased the cabin onboard the Explorer was $4,937.98. I e-mailed the information to my agent on Sunday evening. Before I returned home from work on Monday I had a new invoice showing the total to be $3,893.98. So the "best" price I could get while booking onboard the ship was more than $1,000 more than Royal Caribbean's advertised price. This is just one of the reasons I prefer using an agent over booking directly with Royal Caribbean. I should add that I lost the $200 onboard booking bonus in the process. It was a hard choice between getting $200 OBC or saving $1,000 (for a net savings of $800), so I flipped a coin and saving $1,000 won. You can see 264 of the pictures I took in a slide show by following the following link ... http://s18.photobucket.com/user/ZefH/slideshow/RC%20Explorer   Read Less
Sail Date November 2014
Bayonne - embarkation. 1 hour queue to get to drop off, 1 hour check in through a large tent, avoid this port for at least 6 months if possible until this shabby facility is updated. Miami/Ft.Lauderdale/Brooklyn/Dubai/ Southanpton are 10 ... Read More
Bayonne - embarkation. 1 hour queue to get to drop off, 1 hour check in through a large tent, avoid this port for at least 6 months if possible until this shabby facility is updated. Miami/Ft.Lauderdale/Brooklyn/Dubai/ Southanpton are 10 times better. Unacceptable Orlando - disembarkation. About 45 mins to get off, 15 mins for bags, 3 HOURS to get out of Port Canaveral. Why they have 4 ships and approx 12000 pax arr at the same time is beyond me. Cab driver told me he waited 90mins just to enter the cruise terminal. I think a lot of people missed their connecting flights though, luckily, we were staying in Orlando for a day. Unacceptable Route: Bayonne, St Maarten, Antigua, St Lucia, Barbados, Curacao, Bonaire, Aruba. Weather bad on way down, Capt said worst he'd seen in 40 years. No-one panicked that I saw, I bet the motion sickness tablets were low stock by the end (free on board) then a couple of days of rain showers, otherwise good. No point in only having 4 hours in Aruba, not long enough otherwise good route and some lovely islands. Cabin: Good position, centre of the ship. Most times docking was on the other side, so if you want to see all the action maybe choose the opposite side. Very comfortable and roomy with masses of storage space and excellent attendant. However, rust spots on the walls, floor and ceiling of the balcony, paint splatters on the handrail and small glass area (other ship’s balconies have glass from handrail to floor) and its table was rusted beyond belief. Shame, as this is where we like to spend a lot of our time in warm weather and it was shabby. Also rust on bathroom door frame. Toilet stopped flushing but was remotely fixed within 20 minutes - impressive. TV old and out of focus (not that there was much on) first ship I’ve been on with no BBC World and I’ve been on several American ships. As for the moving map, look how the airlines do it (eg. BA and Emirates), much better. Food: "My time" dining good idea, evening food excellent. You could order extra if you wanted to but we always thought the three courses were enough. Windjammer food so so but plenty of it. Ate off ship at lunchtime wherever we were and found some excellent places. The street of bars and cafes on board was great and gave off a very good atmosphere. Service: Excellent all round. Lots of the staff genuinely wanted to chat when they had time and I felt they weren’t doing it because they had to. One point, gratuities are automatically included so why does every check have a space to add more. Do people like to pay more for the tip than the drink, or is it that sometimes you get a freebie? Medical: Had to use them on one occasion and found the nurses and the doctor as knowledgeable, efficient and friendly as you’d expect. Summary: Ship is showing signs of wear. We probably won’t use RCCL again due boarding and disembarkation problems. Heaven knows how bad it will be when the mega ships arrive. Not experienced these problems with Holland America, Cunard or P&O, who overall, we think are better.   Read Less
Sail Date November 2014
This was my fifth cruise and overall and by far the worst. It was my first time cruising with Royal Caribbean and may well be my last. From the un-organized boarding and un-boarding of the ship to the lack of activities and overall poor ... Read More
This was my fifth cruise and overall and by far the worst. It was my first time cruising with Royal Caribbean and may well be my last. From the un-organized boarding and un-boarding of the ship to the lack of activities and overall poor service. I will say the dining wait staff and cabin tender were all excellent. I also liked the drink packages available and the option to purchase all photos for one set price. The food options were limited and quality was not up to expectations set by other cruise lines. The bar tenders and staff were not as friendly and accommodating as other cruises I have taken. The ship has some mechanical propulsion issues and hours at ports were reduced immediately after setting sail. Thumbs down Their private port of Labadee, Haiti is very nice, but excursions over priced and short.   Read Less
Sail Date October 2014
Critique of Explorer of the Seas departing Port Liberty 10/9/14 Great time until debarkation. The Captain announced that we would be an hour late as there was a maximum speed which he was not allowed to exceed. 'Tough sailing because ... Read More
Critique of Explorer of the Seas departing Port Liberty 10/9/14 Great time until debarkation. The Captain announced that we would be an hour late as there was a maximum speed which he was not allowed to exceed. 'Tough sailing because of the weather.' I do not know the reason for the speed limit. If he went 2 nautical miles faster he would have made up the time in the apx 1,000 nautical miles which we traveled. Breakfast was not extended. He did not tell us to 'sleep in'. More later in the note. Food was very good, except that we kept sending it back because it was barely warm. Our regular waiters were smart and efficient. They used the microwave to 'hot' the soup. Unfortunately we got various stations for breakfast and lunch. My omelet was hot but Marilyn's scrambled eggs were cold. Cold went back As octogenarians we could not climb the 'wall'. There was a lecturer for history who was good and one for art who was also good. The rest of the time we stayed indoors or out with books. All of the books in the library were at least 10 years old. We brought current books. The cabin lady was good, I had no complaints as she knew how to make the bed. The shows were good; even the comedian (whom I usually don't like). The ship visited the tropics but the interior was chilly; like it needed someone to turn on the heat. The weather prevented us from going to one port. We were issued credit for the landing fee of about $35. It came with strings; it had to be spent on board. Back to the tedious debarkation. We were assigned to the refrigerator; the ice rink. I understood when we were there for a while that three times the number of people in the room made for lots of body heat. Hundreds were forced to stand. I pity those who were uncomfortable. We were tied up at the dock but no excuse for not having us have a late wake-up and late breakfast. When released from the staging area we had to go to Deck 1. The corridors were packed with people not moving. Fortunately no one fainted from the closeness. When we arrived at the bus after about 1/2 hour we noted that for part of the ride it was a single lane (alternating direction) because construction material block one roadway. Great planning!! Refreshments were announced for the ice rink; only in the almost 2 hours we were there they ran out and were not replenished. Fresh water was not available and the guy in charge of the crowd did not know where there was any fresh water. Very incompetent and untrained. I was up at 7 AM, finished breakfast at 8 AM and got to load my car at apx, 12 Noon. There were hundreds behind me as we were green 12. I should have stayed for lunch except that the Customs guys would have left. I loved the small Celebrity ships, RC owns them but has learned nothing from them. To return to RC I need a big $ inducement. Most of those traveling with us will spread the word of our debarkation and the speed limit placed on the ship. Probably something wrong with the electrical motors. Norman Read Less
Sail Date October 2014
I have sailed with RCL 6 times before, 20 times total between 3 different cruise lines, and I have never experienced such atrocious service, disgusting facilities, and horrible food as Explorer offered on this 9 day Bermuda and Caribbean ... Read More
I have sailed with RCL 6 times before, 20 times total between 3 different cruise lines, and I have never experienced such atrocious service, disgusting facilities, and horrible food as Explorer offered on this 9 day Bermuda and Caribbean cruise. I have talked up cruises so much, that our friends who have never cruised before decided to join us this time for their first cruise. It was so bad, that on day 3 they said it would be their last, and I would definitely think twice before sailing with RCL ever again. Start from the beginning, embarkation was fairly standard, and actually went pretty smooth, discounting the long wait on the shuttle bus to actually get to the ship itself. Our cabin was very nice, clean, albeit with an ancient TV, but that doesn't really matter much, who wants to spend time in the room anyways. Sailaway was exciting, going under the Brooklyn bridge, ship horn blasting, probably the nicest sailaway I've ever seen. And then the "fun" started. My friend and I went to the casino bar to have a cigarette (legit smoking bar, no breaking rules here). When we got there there was no bartender, and no ashtrays on the counter or anywhere else to be seen, so I used the glass I just finished drinking out of to ash into. Moments later a bartender appears, runs over to us, snatches the glass from in front of us and proceeds to YELL at us, "You can't do that, do you do that at home". I was incredulous, but politely responded as to what else I was supposed to do when there are no ashtrays, but the bartender would just not stop yelling and berating us, though he did slam the ashtray on the table in front of us, with such force I was surprised it didn't break. I refused to accept the rudeness and asked the bartender to speak with me more politely, or I will go have a conversation with guest services (which I really don't like to do, I don't want to cost anyone their job). At that point he threw up his hands, turned around and walked away, without even offering an apology! A few days later I did mention the incident to the casino manager in the process of a casual conversation, and he was visibly upset with that, brought over the casino manager for a personal apology, "It's a smoking bar, ashtrays should be everywhere, what are you supposed to do, ash on the floor?" I was willing to chalk this incident up to a random moody bartender, and tried not to let it ruin the vacation, but that was not the end of poor service. It was everywhere, at every bar, and pretty much from every crew member ever encountered. Coming up to guest relations to ask a question, the attendant made me feel like I was taking up his precious time by asking him. Bar stewards at the pool deck were non existent, I'm used to seeing them walking around offering drinks pretty much constantly, but this time on all 5 sea days that we had, they would walk around maybe once an hour, if that. I don't mind going up to the bar to get my drink, but whenever I did that, I felt like the bartenders were doing me a favor serving me. Even when there were 5 people at the bar waiting for service, they were too busy talking amongst themselves, or walking around pretending to look busy, rarely acknowledging the people waiting in line. I routinely had to wait more than 5 minutes at the bar for someone to take my drink order, and it wasn't because they were busy helping other customers. At one bar, when I walked up, I was greeted with a surly "What do you want", without even so much as a smile. Speaking of smiles, they were non existent from any crew members encountered anywhere on the ship. On every other cruise line, when you run into a crew member while walking about on the ship, you get a smile and a greeting, but no on the Explorer. At best you get a nod of acknowledgement, but more the norm was getting completely ignored. Now onto the food. I could put up with the same options for breakfast in the Windjammer, that's usually the norm on RCL ships as I have seen, but the barely edible options were unacceptable. Scrambled eggs were powdered, floating in half an inch of water, and had the flavor of old cardboard paper, no matter how much salt, pepper, or tabasco you put on them. Smoked salmon was nowhere to be found, and when the buffet crew was finally asked for some, I was told they didn't have enough, so they just kept it in the back and you had to ask for it every day, hoping they didn't run out. Fresh omelettes were the only decent option at breakfast time, apparently obvious to everyone else as well, judging by the very long lines for them. Lunch time offerings were so poor, I decided to skip lunch most days, something I never do on cruise ships, as I used to love the special dessert offerings. What passes for dessert on Explorer, was the same every single day at lunch time - "out of the box" angel food cake flavored roulade, and chocolate roulade, that tasted stale and dry the couple times I dared to try it. Freshly baked cookies were so hard and stale, trying to take a bite out of it hurt your teeth. Food in the dining room at dinner time was only mildly better, my friend's seafood options were routinely overcooked, the steak was tenderized to the point of no longer having any fibers, pasta dishes were passable, but the soups were usually good, the highlight of my day. I did like the after dinner tea options, they offered various organic teas, much better than other lines' offerings of Lipton black tea only. Same story with desserts - flavorless, barely edible, not even a hint of gourmet desserts I am used to at other ships. Normally I eat often and a lot on all cruises, and gain an average of 5 pounds per cruise. I actually lost a pound on this cruise, without exercising, that's how bad the food was. Public areas were usually filthy, I barely ever saw anyone cleaning up. Case in point, we used to go to the same area on deck 14 by the rock climbing wall, with our morning coffee. We'd leave the cups at the tables there when we were done, come back a few hours later with our drinks, oh look, our coffee cups are still there, but now we add the drink glasses. Coming back in the evening - surprise surprise, all the cups and glasses are still there. Similar story was on the pool decks, staff was cleaning up maybe once an hour, which is unacceptable when there are 3,000+ people on the ship and the pool deck is filled to the brim. Restrooms were disgusting as well, especially the ones around the Windjammer. Usually every cruise restroom has a sheet of paper with the time and name of the last person that cleaned it, and during busy times it's about every half hour. I didn't see those sheets of paper in any bathrooms, and by the looks of some of those, if they were cleaned once a day, that would seem too much. Despite the atrocious experience my companions and I had on this cruise, several crew members truly stood out and actually helped improve our mood during their interaction with them. Firstly they were our dining room waiters, Ronel and Leoncio, who were truly an amazing team, every request was noted and never had to be repeated again, water glasses were always full, they remembered every preference from the first time it was mentioned, and they really made the dinners spectacular every day, despite the below passable quality of food. Secondly, I need to make a special mention about the casino staff and crew, because other than the dining room staff, they were the only ones on the entire ship that provided the level of service that one comes to expect from a brand name such as Royal Caribbean. If it wasn't for them, I would probably have left the ship in San Juan and never looked back. We did end up missing St. Martin because of a hurricane and the busted engine the ship had which limited the top speed, delaying our arrival back to Bayonne, but hurricanes are the risk you take sailing during hurricane season, so I can't fault the cruise line for that. I am thankful for the choices the captain made that kept us out of danger. But next time I choose to take a cruise, I will think twice before choosing Royal Caribbean, I do not want to risk ruining another vacation. I also intend to write to Royal Caribbean, because the level of service on Explorer is completely unacceptable, and something needs to be done about this. Read Less
Sail Date October 2014
At 5:00 pm on Oct., 17th we received multiple texts and emails from RCCL that we will not be able to go to Bermuda due to Gonzalos and that we will cruise to Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. We knew Bermuda was out but were hoping for the ... Read More
At 5:00 pm on Oct., 17th we received multiple texts and emails from RCCL that we will not be able to go to Bermuda due to Gonzalos and that we will cruise to Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. We knew Bermuda was out but were hoping for the Bahamas or Florida, but that did not happen so we decided to make the best of it. I traveled with my husband and our two daughters ages 23 and 20. We drove from PA to Port Cape Liberty. The ride to the terminal took a little over an hour and we had no trouble getting there, however, the terminal itself was awful. I can not wait for the new terminal to open. I did the on line check in, and even with that it took the woman a half an hour to check our travel documents and issue our sea pass cards. I'm wondering if she was a trainee. Over all it took us an hour and a half to get on the ship. We arrived at the port at 11:30 did not get on board until 1:00. We did the self assist getting off the ship and it took us over an hour waiting in a very long line to get off the ship. We had a superior balcony cabin #7356. The four of us were in the same cabin and were fine with the space. The ship is 15 years old and yes you can see the wear and tear in the cabin and on the cabin decks, but I didn't expect anything different so we were fine with it. The public spaces are well maintained and they are very nice. We saw each of the shows in the Royal Palace and enjoyed them, with the Blaze of Glory concert being our favorite. The ice show was very good and it surprised me that the show actual went on with all the rocking and pitching the ship was doing during the entire cruise. A couple of skaters fell but I give them a lot of credit for doing their jumps with these conditions. The food in the main dining room was hit or miss but a hit for the most part. However, I can not say the same for Windjammer and the Park Cafe. We felt the food was the worst we have ever experienced. Tasted processed, cold, stale and tasteless. We gave Windjammer plenty of try's too. We had breakfast there twice and lunch twice before finally giving up and going to Johnny Rocket's for our lunches and just skipping breakfast all together. The dining room closed at 9:30 every morning for breakfast so we would miss it because our daughter where a little hard to get them up early. Now for the crew. For the most part the crew did not seem happy and were very serious and only a few would say high. The washy washy guys were always in good spirits. We came across some rude crew members as well and spoke to other passenger that had the same encounters. Leonardo was our steward and he did a good job at keeping our state rooms clean but did not go out of his way for us and only did what he had to do in doing his job. Over all we had a good time. We all received OBC for the itinerary change which we greatly appreciated.   Read Less
Sail Date October 2014
Our group consisted of 3 couples, all Crown & Anchor members (gold level). We chose this cruise partly because of the port and extended our vacation a few days to go into the city. This was all in all an excellent choice. We drove up ... Read More
Our group consisted of 3 couples, all Crown & Anchor members (gold level). We chose this cruise partly because of the port and extended our vacation a few days to go into the city. This was all in all an excellent choice. We drove up the day before and had booked our rooms and Country Inns and Suites in Elizabeth. We had 2 Park and Cruise rooms and one regular. Parking was for 10 nights so we could leave the cars there while we cruised. We had transfers to Port Liberty from the hotel. Worked wonderfully. Glad we went this way because the traffic into the Port was horrendous and it was a rainy morning, We got off right at the baggage check location, quick shuttle to check-in (and as C&A members, that was a breeze). The hotel was very nice (has a free continental breakfast--but get there early because they run out of eggs quickly). There is an IHOP and Ruby Tuesday right beside the hotel which is nice and it's just a short walk to an incredible mall. I highly recommend this hotel for a pre- or post- cruise stay. We stayed 3 nights after the cruise and could get a complementary shuttle to the airport and from there took the train into the city. On board we had a nice lunch and found our sail away spot on deck. If you want a table on deck, you better get there early. There are few tables, mostly lounge chairs. The cruise was great but I cannot say as much about the MDR. Our waiter Ricardo was wonderful but the food left a lot to be desired. It was OK, but not great. One of our group ordered a steak and it was very tough -- he couldn't even finish it. I enjoyed the cold soups but stay away from the lobster bisque. It was brown and tasted more like fishy pumpkin soup than lobster anything, The rest of the food was OK. Best was last night. I think no one was paying the way too expensive extra $$ for the surf & turf that was on the MDR menu so we had lobster and prime rib which was very good. We did lunch in the MDR once and they did have an excellent salad bar which we all enjoyed. Windjammers food was very good. You had most of the selections from the MDR plus so much more. That's where we ate breakfast, lunch, and a couple of dinners. We did go to Portofinos (sp) one night and it was excellent. The meals are generous in portion size and very good. I chose the Risotto which was really a heavy meal but it tasted perfect, just couldn't eat much of it. Definitely worth the extra 25 or so $$ per person. We made good use of the drink packages. Definitely the way to go if you plan on having cocktails. I know everyone has to figure out whether it will pay for them to do that, but it was so much easier and no surprises at the end. FYI: There was a lot of discussion on the message board here about gratuities added to your drink purchases if you had the package. We categorically DID NOT have a gratuity added to our drink purchases. EOS is showing her age a little but still a beautiful ship. All in all the service was good, but not quite what I remember from past RCCL cruises. Bermuda: We had incredible weather and really enjoyed our visit. We booked the Shipwreck snorkel excursion, Only 3 of our group were actually able to snorkle. It is in deep water and while not rough, the water was not glassy. It was too much for me so I enjoyed a rum swizzle while my husband had a ball in the water. One couple (experienced snorklers and divers) had purchased gear on board which promptly broke. WIth both of them, a clip broke as they were taking off their masks. One lost their snorkle. RCCL did replace the equipment but they are not comfortable using the boats equipment so they didn't get to do much. The excursion does say it is a strenuous activity so believe them. Earlier in the day we had walked to the beach area close to the dock so I got my water time there. This was the first week in October and while a little cool when you first get in, the water was fine for swimming. That evening we took the water taxi to Hamilton and had a great dinner at the Lobster Pot. My husband and I chose to stay on board the next day. The weather was so great, we had a really good pool day. My biggest complaint about the whole cruise was debarkation. We all elected to do the Self-Assist. It was an unorganized, ridiculous experience. I realize that a large number of people chose this option on this cruise but this was totally mis-managed. We all were told to report to our stations. Ours was on the 4th level. There was one person there holding a microphone which I never saw him use. At one point, everyone started passing the word that we had been cleared to leave. Come to find out, the 3rd level had also been cleared to leave. So here was everyone trying to carry their luggage down the steps at the same time. There were no staff members anywhere in sight to help direct people. I know part of the confusion was that people without baggage were trying to go out then. I also know that they should have known better but an announcement before everyone was turned loose might have at least weeded some of them out. I talked to several people who had disembarked this way before and no one could believe what a mess this was. But we did finally get off the ship and waited just a few minutes for our shuttle from the hotel. As I said, we stayed a few days to go into the city and thoroughly enjoyed that. The only thing I will recommend to anyone who asks is a restaurant in Chinatown called Uncle Boon's. If you like Thai food, this is an amazing place. Very small so go to there website to make reservations or you may have a wait. Food is not your typical Thai choices but you will not soon forget your meal. A little pricey but worth every penny Read Less
Sail Date October 2014
My wife and I, and three other couples recently returned from a 5 day Royal Caribbean cruise to Bermuda. We have cruised previously on other cruise lines, but this was the first “Cruise Experience” for two of the couples in our party ... Read More
My wife and I, and three other couples recently returned from a 5 day Royal Caribbean cruise to Bermuda. We have cruised previously on other cruise lines, but this was the first “Cruise Experience” for two of the couples in our party and our first with Royal Caribbean. In preparing for this cruise/vacation, I researched many reviews and found some information to be accurate and some not. I thought I’d post my observations for better or worse. Cape Liberty, Bayonne, NJ – Make no mistake about it, the port is a physical mess due to the construction of the new port terminal. That said they are organized and the boarding process went smoothly. Word of caution – arrive prior to 11:00am! Arriving at noon or later, add an additional hour or so to the boarding process. Also, upon returning to the port we experienced major delays in the disembarkation process. The issue was not the cruise line but with the port/terminal as you had to be shuttled from the ship to the terminal by bus. This created a backlog of passengers waiting to depart the ship, with some people standing in line for over an hour and several passengers were extremely aggravated. The elevators to deck one (to leave the ship) were not working so you had to take the stairs down only to stand in line to await the shuttles to the terminal – this by far was the most unpleasant part of the trip. Note – I’m told that the “early/express” departure option encountered the same issue. Explorer of the Seas – My personal preference in cruise ships is a larger ship as I find them to offer more amenities, activities, specialty restaurants, bars, pools, etc. The Explorer of the Seas was in excellent condition – clean outside and in. The service and attention provided by all members of the crew was second to none. The shows in the Palace Theater were very entertaining as was the entertainment in the various bars throughout the ship. There were two items that I took notice of - one would be the vibrations that were sometimes experienced in the upper decks of the ship – specifically while dinning at the Windjammer & Portofinos and relaxing in the Viking Lounge. The vibrations did not bother me but it did other passengers. Second are the lines/wait times to get a drink at the Bars located poolside. They tended to be overcrowded throughout the afternoon hours. Not really a big deal since this is to be expected and that you simple have to walk a short distance to another bar. Food & Drink – If you plan to drink (alcoholic beverages) during the cruise, I highly recommend that you purchase one of the drink packages. Yes it’s an added expense but it’s more convenient than pay as you go – the liquor is top shelf – and you don’t have to review your on board account everyday to monitor/worry about your budget. Our party of 8 dined at Portofinos two nights. Yes this is another added expense but the food was fantastic, the service outstanding and atmosphere was quite and relaxed. We reserved a set table and time to dine the remainder of the nights in one of the ships three main dining areas – deck 3 Magellan. The staff was great, as they accommodated all of our requests without question and provided excellent service. The food for the most part was average to good, however it could not compare to Portofinos. Then there is the Windjammer – "washy, washy" - We had lunch there twice and breakfast once and that was more than enough. Crowded lines, seating took some time to locate & secure, and the food was slightly above cafeteria grade. Do yourself a huge favor and have both breakfast and lunch at the main dining room. You’ll have to adjust your daily schedule slightly as the dining room hours are more limited than the Windjammer, but it is well worth it. Bermuda – Simply Beautiful with the nicest people we’ve ever encountered – anywhere. We purchased a 2 day seapass at Kings Wharf which allows for unlimited ferry & bus trips. We ferried into Hamilton & St. George and self toured, we bused to Horseshoe Bay and several other locations. Don’t mess with the scooters, take the ferry of bus. We shopped at Kings Wharf for gifts and things. We can’t wait to go back, as we would like to have more time to truly experience Bermuda. All said and done – a very nice cruise Royal Caribbean!   Read Less
Sail Date October 2014
We've been on many Royal Caribbean Cruises, this one was the most interesting cruise ever. This was our first time departing from Bayonne. In my opinion, the check in area, process, VIP area, as well as the process for loading the bus ... Read More
We've been on many Royal Caribbean Cruises, this one was the most interesting cruise ever. This was our first time departing from Bayonne. In my opinion, the check in area, process, VIP area, as well as the process for loading the bus was very confusing. There were many area locals on the ship, many of which have only cruised on that ship, a sense of entitlement from those cruisers was thick throughout the cruise (in some cases, people were darn right rude, I witnessed a 3 kids one day throwing ice cream cones around the pool area, they were local). On 3 different occassions, the toilets were shut off for at least one hour each time, when I asked why, I was told due to things being flushed that shouldn't be flushed. I thought of those three boys (although, I know others could be responsible). In comparison to other RCCL cruises, I found onboard activities to be limited with unfavorable times, most of which occurred in earlier morning/evening hours. Maybe because there were also many seniors onboard and events and timing thereof were planned with their enjoyment in mind. We had a grand suite cabin, which allowed access to the 19th hole for evening cocktails. I found this to be a better option than the Diamond Plus and Concierge Lounge as again, other cruiser entitlements was observed. I was thankful a staff member suggested that I go there versus the other to areas. Overall, all staff we encountered were thoughtful and provided good customer service. Disembarkation was without any incidents (except people whom were leaving later in the morning - they were trying to get to their cabins while others where trying to get off the ship). Once off the ship, we were happy to be on the road for a 9 hour drive home. In summary, we will not be cruising from that port again. Not because of the Explorer staff or RCCL, simply because of the interesting vibes from other travelers onboard.   Read Less
Sail Date October 2014
We were supposed to go to Bermuda on Explorer on 18 October. We were not notified by RCI or our travel agent at all that the itinerary had changed due to Hurricane Gonzalo which hit Bermuda a day prior to our set arrival. Thank goodness we ... Read More
We were supposed to go to Bermuda on Explorer on 18 October. We were not notified by RCI or our travel agent at all that the itinerary had changed due to Hurricane Gonzalo which hit Bermuda a day prior to our set arrival. Thank goodness we called our travel agent at 10pm the night before to confirm that we were good to go because otherwise we would not have known about he change! We were able to completely change our attire/packing to accomodate the tundra that was Canada. (brrrrr) There were people on the cruise who had not gotten notification at all and they were not happy OR prepared for chilly temps. RC's compensation was unfair, if you ask me. We were given a $250 room credit if we chose to sail. If we chose NOT to sail, we would only be given 25% of our paid price to apply to a future cruise. We would have gladly accepted 100% OR even 75% of our paid price to apply to a future cruise with RC. Bottom line was that the boat still needed to sail. We were disappointed (as was EVERYONE onboard), but we decided that the compensation was not good enough to stay home. Our friends had purchased trip insurance, but it did not cover this situation. So, Bermuda remains on our bucket list. Off to Canada we went.... I knew going into port in Bayonne to expect construction, traffic and congestion. The process was pretty smooth overall and pretty well organized. No complaints. At the end of the cruise we chose to express check out which means we carried our own luggage of the ship. This allowed up to leave earlier. The lines were long and people were angry. But somehow we made it through in under an hour. All that said, Overall, our experience on the boat was great! The food (in the main dining room) was great and the staff was pretty great too. There were a few grumps in the group, but no one worth complaining about. Hey, I figure THEY were just as disappointed as we were that we were heading to Canada. The waitstaff and the bar tenders were great and everyone seemed very friendly social. Food in the WindJammer wasn't awful, but but it seemed (to me) like the same selection day after day, so after the 2nd day I was looking for other options. We chose MyTime Dining which was great because we could eat when we wanted to and were lucky enough to have the same waiters each night. Our assistant waiter was the Washy Washy guy (Nestor) and we enjoyed him very much. The selection on the menu each night was good and the portions sizes were small, so I never felt guilty ordering 2. Also, the food came out rather quickly which we were please about. Our cabin steward was rarely seen. He kept our room clean and followed through with all requests. The room showed a few signs of wear, but nothing that was worth complaining about- especially knowing that Explorer will be dry docking in the spring for a complete overhaul. The common areas were very nice and always clean and the Promenade actually looked the more up to date than the rest of the ship. I used the fitness center daily, and I think it was a great space. It was never too crowded and there was plenty of equipment. And finally the entertainment.... it was AWESOME! The shows were really outstanding. The singers and the dancers were great! We got to see the Bon Jovi tribute band Blaze of Glory and they were awesome too! The finale comedy show with Steve Shafer at the end was really great too. The Quest game show was hysterical and not to be missed. For me, the entertainment was really the best experience of the entire trip. Are we still disappointed that we didn't make it to Bermuda? Yes. Do we feel like RC's compensation was fair? Not really. But we did have a good time regardless and we made the best of the situation. We will definitely continue to sail with RC and we are already looking into booking Liberty or Freedom this Spring- never during hurricane season EVER again!   Read Less
Sail Date October 2014
This was the second time for me sailing on this ship since 2008 - this time with my boyfriend, and it was his first time. We are a young couple in our late 20's. We were notified around 6pm the night before departure that due to ... Read More
This was the second time for me sailing on this ship since 2008 - this time with my boyfriend, and it was his first time. We are a young couple in our late 20's. We were notified around 6pm the night before departure that due to Hurricane Gonzalo, we would not be sailing to Bermuda, but instead to Halifax, Nova Scotia and St. John, New Brunswick. WHAT?! I was about to start my work shift when I heard the news, so I had to repack everything once I got home at 4am. We arrived to the port at the suggested time for our deck, 1pm - and the car line was insane. We waited in a very long line to drop off our luggage and then park in the lot ($100 for five days). They handed everyone a letter explaining the change in course - because apparently some people were never notified! Not sure whose fault that is. The port was under construction, but besides the lines, everything seemed to go smoothly. We immediately booked our new excursions in Canada and found that we would be refunded for our Bermuda excursions, and we received a $350 credit. Everyone received different credit amounts, so I'm not sure how that was all figured out. We were up on the deck as the ship departed (an hour late). Most of the deck chairs were stacked up - albeit the weather wasn't the warmest, but it just wasn't very welcoming! Every bar I went to had the same drink menu, but not all bars can make all the drinks. I had a premium drink package (highly recommend) and I used it often. The service at the bars - EVERY bar - was extremely slow. Even when there weren't a lot of people. I'm a bartender, so I understand that a lot of the specialty cocktails take an extra minute or two, but this was ridiculous. Once I ordered a Mai Tai, and the bartender had no idea what he was doing. I got something like a rum and grenadine instead. How do you not know how to make a Mai Tai on a cruise ship?! So yes, depending on the bartender, your cocktail was either delicious, too weak, too strong, or just wrong altogether. I wanted to stick to beer/wine most of the time, so I know what I'm getting, and I always asked for the ADVERTISED ciders - and the bartenders almost always had no idea what I was talking about. They were on every drink menu. I had to keep ordering from the Schooner bar because they had their backup cooler around the corner through a door, which is where the cider was kept. When I would ask for cider at the casino they'd just refuse. Then never seemed to have Angry Orchard, but had Redd's Apple Ale (both advertised), although, my friend somehow found an Angry Orchard somewhere, or complained enough to get one. It was hard to find an ash tray in the casino bar, and half the stools were table height and not bar height, so it was awkward to sit. The night before our first port in Canada, we were supposed to have been delivered our excursion tickets. They never came, so we went to Guest Relations to have them printed. No problem. Except that the pub crawl excursion we had ordered on the first day was the wrong code in the booklet we received, because the woman printed out a different excursion ticket for us that was not what we wanted. Luckily, the pub crawl had three spots left, so she was able to correct the issue - but I would have been super annoyed if we were shut out due to a mistake in the booklet. We received our original excursion tickets during the second port day (uhh, thanks!) and wouldn't have gotten the correct excursion, actually no ticket at all, for the first excursion day had we not checked at Guest Relations. The windjammer cafe, as expected, was kind of a cluster, but if you can find a table in the back, the view is pretty cool. The food was mediocre quality, though lunch was still tasty for what it was. We did breakfast there the last morning and it kind of sucked. Things were stale, the omelette station took forever. I was the third person in line, and the omelette maker restarted making an omelette TWICE. I guess it's great he's checking for quality, but after ten minutes of waiting as I was next, I gave up. The dining room food was great! I had a great meal every night. Our server was OK, but not as personable as some of the other tables. We were seated with other young couples, so that was nice. You can also have breakfast and lunch in the dining room during the designated hours. We didn't take advantage of that, but I wish we had. I'm assuming the food would have been better quality than the windjammer. You can also order from the room service menu. It was pretty much the same quality as windjammer. We ordered breakfast to be delivered on our first port morning in Canada between 9:30-10 because we had to be off the boat by 10:45 to get to our excursion. It was late. I called and they explained it was busy. So we waited. It came at around 10:20 so we had to scarf it down and leave. However, they did include complimentary chocolate covered strawberries the next day with our next room service order to apologize. I enjoyed the burger I ordered from the room service menu. It wasn't the greatest, and didn't come with cheese (which was stated in the menu) but I made it work with some mayo. Please give us more ketchup packets!! Oh, the fries were amazing. The steak sandwich was very very good. The promenade cafe also had complimentary food and coffee 24/7, so we could always go there for a snack. There were always plenty of activities. I enjoyed the ice skating show, the comedian, the love and marriage game show was hilarious. The quest game show was fun, and I really enjoyed the Chamber night club, especially the silent disco night where everyone could wear headphones and tune in to one of two stations. Debarkation was kind of annoying. The self-assist "express" process wasn't very swift at all. We showed up early to our designated waiting area, and they told us we could head right down to deck 1 to leave. There was already a huge line backed up, winding up the stairs of people with luggage trying to leave. We couldn't get an elevator that was empty so we dragged our bags down the stairs. When we finally got into an elevator, people were pissed at us when we finally got down to the first floor and the door opened to a huge mass of waiting people. We heard that the elevators on the other side of the ship were less crowded so we maneuvered our way into an elevator, up to go back down, cross over the promenade, then back down the elevator on the other side to the second floor. A security member told us to head down the stairs, and we were met with a group of people waiting to depart who were not happy that we 'cut' in front of them. At that point we had been on a wild goose chase trying to get to the bottom of the boat - sorry!!! I guess this sounds like a lot of complaints, but we did have a fun time. I was looking forward to Bermuda and snorkeling, and the beach and warm weather, but what can you do. The service and entertainment were great, and distracted me enough from the negatives. Read Less
Sail Date October 2014
This is the 4th time my husband and I have sailed on the Explorer, and its the first time I can honestly say I was very dissapointed. We hardly saw our room attendant to ask any questions, although our room was always cleaned for us. The ... Read More
This is the 4th time my husband and I have sailed on the Explorer, and its the first time I can honestly say I was very dissapointed. We hardly saw our room attendant to ask any questions, although our room was always cleaned for us. The bartender in the casino bar (the woman) was very friendly,but we tried to ignore the tall gentlemen, as he always was grouchy. I say Rude Cruise because it was a different class of people traveling on the ship. The pushing and shoving, and sitting on trash cans by the elevator was not acceptable. I guess thats what you get now when you travel out of Bayonne. Avoid the "tee shirt" sale. You will get trampled ! Our Captain was excellant. He avoided the bad weather the best he could. Although we didn't stop at St. Maartin, he sailed West and found us sunshine. The Windjammer...is another story. The mongolan grill is nice, but the cooks don't understand..mild, or spicy. They just make it all one way...bland. People are still saving seats, and didn't get up after they were done their meals. Many times we had to take our plates outside. Read Less
Sail Date October 2014
I was traveling with 6 of my family members. Our itinerary changed from Bermuda to Canada 24 hrs before our departure, thanks to Gonzalo and the Bermuda authorities. we were notified on Friday Oct 17th, at 4:30pm. I recieved a text, and ... Read More
I was traveling with 6 of my family members. Our itinerary changed from Bermuda to Canada 24 hrs before our departure, thanks to Gonzalo and the Bermuda authorities. we were notified on Friday Oct 17th, at 4:30pm. I recieved a text, and also RC's website posted a message. The compensation package was 25% back if you cancelled. We decided to go, because some family members were flying up from Florida to join us. We stayed in Junior Suites and recieved $425.00 onboard credit. Check in at Cape Liberty was a breeze. They have a seperate check in for suite guests. We were on the ship in about a hour from arrival. Junior Suite 9306: this is the only way to go. Our suite was spacious and tons of storage space. It has a walk in closet, soaking tub, and a big balcony. the staff was friendly and attentive. The main dining room service was good and fast. The food was just o.k. I've had better on other cruise ships. The portions were small. there version of a mile high lemon meringue pie, was a 2 inch lemon tart with a spponfull full of merginue on top. Portofino restaurant was not good. They were having staff issues, and we didn't recieve our meal for 1.5 hrs after ordering it. After making multiple complaints and recieving our luke warm plates, our bill came to "0". This is my first time on RC, and you could notice that EOTS needs a makeover. I will try RC again, but on a newer ship. As of right now I would give them a C- Read Less
Sail Date October 2014
We had a Great time until departure. The Captain announced that we would be an hour late as there was a maximum speed which he was not allowed to exceed. 'Tough sailing because of the weather.' I do not know the reason for the ... Read More
We had a Great time until departure. The Captain announced that we would be an hour late as there was a maximum speed which he was not allowed to exceed. 'Tough sailing because of the weather.' I do not know the reason for the speed limit. If he went 2 nautical miles faster he would have made up the time in the apx 1,000 nautical miles which we traveled. Breakfast was not extended. He did not tell us to 'sleep in'. More later in the note. Food was very good, except that we kept sending it back because it was barely warm. Our regular waiters were smart and efficient. They used the microwave to 'hot' the soup. Unfortunately we got various stations for breakfast and lunch. My omelet was hot but Marilyn's scrambled eggs were cold. Cold went back As octogenarians we could not climb the 'wall'. There was a lecturer for history who was good and one for art who was also good. The rest of the time we stayed indoors or out with books. All of the books in the library were at least 10 years old. We brought current books. The cabin lady was good, I had no complaints as she knew how to make the bed. The shows were good; even the comedian (whom I usually don't like). The ship visited the tropics but the interior was chilly; like it needed someone to turn on the heat. The weather prevented us from going to one port. We were issued credit for the landing fee of about $35. It came with strings; it had to be spent on board. Back to the tedious debarkation. We were assigned to the refrigerator; the ice rink. I understood when we were there for a while that three times the number of people in the room made for lots of body heat. Hundreds were forced to stand. I pity those who were uncomfortable. We were tied up at the dock but no excuse for not having us have a late wake-up and late breakfast. When released from the staging area we had to go to Deck 1. The corridors were packed with people not moving. Fortunately no one fainted from the closeness. When we arrived at the bus after about 1/2 hour we noted that for part of the ride it was a single lane (alternating direction) because construction material block one roadway. Great planning!! Refreshments were announced for the ice rink, only in the almost 2 hours we were there they ran out and were not replenished. Fresh water was not available and the guy in charge of the crowd did not know where there was any fresh water. Very incompetent and untrained. I was up at 7 AM, finished breakfast at 8 AM and got to load my car at apx, 12 Noon. There were hundreds behind me as we were green 12. I should have stayed for lunch except that the Customs guys would have left. I loved the small Celebrity ships, RC owns them but has learned nothing from them. To return to RC I need a big $ inducement. Most of those traveling with us will spread the word of our departure and the speed limit placed on the ship. Probably something wrong with the electrical motors.   Read Less
Sail Date October 2014
This is an amazing ship with lots of amenities; tons of things to do and see, and plenty of restaurants and bars. Expect lines for most things most times of the day s there are thousands of people on board. The ship has an amazing layout ... Read More
This is an amazing ship with lots of amenities; tons of things to do and see, and plenty of restaurants and bars. Expect lines for most things most times of the day s there are thousands of people on board. The ship has an amazing layout and is very easily negotiable; I have been lost on other ships for days before learning my way around but this ship is simple. The shows and entertainment were all top notched with excellent musicians in the bars at night as well as great evening shows and a perfectly amazing ice show. The food was excellent especially in Portofino, the specialty restaurant. The bars were always fun and lively, but you may need to wait or walk around to find space for more than two as most of the amenities are usually crowded. Count on waiting for seating, mini-golf, the rock-climbing wall, etc.; in fact, I would count on waiting for just about everything. The huge ships have more and more people as well as the amenities. The ship is showing signs of wear and some of the staterooms are simply dated and worn out with failing fixtures, phones and electronics. Most of the common areas are well maintained and decorated, but the less travelled spaces need work. She is however scheduled for a major refurbishment in Spring of 2015. The cruise line and the staff do an incredible job. The only major failures I found were with fellow travelers. Many are inexperienced and didn't understand their agreements, and were ready to start fights with the staff when they attempted to explain dining arrangements, drink packages, excursions, etc. Many of the clientele found it perfectly acceptable to leave all their trash and drink glasses laying around, let their kids run screaming down hallways, smoke in unauthorized areas, cut in lines, etc. Many of the things that most normal members of society find discourteous can be found in high frequency on these more budget cruises. Despite the crew's best efforts to deal with the dregs, it does unfortunately spill over and negatively effect the enjoyment of the mannered people on board. All in all, Explorer of the Seas is an awesome ship with an excellent crew. Royal Caribbean does a splendid job. Expect lower quality shipmates on the cheaper itineraries. Read Less
Sail Date October 2014
This was our first experience with Royal Caribbean. Having sailed many times with Carnival and Norwegian, we were eager to see what Royal Caribbean was all about. My husband's sister/husband drove up from Florida to our home in ... Read More
This was our first experience with Royal Caribbean. Having sailed many times with Carnival and Norwegian, we were eager to see what Royal Caribbean was all about. My husband's sister/husband drove up from Florida to our home in Georgia. The four of us drove up together to my husband's brother/wife and all six of us then traveled to Cape Liberty to sail together. Embarkation went smoothly enough for us. I found the ship was showing some age. I understand she is going in for a refit, soon. The Explorer is an attractively decorated ship, though. We sailed pretty full, I believe. The dining areas, promenade, elevators, etc. were all crowded. I thought that the Explorer's gift shop was poorly stocked. There were a lot of empty shelves, racks, etc. I'd hoped to find a ship specific ornament, as I collect one from every ship we sail on..but there were none to be had. The air conditioning worked great in our cabin, but we felt it was a little warm and stuffy in most of the public areas of the ship..such as the theater and dining and shopping areas. We had a Jr. suite which I loved. One of the best staterooms we've had, yet. Deck 10..almost dead center across the back. Huge balcony, awesome view...large cabin. Walk-in closet. Tub and shower. Very spacious. Our door had some damage to it, though, and the dead-bolt was not operational. We just made sure our valuables were locked in the safe. Our room steward, Lola, was awesome. Seemed to always be working. Our room was always spotless and ready for us. Our dining room server, Jo Patrick, was wonderful. Took amazing care of us. We ate often in the Windjammer buffet. The food was always plentiful and tasty, but we found it to be kind of chaotic. Things hard to find, at times. The beverages were a little hard to get to, as well...though the servers were really good about circulating the room and bringing you anything you wanted. Once we were back at Cape Liberty, debarkation was chaotic. We were called by numbers to leave the ship once our luggage was ready in the terminal. We felt we were moving along, nicely, when we were brought up to a sudden halt and forced to stand in a crowded 'clump' because they said our luggage was, as it turned out, NOT ready. Once we were able to grab our luggage, it was a breeze moving on through customs. It was rainy and miserable, so we were all grateful when we got everything out and loaded into our van and headed down the highway. :-) We enjoyed this trip, though. It was a great mini-reunion with family that we hadn't seen in quite a while. Read Less
Sail Date September 2014
As first time cruisers we were not sure what to expect, we were very pleasantly surprised with the 10 day cruise on Explorer of the Seas from Bayonne NJ to New England and Canada. Not all of my comments are criticisms but just that, ... Read More
As first time cruisers we were not sure what to expect, we were very pleasantly surprised with the 10 day cruise on Explorer of the Seas from Bayonne NJ to New England and Canada. Not all of my comments are criticisms but just that, comments and observations. The embarkation process went smoothly enough, meeting Alex who was at the embarkation point promoting Portofino Restaurant was a bonus. We had pre-booked one night but took the opportunity to have dinner there the first night onboard. Excellent it was too. We revisited Portofino 3 of the 9 nights of sailing. The other nights we dined in the My Dining Room, with seating for 2. We don't enjoy the constant chatter and different people each night but did have many great conversations with other diners. We were looked after by Desmond Dsilva, Alban Rebello and they made the dining experience most enjoyable. Tamara on the desk for My Dining made each evening a pleasant experience as well. I had pre-booked many of the options in February and there was some confusion on boarding as to date/time of appointments and bookings. Derrick Martis of the Guest Service Office was exceptionally helpful and had it sorted promptly. Derrick again was helpful with a couple of other issues. Great service. Michael Ashmeade, our Stateroom Attendant was very thorough, helpful and courteous at all times. The shows at the Palace Theatre were excellent but shows starting at 7pm can be difficult for meals. Smoking in The Casino Royale is a problem in Schooner's Bar and surrounding areas, the smell is terrible and drifts out. There should be doors that maintain the smoke and smells within the Casino for the pleasure of non smoking guests. The Immigration process coming back in to Boston was poorly organised. With queues of non US citizens being a very large portion of the guests, queues were the whole length of the Promenade, around the elevators and back up the Promenade. The requirement for us to be there at 6.45am and stand for well over 1 hour was most distressing for some of the older guests and not a satisfactory process. The Black Falcon, managers of Boston Harbor were less than organised and guests were walking around trying to find where excursions were leaving from. We finished up re-boarding the ship to find out where we had to go. A small map in the Cruise Compass on the day would be beneficial and alleviate the confusion. The disembarkation was less than pleasant. The number of cases that were not in the allocated areas, was annoying and some time before we found them. The short tempered staff were sadly the last thing you remember of the cruise. Overall, it was a very nice experience and we plan on doing it again.   Read Less
Sail Date September 2014
Just got in from our 5 day Explorer of the Seas trip to Bermuda and figured I would post a review before the memories fade! Before I begin, I'm generally not one to focus on the negatives. This cruise had a lot of them, however. ... Read More
Just got in from our 5 day Explorer of the Seas trip to Bermuda and figured I would post a review before the memories fade! Before I begin, I'm generally not one to focus on the negatives. This cruise had a lot of them, however. Embarkation: For us it was a breeze. We left CT at 8:30 am and arrived at the port around 10 am. We hopped out, dropped off our luggage and were placed in a line to board a shuttle to the ship. The shuttle ride is approximately 5 minutes. Once at the ship, we went through security and were on the ship by 11. A number of people we met who arrived at noon (RCCL's suggested arrival time) said they had to wait in about 45 minutes of traffic getting into the port. I purchased the Ultimate Package for drinks, which I will probably do again. It cost $55 per day, and includes everything at the bar, including Red Bull and other non-alcoholic drinks. It also included Starbucks coffee, which I found to be disappointing because they don't have fresh brewed Starbucks - it's Americano style with espresso and water. I tried the Seattle's Best brewed coffee provided at no cost, and it was repulsive. There were serve yourself soda/juice machines around the ship (Promenade and Windjammer) for those who purchased the packages, which was excellent. I wondered how they knew the RCCL cup Service on board the ship was extremely slow pretty much everywhere. I read about this in reviews and thought "it can't be THAT bad", but it was. Bar service: They had one bartender most days at each pool bar, who was left to serve the entire deck since nobody was walking around offering drinks. A few times, I had to wait at the bar for 20-30 minutes. I'm a patient person but, wow, this was not what I'm used to when on vacation. I felt awful for the lone bartender because rude passengers would make comments to him and, clearly, it's not his fault. Dining room service: We had the pleasure of being served by quite possibly the most miserable server at sea. He did not smile, he did not enjoy friendly conversation, and the last day, he did not join the other servers to sing (we don't care about the singing, but it was clear he just did not want to be there). The service was incredibly slow. Stateroom service: Amazing. Jarson was fantastic and went over the top to ensure our needs were met. The only issue we had was trying to get our clothes pressed for formal night - they arrived at 5:30 PM when dinner was at 6. A little too close for comfort. Food was not great. Windjammer food was absolutely disgusting. I read previous reviews about how wonderful the Windjammer food was. No way. The burgers were dry, fries had a strange taste, and the pizza was soggy and awful. Dining room food was good. Not excellent, but good. Portion sizes were very small, and I asked a few times to have two meals brought to me. Room service food was decent. Johnny Rockets was very good, but it will cost you a bit. Ship was nice, but she needs her dry dock soon. The public areas - with exception to the public bathrooms - were kept clean. The bathrooms were simply disgusting - I don't know if it's because of the passengers or the lack of crew to tackle the issue. The carpet in the stateroom hallways, and in the staterooms, need to be torn up. There were many stains on the carpet in our stateroom, but we had an inside room so we rarely spent time there anyway - it didn't bother us at all. I'm not sure why but, overnight, our stateroom became extremely hot. That being said, our room felt quite large for an inside, and the location was great! Disembarkation was pretty easy. We did the express walk off at 8 AM. Carried our luggage out and in 30 minutes, we were off the ship. Overall, the cruise was mediocre. I do feel on this ship, we were offered a subpar experience and in order to obtain good steak or good coffee, we had to pay extra. I will definitely cruise on RCCL again, but definitely not on the Explorer. The ship needs a huge overhaul, and not just in looks. Read Less
Sail Date September 2014
Explorer of the Seas Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabin 4.0 N/A
Dining 4.0 4.0
Entertainment 5.0 3.9
Public Rooms 4.0 4.3
Fitness & Recreation 5.0 N/A
Family 5.0 4.1
Shore Excursions 3.0 N/A
Enrichment Activities 4.0 N/A
Service 4.0 4.3
Value for Money 5.0 N/A

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