10 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2016
Having read all the January roll calls and reviews of Anthem Of The Seas cruises and the cruise from Hell (January Hurricane cruise), I hoped our cruise would have better. Let me start with Embarkation. I have read many reviews that stated ... Read More
Having read all the January roll calls and reviews of Anthem Of The Seas cruises and the cruise from Hell (January Hurricane cruise), I hoped our cruise would have better. Let me start with Embarkation. I have read many reviews that stated once the passengers entered Bayonne Pier Terminal, they went to the ushers with iPads and in a few minutes were ushered up the escalator to enter the ship. It only took 5 minutes. Not so for us. We entered around 9:30AM and were told to stand behind the people already sitting in blue chairs. There was another full section of people sitting in white chairs. At the back of the huge hall, were about 30 elderly people standing. Not enough seats for all of us. As the streams of the people kept coming in, they gathered in the front. We were not allowed to board the ship. We were told that the computer system was down that tabulated our faces and names as we boarded. With this down, no one could board. After being there an hour and standing, they started to let us board. However the people who just entered the building were in the front and went on the first line. They were calling people by rows from the front. Chaos was starting right away. All the people standing started to move to the right and walk along the wall to where the first row was starting to move from their seats. The people standing, plus the people coming into the building and other people sitting in chairs began to move as well. Suddenly the escalators were not functioning so the line was halted. We later were told that the people leaving the ship from the last cruise experienced problems with the same escalators, so we were asked to leave space between passengers to balance out the weight. Finally we boarded the ship after waiting 2 hours. Many people were still sitting in their chairs waiting to get the word to board. Passengers were unable to go to their cabins so onto the buffet went the 4500. The Marketplace was not as large as I have seen on other ships, so tables were unavailable. With no place to go, people ate and sat. New arrivals were screwed, since space was at a premium. We asked some people sitting on a table for 8 if we could use two of the unused seats, which was great. We could see the utter frustration on the passengers with wheelchairs and walkers searching for a place to sit, many with plates in hand. We decided to go downstairs to our cabin and see if it was ready. The access door to the cabins from the elevator banks was closed. People were sitting on the floor and the steps waiting. I decided to try the door handle and it was not locked, so everyone followed and went to the room. Our room was done and was beautiful. Plenty of closet space, and the balcony was huge. We had no complaints at all. Food has always been a problem for Anthem reading the past reviews. I was really prepared for the worst. I had emailed the Restaurant Department at Royal, since the reservations available were all at 9PM. We cannot eat that late and said so in my emails. They responded an said that we could eat at 5:15 every night and to tell them which restaurant to book. I responded by only selecting Silk once, which was a good thing, since it was really the only restaurant we did not like. We loved the food in The Grande and had the same waitress, Elizabeth, who was a gem. We had early reservations to two shows and she was able to bring us our food, hot and quick and with a smile. Service by the waitstaff was excellent. I do not know where the other reviewers were eating, but I do not think they were on the same ship. Everyone we came in contact with had a smile, and more than happy to satisfy our needs. The Maitre D, David, was so great as was his assistant. I was impressed that they had inside ping pong tables, so the ball would not be subjected to the wind outside. I loved the bumper cars and The Northstar. I did not see any mention of the Puzzle Room, which was disappointing. I had read that the Puzzle Room was affected by the hurricane. My cabin stewart, Jeffrey, was amazing. He was always there to give us extra blankets and pillows and brought us ice everyday. I did end up with a chronic cough two days before we docked in Bayonne. Prior to that, after the captain announced that our trip would be shortened by two days (due to a storm on its way from the West), Anthem staff were busy to wash walls, railings, elevators, tables, chairs, casino and casino chips, bagging books in the Library, taking pamphlets and advertisements that were in the room, etc. It probably was the cause for my chronic cough. I decided not to go the doctor, for fear of contamination with other passengers suffering with Norovirus. The end result was I suffered with the cough and did not sleep for 2 days. On the morning of departure, at around 2:30 AM, I went out of the room so my wife would not hear my coughing, and went to 4th floor where they had coffee available. Might I say that on every ship prior, the buffet was open late and early in the morning to serve their guests. Not on our ship. They closed at 9PM. Anyway, after getting coffee on the 4th, I went upstairs to the 5th floor to Two70s, where they would be serving early breakfast for those just walking with their bags off the ship to their cars. Once I got upstairs, I walked into Two70s and saw a man in a rebreather mask fumigating the chairs and table and carpets with a thick mist. I left right away to avoid breathing any toxic fumes. They closed the sliding doors after me. At 5:30 we were supposed to go that same room for breakfast. How dumb is that. They did open at 5:45 but my cough got worse. I did not stay to eat and went upstairs to our room instead. Leaving the ship was easy. Once we got to the garage, there were people who took down our names and the last four digits of our credit card, in order to give us the credit for the two days parking. Overall we liked the ship and with our 50% discount given by RCI, we book Anthem for next year. All we did was move to room midships, so save some walking. Whatever part of the ship you are on, get ready to do some walking. We know it is healthy, but the elevator banks are in midships and so are the stairs. Be prepared with comfortable shoes. Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2016
I feel like the ship is not as bad as everyone makes it out to be. We have been on Adventure, Rhapsody, Oasis, and Liberty before Anthem, choosing it as it was the new ship. The ship itself is beautiful. Our stateroom was awesome along ... Read More
I feel like the ship is not as bad as everyone makes it out to be. We have been on Adventure, Rhapsody, Oasis, and Liberty before Anthem, choosing it as it was the new ship. The ship itself is beautiful. Our stateroom was awesome along with our steward. Loved the extra closet space and layout of the room. We enjoyed all the public rooms, Northstar, bumper cars, etc. The theater was the first Royal theater we have encountered where the balcony was not great, it was as if there was not enough pitch, seats on Deck 4 were much better for sightlines than the balcony. We enjoyed We will Rock you, Spectra is a bit just showing off the capabilities of 270 more than a cohesive show, and The Gift was just odd. The staff throughout was extremely friendly and we did not have service issues in the restaurants. As always the crux that Anthem seems to have is the food. We enjoyed not having the menus that we have seen at the other main restaurants on the traditional ships. A quick recap of where we ate: American Icon: Good, out of the 4 probably our favorite Chic: Split Personality-one evening was great but the second was meh Grande: Good-no complaints and same quality as formal night in the mains of the traditionals Silk-Panda express is better which is sad Chops:If this was my first chops experience I would never go again-very chewy meat-everything was Garlicky which I don't remember from previous visits. Jamies Italian: Fantastic-loved the boards and the Pasta was perfect Wonderland: AMAZING (better be for the price though) it was great-do not be scared of the menu and just let the waiter take you through their choices. Solarium Bistro:Baklava was great and the Kefta (which you get from the buffett). The mains were not memorable. Windjammer-only breakfast and lunch but loved the variety and breads. Also loved the hand washing stations which I think was a saving grace on us being able to still use utensils/tongs when there was a noro problem on board In the end I really debated between Very Good and Average and decided to compare it with other Royal cruises I have taken and say average due to the food quality, loved the variety, but quality was off. I am not considering the coming back early as that is out of control and we got a credit, and the norovirus problem was handled well and didn't feel limited (where as a case we had on Princess they shut down the buffet/wouldn't allow you to get drinks, etc). Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2015
This was our 20th Celebrity cruise, we are Elite Plus Captain's Club members and this was probably one of our most disappointing Celebrity cruises. Overall the food and service was not nearly as good as in the past and also the ... Read More
This was our 20th Celebrity cruise, we are Elite Plus Captain's Club members and this was probably one of our most disappointing Celebrity cruises. Overall the food and service was not nearly as good as in the past and also the lack of enforcement of dress code in the Main Dining Room as well as Captain Club events really put a sour taste in our mouths. My husband and I like the traditional way of cruising. We always select Traditional Late (Second) Seating in the Main Dining Room. We were assigned a table for 8 which is what we asked but on night 1 and 2 there were only 4 of us. During dinner on night 2 the other couple said "we have bought a specialty dining package for 3 nights". Well there's only 5 nights left so that means my husband and I would be sitting alone, which is just not what we wanted. We went to the Maitre'd and asked to change tables so we could sit with others. He told us that it would be a table for 9 now that we were there. We said great. We got to the new table and there were only 2 other couples that were cruising together there. That's fine, at least we had a table for 6 on nights 3 and 4. On nights 5 & 6 a couple we met during the cruised joined us for dinner and we finally had our table for 8. Unfortunately on night 6 - the second formal night we did not get our entrée until 10:10 PM. The waiter and Maitre'd came over and apologized but what good did that do. My husband and I wanted to go to the Liar's Club show which was at 10:30 PM, so we got up and left before they even took the entrée dishes away. On night 7 the final night of the cruise my husband and I were all alone at a table that seated 10 people. Not to mention that the first waiter and assistant waiter we had were very good and when we changed tables our new assistant waiter must have been new because he was not that good and our waiter was okay but needed to compensate for the assistant so service lagged. This sailing had a much younger crowd than we have sailed with previously. I think it's because of the drink packages they are attracting younger people, which is fine, but these people are no use to traditional style of cruising and just want to dress and do what they want when they want. People were not sticking to the dress code and also they were drinking in the pools, hot tubs, etc., which I thought you were not allowed to, especially bottles of beer which can break. The food in the MDR was overall good, the buffet for lunch was just okay nothing great. Unfortunately and this is nothing to do with Celebrity, the weather in Bermuda for the 3 days we were there was terrible. It was so windy that they canceled the ferries to St. Georges day 2 and 3 and you could barely even walk. The beaches were so windy people were getting sand in their eyes, ears, etc. and all these dead jellyfish were washing up on shore. Even our stateroom attendant was just adequate. I asked for an extra towel every day and never got one. I resorted to bringing a clean pool towel (they have new ones which are really nice) down to the cabin with me. Another thing Celebrity has really cut out, especially on the Bermuda cruises is the guest lecturers. My husband and I really enjoyed these. We had a gentleman, Stan the Pan Man, who one day gave a lecture on steel drums and also gave classes on them as well as played around the ship. He was fine, but we like the historians and lecturers they use to get from their partnership with the Smithsonian. I believe this ended in 2013 sometime. With the raising of prices on drinks, gratuities, etc. we are very disappointed in the direction Celebrity is going in since food, service and overall ambience for those of us that just book regular cabins is going downhill. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2015
I just came back from this cruise. It was my first cruise and I was frustrated. Bermuda was beautiful and the ship staff was great! The ship itself is very clean but needs a little updating. The dining room food was good and while ... Read More
I just came back from this cruise. It was my first cruise and I was frustrated. Bermuda was beautiful and the ship staff was great! The ship itself is very clean but needs a little updating. The dining room food was good and while portions were small you could get as many dinners as you wanted. The Ocean View Cafe where we ate the rest of the meals was okay at best! Long lines and food was always barely warm. Trays were hard to negotiate and tables hard to find. The most frustrating was never being able to get a chair by the pool people saved chairs with a book or towel at 7 am and never showed till 12 pm The staff did not enforce the 30 minute rule posted in the ship info. so many chairs empty and people couldn't sit. It was the same in the lounges! Every activity at night was in this very small lounge and there was no where to sit! Again people saving chairs. I did assert myself a few times quoting the rule but who wants confrontation to be able to enjoy what you paid for! If staff enforced the rule at the pool it would have helped greatly! The pool was also way too small for the amount of guests! Thank God it was not summer because I do not now where they would fit the children. I will not cruise this ship again! I will also try another cruise line in the future. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2015
This is a brand new, very sophisticated ship. Some things work really well and some don't. Unsurprisingly the most impressive bright spots I recall involve crew members doing a particularly good job. The technology never really shined ... Read More
This is a brand new, very sophisticated ship. Some things work really well and some don't. Unsurprisingly the most impressive bright spots I recall involve crew members doing a particularly good job. The technology never really shined and it never felt like it was making my life better (I am a tech guy from Silicon Valley, btw) but was acutely tuned to making more money for RC. Bright spots: -The cabin was great. Intelligently designed, comfortable and a pleasure to be in. -The outside dinning area on the fantail was rarely crowded and offered wonderful views. -The adults-mostly Solarium was a favorite hang out. -Watching "the Hobbit" on the giant screen, bundled up from the cold with the swimming pool water crashing from a light roll was remarkably fun and totally memorable. -Having a multitude of things I could do and almost none I had to do. -A proactive approach to encouraging everyone to wash their hands - the single most effective action to prevent spread of norovirus or other illnesses. -Hot Spice!, the Caribbean and reggae band. These guys were seriously good performers. Dark spots: -The drink package options were confusing on the website and confusing to bartenders. There were different interpretations in different places. -The supposed 'high-speed" internet wasn't but was expensive, slow and the source of the most complaints I heard. -The app they want you to use for everything is worthless. -The difference in food quality between the Windjammer cafeteria and the complementary restaurants was minimal. Service at those restaurants was very uneven and it was nearly impossible to get a second glass of wine before your entree appears. We didn't try any of the for fee places because, frankly, I live in San Francisco and can walk 3 blocks for better restaurants than they have. I'm not going on a cruise for the food. Total ripoffs: Beware the cell phone service that magically appears when you are at sea. Without giving you the option to decline you are connected to an ATT plan and if someone happens to call you it's billed @ $6/min. I wanted to take this cruise because it was a way to sail across the Atlantic for the start of a long trip in Spain. For that it was great and memorable. I discovered I'm an outlier in the cruise community though. For most people I talked with the cruise itself is the destination. I found RC obtuse to deal with prior to boarding and never felt like I got good information or advice about decisions like the drink packages. Most folks I encountered on board were veteran cruisers and more familiar with the ins and outs of the game. I was not which left me unaware of much more I could have taken advantage of and at a loss to even know what to look for. Finally, I wish we could have spent more than a few hours at each of the ports we visited. I'm not much impressed with Royal Caribbean even though I hear they are one of the best in the business. They seem to severely limit the authority of their on-board officers and managers to actually manage the operation and to be highly concerned with maximizing the per-passenger revenue. The fact I keep coming back to that point illustrates it's persistent presence. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: September 2014
Cabin – We had a deluxe balcony 6624 on the hump. The room was large with a small sitting area and desk. The bed is two twins either separated or apart with comfortable linens. The bathroom is the typical small room with sink, toilet and ... Read More
Cabin – We had a deluxe balcony 6624 on the hump. The room was large with a small sitting area and desk. The bed is two twins either separated or apart with comfortable linens. The bathroom is the typical small room with sink, toilet and shower, but the shower had a nice door closure instead of just a shower curtain. The shower pressure could have been a little more powerful. The balcony was a cove style and you not able to open up adjoining balconies. Also, you can purchase WIFI, but it does not work in the rooms. Our AC was not working properly the first night so it was 1000 degrees in the cabin so we had to sleep with the balcony door open to get any air. Luckily, it was cool out so it helped, but it was a rough first night. They fixed the issue immediately the next day. Service – The service as a whole was dismal. The staff really makes it seem like you are putting them out when it comes to everything. However, wait staff in the dining room at night were the best, especially the main server who brought us specialty items and really took care of us, but the bar server seemed annoyed with us for ordering so much. Again, we felt like we were putting him out. Our cabin steward was very aggressive and not the most friendly. She just seemed demanding to the point where we were afraid to ask her for anything. At one point she kicked us out the room because we were taking too long and she needed to clean it and I was forced to shower in my friend’s cabin next door. Then when I went back to the room to get the rest of my clothes she seemed very annoyed. She said we needed to work on her schedule. The bar staff was just okay, except Marlon in the Schooner lounge who was very friendly and knew my orders just as I arrived. Overall it just felt like we were not very welcome and the service were extremely lacking. Food – The menu I found lacking, but the food was very good in the main dining room. Everything cooked very well and tasty. We started to order the special vegetarian Indian meals since they took them off the menu and it was amazing. Even one of our friends who had lobster indulged and ended up eating a whole other Indian entrée it was that good. It was a mix of masala with naan bread and either beans and cheese. You need to order it the night before though so we would glance over the menu that night and then order it for the day evening. We went to Portofino one night and that was a great experience. The food was incredible, especially the risotto. I strongly suggest doing this one night because the food and service were far superior. The buffet area is small and crowded with lines with typical buffet fare. After hours there is only one place to get sandwiches, pizza and snacks. I did like the idea that it was more than just pizza and the sandwiches were really tasty. The pizza reminded me of frozen recooked, but satiated my late night cravings. Also, the coke/soda machines were awesome! If you get the drink package you can just fill up your own soda and ice in cups they provide. Casino – The casino is a really good size and can be a little smoky. They had a really good selection of slot machines and tables. We had a good time there, but the dealers were not very personable and just there to do their job. I like a more fun atmosphere in the casino. Entertainment and Activities – Activities are lacking and the ones that do go on are very crowded with people. I wish they would do some more games, scavenger hunts, trivia and other things. They only had one activity a day it seemed and they were packed. We heard from a lot of people that things like the ice skating rink, slides and rock wall were closed a lot and even when not it was very limited. The one late night comedian was just terrible. Not funny in the slightest bit. Our whole group of 10 left since it was that bad and we saw many others doing the same. As for shows, I heard they were good. They had various bands and a piano bar, but they did not seem so happening. The one night of karaoke was packed and most people were really good. Still, sometimes I like more a fun time karaoke time. The night club did have a silent night, which sounded stupid, but was a lot of fun. You wear headphones with two types of music and can dance. People looked silly dancing to nothing and so it was fun for the participants and voyeur. So, that turned out to be a lot of fun and great idea. Port Days – We had a two full days and overnight in Bermuda. We opted for a private sail boat excursion, which was only $75 PP and we got 3 hours to sail around Bermuda and then swim and snorkel in a private area. The sailing was really relaxing and fun and then swimming in the water was amazing. The ocean was crystal clear and 84 degrees. We saw lots of coral and fish. The next day some of us went to St. George, which was far to get to, but very nice historic city. Some did Hamilton, which was described as similar to most Caribbean port cities. We went to snorkel beach where there were tons of fish and coral to see. Beware if you go at peak hours because they charge you to get in and for snorkel gear, chairs, and umbrellas. We then did a cab ride to Horseshoe bay just to see it. The ride there was very scenic and our driver gave us a little tour speech about the island. Horseshoe Bay was very crowded, but the water was amazingly clear and warm. They also had some cliffs to climb nearly. On our ride various hotels were pointed out and there was one that looked so beautiful I would love to come back and stay there. Embarkation/Disembarkation – I do not like port liberty. We got there and stood there for 15 minutes trying to figure out if we needed to load up our bags ourselves to the crate holders or have someone else do it. I had priority check-in and asked three different Royal Caribbean representatives where to go and was waved off and told to go into the mass line. I finally got to a friendly counter person and they informed me that the priority check-in was useless now. Then we had to get loaded onto a bus to get to the ship and stand in more lines to get on board. My friends from NJ said it would have been easier to fly down to Florida and go out of one of their ports. As for leaving the ship, that was another terrible experience. We had to do self-assist because we had an early flight at 11:30AM. We started to leave at 7:45AM and it seemed everything was blocked and no real instruction where to go. People were wandering around aimlessly lost. We finally got down to the right area and tried to find a crew member to explain our situation, but were waved off and thrown into another line that went on forever. We had to drag out luggage around for 45 minutes, down 2 flights of stairs, then finally off the ship to board the bus and get to the main port. It was pretty rough. They are rebuilding the port to streamline the boarding issues, which is due to launch in November so that might make a huge difference. Conclusion - The ship was very crowded wherever you went and the service was very lacking. I think this is a great way to see Bermuda, but you need to expect such madness on board during the non-port times. The promenade was really nice and when not crowded was a nice place to hang out. I spoke to other people and many felt the same way, but also some had done the itinerary before and had a much different experience so it could have been timing. Would I do it again, probably not, but I will be trying other Royal Caribbean ships to see what they have to offer.   Read Less
Sail Date: November 2013
This is only our second cruise, so by no means are we an expert. My expectations on RCI were set a little high as it was going to be a good size ship and sailing for 9 days. Plenty of time to be pampered. Over all it was OK to good. We ... Read More
This is only our second cruise, so by no means are we an expert. My expectations on RCI were set a little high as it was going to be a good size ship and sailing for 9 days. Plenty of time to be pampered. Over all it was OK to good. We had a good time. Our steward (Danny) was great. He kept our room clean, kept my ice bucket filled and even taught us how to make the little towel animals. Most of the other staff were good too. From a staff point of view the problems were minor. The hall ways in the sleeping areas always were partially blocked with cleaning supplies at just about all hours of the day. Carts, trash, vacuums etc were always in the hallways. I saw them occasionally on Carnival, but not all day long. The other issue was that the dining room staff had little regards to the passengers. Constantly cutting us off as we walked to and from the dining tables. Several times I almost dumped my food or drink because of it. I will say there was no pushiness on the sales staff and they were always willing to help. Food was a big disappointment, both in the main dining area and the buffet. When you talk to most people the first thing they talk about is the FOOD. In this case it is also the FOOD that was at the top of my mind. But not because it was so good, but the fact that is was so mediocre. In the dining room the food was about what I would expect in a diner, but more limited in selections. The quality was also nothing to write home about. In the nine days of dining, I cannot think of one meal that was exceptional. Deserts were disappointing and on several nights, I skipped the deserts as nothing was appealing to me. Breakfast was probably the best of the meals and menus. Lots of fruits and a good selection of cereals and breakfast foods. Quality was good as well. HOWEVER, coffee sucked! I haven't had coffee this bad since I was in the service. It was STRONG, Bitter and lacked flavor. I did find that if I added whipped cream to it from the fruit bar, that it was OK. Lunch was nothing to write home about. The menu was limited and mainly consisted of pasta and other low cost items. Water, Ice Tea and Lemonade were the only free drinks available. Sodas were extra or required a purchase of a drink package. For some reason teaspoons were not readily available and had to be asked for when needed. Splenda was in short supply. Entertainment was good. The acts were worth while seeing. Some of them were scheduled late (10 PM or later) so we didn't see them all. They did have a sailing away party one night but it was way too late for us with the arrival in port the next morning. There was a problem at one port with getting everyone off in time. Something to do with docking of the tender boats. We missed our scheduled excursion. Since we hadn't prepaid for it, there wasn't any lost. In fact the highlight of the trip was an excursion with "Tour Samana with Terry". They provided a private tour for us that we would have never been able to match with RCI sponsored tours. It will be the 'talk' of our cruise for years to come. We stopped at San Juan for about 5 hours on a late Sunday afternoon. Shops were closed and our tour was pretty much a joke. The stop at the fort being the only worthwhile stop. Next we stopped at St Thomas. Pretty nice trip. We did our own thing here. Found lots of tour options once you get off the ship and saved some money as well. Samana was our third stop. No dock here so you take shuttle boats to the island. That was where the problem was delaying us from getting off the boat so we missed out scheduled tour. Again Terry and his crew saved the day. Our final stop was on a RCI owned resort. Basically a big ripoff. You pay for just about everything. Water at $4.50 a bottle, no soda, all the shops are keyed to selling you as much as possible. Got to the point we walked in the middle of the street and didn't pay any attention to the calls to come in and shop. Lunch was about par for what was on the ship. Drinks in the bars are not our think, however, I do occasionally like to have a Kalula and Cream. We went to one of the bars to listen to some music on our second night at sea. I ordered my drink and before it even made it to the table I saw there was a problem. Turns out it was made with skim milk. The waiter remade the drink and again I knew it wasn't right. The second time the waiter said he made it with half and half. I asked the bartender what they used and he also said half and half, so I asked to see the container. He pulled up a bottle of whole milk. Apparently they didn't know what half and half or light cream was. At $7 a drink, I wasn't happy with it and had them remove it from the bill. That was my last drink. Pictures of the cruise were a big rip off as well. $21 a shot regardless of the size of the picture. But since we don't cruise that often we did purchase a couple of them. Last item was the motion of the ship. Explorer of the Seas is not a small ship, but you felt every wave. Seas most of the time were 2-5 feet and it was like being a drunken sailor most of the time. The only time it didn't rock and roll was when she was stopped or going dead slow. Not sure why, but was very noticeable. So our hats off to Danny for taking care of us and Terry and his crew for showing us a great tour. As for the rest, better luck next time. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2010
This was our first ever cruise. I had no problems with the ship - it was clean although definitely due for its overhaul. The food was pretty average though. The Waterfall Cafe had cafeteria-style food (pasta, so-so pizza, lots of ... Read More
This was our first ever cruise. I had no problems with the ship - it was clean although definitely due for its overhaul. The food was pretty average though. The Waterfall Cafe had cafeteria-style food (pasta, so-so pizza, lots of casserole type dishes) although the sushi bar was absolutely excellent (why wasn't this available at lunch time?). The kids enjoyed the food but my husband and I ate our lunches at the Spa - tiny serves but at least it was fresh and tasty. The Cosmopolitan food was very ordinary. Our waiter was hysterical - gave us very detailed descriptions each night (I actually do know what a 'jus' is!) but pronounced all the French words phonetically. I didn't have the heart to correct him but perhaps waiter training could include pronunciation? Here's a hint too - if you order breakfast room service in Concierge class, freshly squeezed orange juice is free but you have to pay $2.50 on deck! We ordered orange juice in our cabins and then took it to breakfast with us! We had dinner at the Normandie one night - nice food but not good enough to justify an extra $35 a head. The ports were great (except Portland - boring!!) and we really enjoyed ourselves on port days. But where were all the activities during the 'at sea' days? I was expecting lectures on the history of the places we were going (there was one very boring lectures on lighthouses and that was it!) and lots of free, educational stuff. Instead, we were offered the chance to pay lots of money for whiskey tastings - sorry, not interested. The shows varied a lot. One comedian should have been put out to pasture years ago - i cringed at his show and even his target audience (ladies of 80+) didn't enjoy it. Troy was very funny though. The sing and dance shows were terrible but the cappella group was very good. Overall - my kids (aged 19 and 15) had a ball hanging out with the other kids on the cruise and would do it again but my husband and I wouldn't bother again with a cruise unless it was down a river and there was a port day EVERY day. 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

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