Sail Date: April 2010
We boarded our ship in Bayonne, NJ without any problem at all. We drove from Ontario to NJ and parked at the dock for $19.00/day which is reasonable. We were quickly through the process and boarded on a bus which quickly shuttled us onto ... Read More
We boarded our ship in Bayonne, NJ without any problem at all. We drove from Ontario to NJ and parked at the dock for $19.00/day which is reasonable. We were quickly through the process and boarded on a bus which quickly shuttled us onto the ship. Food was waiting for us in the Windjammer and we were ready to go. Our inside cabin was small but cozy, water was hot and our room attendant friendly and efficient. We noticed right away that drinking multiple alcoholic beverages could break the bank but we did enjoy the occasional beer and wine at dinner. Our boys, ages 9 and 12 were entertained at the Adventure Ocean and Optix. They mostly didn't join us for dinner in the Dining Room but loved the windjammer and the promenade coffee shop. We saw most of the shows and found the Royal Caribbean singers and dancers top-notch. The skating show was incredible. We pre-paid our gratuities and opted for the "Mytime dining" which allowed for flexible dining times. I would recommend this if you have children with you. I would also recommend the "express departure" when you return. We grabbed our own luggage and were the first ones off the ship. We only booked one excursion. We went snorkeling and on a catamaran on St. Thomas. In future, we will book more excursions and spend more time on the islands. We are definitely looking at another cruise in the future. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2010
I went on a 9 day cruise on Royal Caribbean's Explorer of the Seas from March 19th-28 out of Cape Liberty in Bayonne. It was my first cruise and I had a great time and feel like I got a great deal for the money. It was definitely a ... Read More
I went on a 9 day cruise on Royal Caribbean's Explorer of the Seas from March 19th-28 out of Cape Liberty in Bayonne. It was my first cruise and I had a great time and feel like I got a great deal for the money. It was definitely a mostly positive experience from the ship to the food to the service to the weather. There were a couple minor things but overall it was the best vacation I've ever been on. The ship is awesome, very large, and fourth largest in the world (that class of ship actually) with lots to do, for the first two days at sea anyway. I felt that the activities and venues sort of wore thin on the return trip. Some highlights from the ship: The food is really good especially in the dining room. Do yourself a favor and don't skip the dining room dinner for the buffet, it's not worth it. I didn't have one meal in 9 nights that was at least 2.5 stars and most were better than that. Now it won't blow you away or be the best thing you've ever eaten but it is certainly very good. The food in the Windjammer (buffet) was pretty good. I don't think there are gourmet buffets anywhere so don't expect one here but it was more than passable. Also, you can order breakfast to your room for no charge which is a good idea if you have an early excursion planned. Room service is also free unless you order really late at night. For a $20 per person cover charge you can eat at the specialty restaurant Portifinos and I highly recommend that. They also serve a full lunch in the dinning room and they have a nice salad bar; you can tell the chef what you want and they'll make it and chop it for you, very good. The casino is nice although I'd stay away from the slots since they're not regulated by anyone other than RCI. Only went to 3 shows in the theater, one band and both comedians. The comedians were great, the band was so-so. Definitely check out the ice show, it was good; you can also ice skate on the rink on some sea days but the skates are really crappy. There are plenty of bars on board and I'd recommend buying the shopping book, it has a 2 for 1 card in there for the drink of the day but it's only good in The Chamber, which is the night club. There is a lot of shopping and they're always (except while in port) selling things on the Royal Promenade at duty & tax free prices. As far as the demographics of the guests since it was a 9 day cruise it was a decidedly older crowd with 85-90% of the people being no younger than their 50s; most were older. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2010
Let me start by saying that this was my dear wife's and I very first cruise. We stayed at the Country Inn Suites the night before the cruise. They had a park and cruise package that was about $70.00 cheaper than parking at the port. I ... Read More
Let me start by saying that this was my dear wife's and I very first cruise. We stayed at the Country Inn Suites the night before the cruise. They had a park and cruise package that was about $70.00 cheaper than parking at the port. I thought it would be better to get there the night before so there was no stress or worrying in driving the 3 hours to the port from home. The shuttle to Cape Liberty from the hotel was ok. It took about 30 minutes to get to the port from the hotel. As we were driving into the port, the driver stated that he had never seen it that empty before. There were no lines of vehicles or people. We arrived at the port around 12:18 pm and were in the security line by 12:22 pm. We were getting on the ship at 12:51 pm, so about ½ hour from time of arrival to being on the ship. I had heard stories of long lines and it taking forever to get on, but we had none of that. ROOM: The Explorer is a magnificent ship. Our room was very clean. We had an E1 balcony on the hump, room 8318. Yes, there was some peeling paint on the balcony, rust showing on the balcony and the handrails were bare. These did not bother me in the least. My wife and I did spend a lot of time on the balcony in the mornings and in the evenings before dinner and still thought it was lovely. The room was near the aft elevators and stairs so it made traveling throughout the ship easy. I did a lot of exploring the ship in the mornings and I still don't think I saw everything; it is a really large ship. FOOD: Food is very subjective thing. I really enjoyed all the food that we had. We had dinner most nights in the main dining room. We had my time dining and never felt like we had to make any reservations. Now, we did make reservations on the last 2 formal nights because we did want a certain waiter. On the casual nights, we showed up and got our favorite waiter without reservations. We did have dinner a couple of nights in the Windjammer. I LOVED the stir-fry station. Everything I tried was very tasty and warm. We also had dinner one night in Portofino's. I really can't comment on the menu there, as we did the Mystery Dinner Theater there and only had a choice of steak or shrimp. My wife got the shrimp and I had the steak. They were both very warm and large enough portions that I didn't feel hungry after we left. We ate most of our breakfasts in the Windjammer. We did order room service for breakfast a couple of times due to the times of our excursions. I loved the breakfast in the Windjammer. They had a variety of foods and everything was wonderful. We never had a problem finding a seat and the wait staff was always there to get us drinks. The food in the Cafe Promenade was very good also. I was a little disappointed in the fact that I had to wait until 7:00 am to get a soda. I had purchased the soda card and tried to get soda there early in the morning during my walks and could not get any. We always stopped to get pizza after our late nights in The Chamber. SHOWS: I loved all the shows. We didn't get to see the 2nd ice show or a couple of the shows, but the ones we went to were wonderful. Enjoyed going to all of the games they had. Our team won The Quest and The Liars Game and enjoyed all the others that we went to. We always had a fun time at the games. LOUNGES/BARS: We went with a large group from cruise critic who had sailed on the Explorer 2 years ago. They kept telling us how great the piano player was at Schooners Bar. Well, the gentleman that was playing there this year was horrible. We were so looking forward to singing all night long and we never even stayed there one night. We spent a lot of time in the Chamber. The DJ needs some more music though. We requested several songs and he looked at us like we were from another planet. Special thanks go out to our favorite waitress, JULIE. She was awesome and took really good care of us. My wife was collecting the souvenir glasses and needed on of the martini glasses. The last night we were there, Julie came over with a box. She had somehow found the one we were missing. EXCURSIONS: We did most of our excursions on our own with the group from cruise critics. Most of the time we just jumped into cabs or vans and headed out to the beaches. I think the most fascinating part of the trip was when we went to Maho Beach in St Maarten. I loved taking videos of the planes taking off and landing. Right after we got there, there was a 737 taking off. I ran out to get some good video of it and my dear wife and a few others were standing off to my left. When the plane revved up the engines, it knocked me back a few feet. I didn't realize at the time, but the plane was a little sideways on the runway and my wife and the others took the full brunt of the engines. When I turned around to say something to them after the plane had taken off, they were down in the water. They had gotten knocked over and into water. I would pay good money to have had a video of that. My wife and I are definitely hooked on cruising. We are trying to arrange a family cruise for 2012, but I would love to try and sneak one in before that. I really need to thank all the good people here on Cruise Critic. I learned a lot from this website that helped us out greatly on our cruise. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2010
As a first-time cruiser, I went with Royal Caribbean's Explorer of the Seas from Feb. 5, 2010 to Feb. 14, 2010 to the Eastern Caribbean (San Juan, PR; St. Thomas, VI; Samana, Dominican Republic; Labadee, Haiti). There were some good ... Read More
As a first-time cruiser, I went with Royal Caribbean's Explorer of the Seas from Feb. 5, 2010 to Feb. 14, 2010 to the Eastern Caribbean (San Juan, PR; St. Thomas, VI; Samana, Dominican Republic; Labadee, Haiti). There were some good things and some bad things and, frankly, I'm not sure I'd cruise again at all, or if I did, cruise again with RCCL. Some things were under RCCL's control, others weren't, to be fair. For example, while the East Coast was being battered by two major snowstorms, we felt the effects at sea. We travelled through a category 2 hurricane with winds around 120 MPH. The ship, she was a-rocking side to side and front to back! Obviously, this isn't the cruise line's fault and the captain did what he could, I assume, to minimize this. But it wasn't fun and we hit it coming and going. The decks were closed, which left cruisers to fend for themselves for things to do, unless you liked the activities. Here are some random thoughts: Activities: Most kicked in toward the later part of the day or in the late evening. Given that the decks (and therefore the pools) were necessarily closed, having more activities during the day would have been good. Frankly, I wasn't interested in the art auction and thought it was a strange place to have one. I would have liked more participatory activities--a mid-day dance, crafts lessons, organized card or Scrabble tournament.(And none of these should incur additional cost.) Most activities were only a half hour. Then you waited around for another one to take place. Skip the seminars and such--people are looking for fun, not to learn financial strategies. Don't get me wrong. Jimmy and his Cruise Director crew did well with the events they did--dance classes, trivia sessions, etc. But there was s much downtime in between these half-hour sessions that it seemed like there was little to do. Great hugs, though, Jimmy! And Sonia and Theresa did a great job in teaching the dance classes I took. Wine Package: Okay, this was bad. "Due to logistical problems, your wine package was cancelled." The reason? We were told the pallet with the wine for the package (which apparently is different than that sold at dinner) never made it to the ship. So, that meant we were no longer entitled to the 25% discount for ordering the wine in advance. Hint to RCCL: Extend the discount to affected cruisers to the OTHER wine--the wine you can order at dinner. Saying, "oh well, too bad" just was a bad bit of PR. And while the bottle of wine you sent to the cabin was a nice apology, the fact that it was the cheapest bottle of wine you sold made the apology seem insincere. I would rather have had the 25% discount and you know what? You would have made more money in the longer run. I only ordered two bottles of wine during the entire trip--not the cheapest but definitely not too far from the bottom of the price list. Itinerary: Maybe the point of a cruise is to spend time relaxing as you travel to the first destination, but I was bored. And you know what? That meant I ate...and ate...and ate. Luckily, I only gained five pounds, but being bored isn't good. We didn't have enough time on the islands and way too much time on the ship. As for the destinations, overall, there should be some way to get people off of the ship and not have to encounter people hawking their wares onshore. The onslaught of taxi drivers, tour guides and so on was offputting and many were rude and pushing and shoving people who were saying no to get to ones who might say yes. Given that there were a number of senior citizens in my group, this was indeed a dangerous thing. Ports: Too little time and the only focus seemed to be shopping. Providing information about things to do in port--places to see, how to get there, etc..--that didn't mean you *had* to buy an excursion would have been nice. And reduce the focus on shopping. Not all of us actually enjoy it. Recommendation: Do your homework before you leave on vacation. If you take information about what else there is to do other than shop or buy a cruise line excursion, you'll be in good shape to explore and not have to depend on the cruise line for info. Food: Chef Craig, you seemed nice and very competent. However, use some spices! The food was beautifully arranged, plentiful and the selection quite nice (although more Chinese and Japanese and maybe some Mexican and less Indian), but often was quite bland! I realize that you can't over-spice things as people having differing tastebuds, but *some* spice is better than none. And if you don't want to spice things while cooking, how about setting out a spice counter where you can help yourself? E.g., I would have killed to find some oregano (fresh or dried) and garlic powder to sprinkle on the pizza and give it some taste. Salt and pepper (which also seemed to be missing from most food) only goes so far... Buy/Don't Buy: Don't bother with the Port and Shopping Book ($25) unless you know you're shopping and spending until you drop. Most vendors gave you the "extras" even without the book. Basically, you're spending $25 for them to advertise to you. Needless expense. Many times, I felt that I was a walking wallet and all RCCL was trying to do was get money from me. I told them on my suggestion form to lower the price of drinks, for example, or have a happy hour each day--they'd earn more money. I know that I certainly didn't drink what I would have if the drinks had been cheaper. Overall: I'd say it was okay. I don't know that I'd rush to do it again. We went to Samana, in the Dominican Republic, which is not listed in the port selections. This was the only island on which I did an excursion. It was well worth the money ($65) and it was a biking, hiking, kayaking trip for five hours. For what it's worth, it was run by CS Adventures and our guide, Haji (from Pakistan originally) was awesome. He was fun, knowledgeable and obviously proud of his home of 21 years. Now for the bad parts: The "bus" was an open air jalopy with bench seats--with very little suspension. Given that the "highway" is an unpaved road with potholes big enough to swallow a dump truck, it was a tad uncomfortable. It will be nice to see the DR in about five or 10 years when tourist money has helped to better the lives of those who live there. The part of the island we were on had no running water or electricity. (So, how *does* a toilet flush without running water? The answer--there pretty much are no toilets!) We drove about 35 kilometers (about 21 miles) to where the bikes were. The bikes were in poor condition. Chains needed lubing, brakes were not working great, one bike had only a front brake (luckily no downhills) and tires were not adequately inflated. The bike I was on was like riding a blender... The road surface was rough, although these were "comfort" bikes with mountain bike tires. (The saddles were utilitarian.) The scenery was pretty--a bit wild and unrefined--but what I most will recall is the awful conditions of the "homes" and animals we passed along the way. The poverty was prevalent. The people were nice enough, although somewhat shellshocked it appeared to see so many tourists. The animals (horses, goats, pigs, etc.) were often tied up on the side of the fire road we were on and most, if not all, completely underfed. A British woman in our group got so upset that I thought she was going to go find the owner of a horse that had his bones sticking out under his skin and open sores on him and beat the pulp out of him! We then got to the end of the fire road and it became a path/trail, which meant our hiking portion began. After being given cold water, we walked maybe a mile to the edge of the ocean to see a blowhole. It would have been a little more majestic if the tide had been coming in. So, basically, we saw a hole that had a force of wind coming out of it and nothing else. Then we waited around for the truck to return and pick us up. There was, of course, the obligatory local selling handicrafts. No one bought anything that I was aware of. The truck then bounced us to another location, maybe 10 miles away where we got to a "shopping district." We were able to use the bathroom (again, no running water) and then left and were taken to Las Galeras, a beach, for the kayaking portion. The beach was beautiful. There were tandem kayaks, which wasn't great for me as I was on the excursion by myself. Luckily, there was one other person on the excursion also by himself, so we paired up. Most of our group didn't bother to kayak. We were given one hour to paddle around in circles in one cove. It was somewhat boring. The others all just swam or sat on the beach. Then we left, took the 45-minute drive back to the ship and called it a day. My suggestion to the tour company is to up the price a bit and include lunch. We left the ship at 8:30 a.m. and got back at 2 p.m. While the shopping district had places it appeared you could buy food, the beach had a restaurant on it and it would have been easy enough to arrange for a buffet lunch along with the kayaking/swimming. If the price is still the same, I would suggest doing this tour. I disagree with the "strenuous" rating. It wasn't that hard but you do have to have some kind of active lifestyle. I'm overweight (quite a bit) and had no problems whatsoever. Labadee, Haiti. I didn't like this at all. It was a private beach owned by RCCL and surrounded by a wall. It was like being in an enclosed theme park. We ate lunch, wandered around a bit and, of course, were targeted to buy things. The few local vendors who were there were not necessarily the most pleasant. I had one vendor who tried to sell me something that I had briefly admired. When I politely said no, his tone of voice changed and he said something I believe to be derogatory in his native language to another local behind him. Lovely, huh? We bought a few things from the marketplace vendors then went back on the ship. I would have tried the one activity they had there--a sort of wire slide from the top of a hill to the beach--but it was $85 per person. Had it been more reasonably price--or free, since we were, after all, on a private beach owned by the cruise line--I would have done it. I didn't go to the beach, but heard from others that it was rocky as was the water. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2009
We are a couple aged 29 & 35 with no kids. As I have always wanted to get away from the bad winter weather over the festive season, a cruise to the Southern Caribbean seemed a sensible option! We started our journey from Newcastle Upon ... Read More
We are a couple aged 29 & 35 with no kids. As I have always wanted to get away from the bad winter weather over the festive season, a cruise to the Southern Caribbean seemed a sensible option! We started our journey from Newcastle Upon Tyne in North East England on 19th December. Firstly, our connecting flight to London was grounded for 3 hours due to heavy snow... resulting in us missing our connection to New York and spending the night on the floor at Heathrow airport... followed by all airports in N.Y. closing... and all hope of reaching Cape Liberty in time for our 4pm sailing went down the pan! Luckily, all was not lost! We managed to get transferred on to a flight to Miami that morning and then on to Puerto Rico (our first port of call). RCC even arranged a 3 night stay for us at the Caribe Hilton at no extra charge. The ship was bigger than I'd ever imagined when we embarked in San Juan. I just wish I could say the same for our Interior Stateroom! We could barely move around once our suitcases were delivered and it was strictly one person at a time in the bathroom. But I did like the way that they managed to cram little shelves in every alcove. We headed for the Windjammer (fairly quiet as most had gone ashore in San Juan) and marvelled over the amazing choice of food and impeccable service. In my opinion, the food served here was far better than anything served in the dining rooms! It also sadly proved that obesity/sheer greed is alive and well amongst most Americans. Our first port of call was St.Thomas on Christmas Eve. The weather was stormy the whole all day and the port area wasn't the prettiest. Did some tax-free shopping and stumbled upon the bank/market location where scenes from Weekend at Bernies 2 was filmed (an unexpected treat for me!) After enjoying the on-board Xmas carol concert that night, we headed for the Chamber and enjoyed their overpriced drinks (no toilets in the nightclub which was very annoying - especially as I was asked for my i.d. every time I walked back in!) We were at sea on Xmas day which was an unreal experience. There I was, sunbathing in my bikini and santa hat listening to calypso carols! Xmas dinner in the dining room was disappointing - chewy turkey and tasteless roast potatoes. I did enjoy the dining staff's singing and merriment at the end of the meal however. Boxing day we arrived in Barbados. Everything was closed so we spent the day at beautiful Carlisle beach. Back on the boat, RCC didn't make a big deal of Boxing day which was a shame (do Americans not celebrate this?). Great atmosphere on board on New Years Eve despite the rocky seas. Sick bags suddenly appeared around the boat and I don't think that it was for too much champagne! The Royal Promenade was packed out for the countdown though I did hear there were celebrations in other bars. Best parts of the other ports we visited; Antigua - Nelson's Dockyard National Park, St. Kitts - beautiful scenery, Dominica - Emerald Pool and Trafalgar Falls, St Maarten - Princess Juliana Airport and 'That Yoda Guy' shop. Don't pay for any RCC excursions - hire a taxi for the day and the local driver will take you anywhere you like for an agreed fee. My partner had a gripe about fleas in our Stateroom towards the end of the holiday. After gaining several bites over night, he complained and was assured that the bedding would be replaced and room checked. When the biting continued, the Housekeeper claimed it could not be the room and the bites must have been picked up whilst we were ashore! Apart from the flea incident I cannot fault the cleanliness of our room. Our attendant, Emily, was excellent and always had time for a few words. I was shocked to find out that RCC do not pay their cleaning staff and have to rely on guest's generosity for their wages! Disembarking at Cape Liberty was stress free. Our luggage was waiting exactly where it was supposed to be and immigration was a breeze. I've never been so cold in my life than at that port so I'm pleased everything went smoothly! Despite many experienced cruisers commenting on how RCC aren't what the used to be (and that they are only after your money) we had a fantastic time and will definitely cruise with RCC again! Read Less

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