Boarding went well, about 20 minutes from time we arrived at terminal 1 in Port Canaveral. We had lunch in the Windjammer restaurant. I had sliced roast beef; it was good. A small piece of sugar free strawberry mousse and a chocolate chip ... Read More
Boarding went well, about 20 minutes from time we arrived at terminal 1 in Port Canaveral. We had lunch in the Windjammer restaurant. I had sliced roast beef; it was good. A small piece of sugar free strawberry mousse and a chocolate chip cookie for dessert was great. We got our cabin (6536) about 1:00pm and our bags arrived about 3:00pm; better than expected or promised. The Explorer is due for renovation in March and is showing its age. It's a nice ship, but in need of help. This is our third cruise on the Explorer in about ten years. We have a balcony cabin on the port side toward the front of the ship. We left port about 4:30 heading for Labadee, Haiti as our first destination, a day and a half away. The seas were a bit rough making my wife queasy. She donned her seasick bracelets but still felt off a bit. Dinner in the restaurant that night was shrimp cocktail (excellent) and prime rib with potatoes; the prime rib was average at best. Dessert was less impressive, a cobbler that was too dry. The rough seas led to an early bedtime as that was the best way for my wife to avoid getting seasick.
January 30th At Sea
At sea all day; the seas are somewhat smoother and I think the Captain slowed the ship down a little to smooth out the ride. Breakfast was excellent, with fresh cooked eggs and bacon, as well as some delicious oatmeal. There was plenty of fresh fruit and breads to go with a good assortment on the buffet in the Windjammer. Several windows in the restaurant were permanently clouded; the ship is ready for rehab. Many areas throughout the ship are showing signs of rust and age. There were plenty of activities throughout the day, which was good because a light drizzle cleared the pool area in the afternoon. For dinner we all ordered the tenderloin which was fantastic; our waiter brought us seconds which was much appreciated. We started with the shrimp cocktail once again followed by lobster bisque, both very good. Cheesecake topped-off a very hood meal. The service was excellent. In the Palace theater, they had a great show of 60s and 70s songs and dancing by very talented entertainers.
January 31st Labadee, Haiti
We awoke to rain which continued for much of the day. After breakfast in the Windjammer, we relaxed on our balcony to do some reading; there would be little opportunity for water activities on Labadee. We did venture onto Labadee at lunchtime; it always pays to pack an umbrella. RCL provided lunch on the island; burgers, hot dogs, chicken, and ribs, as well as salads and cookies. Nothing great, but passable. Labadee has expanded its facilities over the years; it is very nice, with beautiful beaches, souvenir shopping, a roller coaster, and mile long zip line. They have pavilions where you can escape the hot sun or rain. It's a far cry from when we last visited several years ago. It was nice to spend some time on shore after two days at sea. The show in the Palace theater this evening was singer/dancer/comedian named Tony Tillman; he performs the Sammy Davis role in the Las Vegas show, the Rat Pack. He was fantastic; high energy, funny, and a very good singer. He performed songs from the 60s and 70s because that was what this audience wanted to hear. The theater was packed for both shows and he didn't disappoint. We had dinner in the Portofino restaurant, the Italian specialty restaurant; the meal and the service were excellent. I started with a bowl of minestrone soup with a clear broth, followed by an appetizer of prosciutto, mozzarella cheese balls, and apple slices; all very delicious. The main course was a perfectly prepared 16 ounce t-bone steak with a side of broccoli. Dessert was a chocolate cake, covered in rich chocolate icing and a brandy cherry filling; absolutely wonderful, but so filling that I could only eat half of it. The Portofino carries an additional charge of $25 per person, but it is well worth it.
February 1st, Super Bowl Sunday – At Sea
Once again, we have a day at sea heading for Bonaire. Breakfast of bacon and eggs in the Windjammer. Today, the sky has cleared, but the sea is still a little rough; a good day to do some reading on the balcony while enjoying the noise of the Caribbean splashing against the ship. I don't understand how people can cruise without a balcony cabin; it's a window to enjoy the ocean. In the afternoon, we attended an ice show that was very well done; not to be missed. For the evening entertainment, they showed the Super Bowl on a 30 foot screen in the Palace theater; great game, great audience. The only two shortcomings were viewing on ESPN International; they did not show the great commercials and they did show pathetic half-time show with Katy Perry, she was terrible and the girl can't dance a lick. Late in the evening, they had an "oldies sock hop"; great idea, and for non-football fans it allowed people to burn up some energy during the day at sea. Being Sunday, My wife was bummed that there were no church services offered; with over 4000 people on the ship, we believe that RCL dropped the ball. Also, at dinner, I had the Manhattan strip steak, one of their standard offerings; very disappointing, the taste and texture wasn't very good; so much for steak the rest of this cruise.
February 2nd: Bonaire
Monday morning and a beautiful day in Bonaire. After our normal breakfast in the Windjammer, we set out for a day of sightseeing and shopping. They have the typical souvenir and jewelry shops throughout the tourist area by the pier. The city is clean and quite nice. Snorkeling and scuba diving are really popular in Bonaire and folks raved about their experiences. A tip: While on Bonaire, visit the Four Seasons restaurant near the dock for free, fast wifi; the pina colodas aren't bad either. At dinner tonight, I had the cannelloni, a stuffed pasta dish, and a Caesar salad; finishing up with a crème Brule. The entire meal was very good. Tomorrow Curacao.
February 3rd: Curacao
We had beautiful weather in Curacao. We walked quite a bit covering both sides of town, and crossing the floating bridge several times. Free wifi is available in town; it's a bit slow, not as fast as on Bonaire. Breakfast and lunch were uneventful, but for the third time in six nights, RFL screwed up our My Time dinner reservations. So much for using their website reservation system in advance of the cruise. Dinner was pretty good; I started with New England clam chowder and for the main course, I had lamb chops with mint jelly and potatoes, all prepared very well. My wife had veal oscar without the oscar; still no sign as to where the crab went. For entertainment, they had a juggler/comedian; he was pretty good even though we only caught the second half of his show. Tomorrow Aruba.
February 4th Aruba
Once again beautiful weather and windy. Aruba was very nice; it was clean but lacked the charm of Bonaire and Curacao. Though small, it was a bit more metropolitan than the other islands. Plenty of jewelry and souvenir shops to occupy your time. As with the other islands, the people were very nice. There is free wifi on Aruba, but almost impossible to access. Tried pay wifi (Aruba Wifi) which was reasonably priced ($5/hour or $10/day), hut almost as difficult to access as the free wifi. Back on ship at 3:30pm for long haul back to Port Canaveral. Why wasn't I surprised when once again the reservations people in the Magellan dining room messed up our reservation; it was their fourth screw-up in six nights? After twenty minutes of aggravation, our party of four was shown to a table for eight. Dinner followed with shrimp cocktail for appetizer and a main course of chicken cordon bleu; they food tasted good and as usual, the waiters were great. We finished eating at 9:10, which meant we were late for the 9:00pm show in the Palace theater. It was the singing group, the Alley Cats, a doo wop group with songs from the 50s and 60s. Because we arrived late, all seats were taken and we had to stand in the back of the theater. The show was great, but the standing was tiring and annoying. Thank you RCL restaurant management staff for once again ruining an evening on the cruise, the term "customer service" seems to have eluded these people. I'm quickly going from a big fan of RCL to a "hater", and RCL is earning every bit of it. Two days at sea to go; still trying to make the best of it, but RCL is making it a challenge.
February 5th At Sea
Breakfast in the Magellan was nice. We sat at a table of ten and many shared the same concerns we had as to the quality of the ship and lack of repairs and poor maintenance. Several mentioned the smell of raw sewage on the main Promenade deck near the back elevators. The odor lingered in that area for seven days until it was corrected; no excuse. It appears that RCL has a problem with plumbing in many areas of the ship. Later in the day, my wife discovered a dark sludge-like liquid coming from the drain and covering the floor of our shower. Our room attendant quickly cleaned the shower as well as the shower in the next cabin which also had sludge. Lunch in the Windjammer was uneventful except for the normal ritual of roaming the dining room hoping that a table will come open. They repeatedly broadcast a request that people vacate tables upon completion of their meal, but many sat around in conversation or settled in to read a book. It was common to see one or two people occupying tables for 5 and 6 well after completing their meals. The Windjammer does not have the capacity to handle lunch for everyone on ship unless you “eat and get out”. This is a problem as the Magellan dining room is not open for lunch; only breakfast and dinner. My wife and I took a very nice guided tour of the kitchen in the afternoon; it was hosted by Chef Vinnie (half Italian – half Jamaican was his claim to fame). He was a great host mixing humor and information in describing what went on in the kitchen; introducing all the head chefs; and explaining how the food was prepared for such a large number of people. It was lobster night at dinner and the lobster was delicious; seconds were readily available for the asking. The show in the Palace was a dancing and singing performance by the ship’s entertainers and was very nice. The second (late) shows were heavily attended in the Palace during the entire cruise and seating was at a premium unless you arrived at least 20-30 minutes early; after that it was standing-room only, not the best situation fro a boat full of senior citizens. We were kept awake this night by banging coming from the port side of the ship not too far from our balcony; maintenance was working in the middle of the night.
February 6th Our Last Day at Sea
You probably guessed it; RCL decided to do something about the sludge on the 8th day (actually 7th night) of the cruise. I went for coffee before breakfast and found two workers had covered our hall in plastic and were “snaking” the drain pipes. My guess is that the backflow prevention valves have either rotted internally or were just worn out from years of service; this is a health concern and 45 days in dry-dock next month is not enough time to repair or replace the 15 year old plumbing system. At least our shower was clean (for now) and the odors were gone. Off to find a table in the Windjammer and have some bacon and fresh cooked eggs for breakfast. After a few trips around the dining room, we secured a table and proceeded to enjoy our meal. There were trivia contests, small game shows, and various other forms of entertainment around the ship during the day. Of course, there were the pools, spas, and a rock climbing wall. Lunch was a repeat of the Windjammer table search and the usual buffet offerings. No shortage of good food, just not enough tables. For dinner, we had sliced turkey, dressing or stuffing, and vegetables. What was proclaimed to be all white meat was actually white meat on top, covering dark meat underneath. It’s ironic because it kind of fit the state of the ship; the only thing with the ship is that the outside was showing signs of aging while under the surface, it was decaying (plumbing). They had a mediocre comedian in the Palace this last night.
February 7th Dis-embarkment
We arrived on time in Port Canaveral and I believe many were ready for this cruise to end. After breakfast, we sat in large groups around the ship waiting for our group number to be called so we could make our way to baggage claim, customs, and our shuttles to our cars. Dis-embarkment went very well. Our number was called on schedule at 9:00am and we proceeded off the ship to the area where our luggage was waiting. From there, we moved through customs rather quickly and were on our shuttle in about 35 minutes. Most of the conversations we heard during this time were about the shape of the ship and the overall disappointment in that RCL never acknowledged that all wasn’t right on the “beautiful” Explorer of the Seas.
Dated and worn-out are the best adjectives to describe the current state of the Explorer. RCL has gone a bit overboard with drink packages; they are extremely overpriced, and individual drinks including coke and water are ridiculously priced. It appears that RCL is following the lead of the airlines in maximizing add-ons. Wifi is very expensive ($29 for one hour) and available only in a few locations on the ship; it's also slow so you don't get much bang for your buck. All around the ship, you see areas desperately in need of repairs. Some windows in the Windjammer restaurant are so permanently fogged that it is hard to see out. Many of the chairs in the dining rooms showed signs of distress; they were worn through in places, some had holes in the seats and showed numerous stains. You have already read my horror stories about the plumbing and the seven day stench of raw sewage opposite the main desk on the Promenade.
I now finally understand how some people cruise without a balcony cabin. They either head out early to the pool area and drop a towel and bag on the lounge chair claiming it as their own for the rest of the day or they find another location in a prime area of the ship and lay claim to that area, or they do both. This makes it difficult for non-squatters to find lounge chairs near the pool, or a seat at a table on the Promenade to enjoy a cup of coffee or an ice cream, or a card table in the undersized game room, or a seat in the library, etc. For some reason, RCL does not enforce its policies of not saving seats; this lack of enforcement limits opportunities for those who follow the rules. RCL is more interested in pushing drinks on the pool deck than picking up unattended towels left on most of the lounge chairs on the pool deck.
RCL intends on refurbishing the Explorer in March. I’m assuming that they will make changes similar to those they made on the Voyager of the Seas (the older sister of the Explorer). If they increase passenger capacity by several hundred people, increase specialty restaurants, and add a water surfing area as was stated during our Captain’s introductions, they will have to reduce public areas such as lounges on and around the Promenade and other decks, the Windjammer restaurant, and possibly the Ice Rink and Solarium swimming area. The elevators can barely handle the present passenger capacity; adding several hundred passengers will add to the nightmare. After re-hab, the Explorer is off to England, the Mediterranean, then Dubai, Singapore, and finally Australia. It is more suited for three day cruises to Nassau.
I think it’s time to try NCL, Princess or MSC.