Where do you even begin? It can be very hard to find time to relax on Explorer of the Seas -- even on sea days -- because of the head-spinning array of activities that run from dawn to dusk and beyond! The ship's entertainment staff offer an intriguing blend of activities, and everyone, from the most traditional passenger to the completely contemporary traveller, will find something to do.
The Palace, the main show lounge, is the place to see Broadway-style revues and headline acts. The four-deck-high, 1,350-seat theater has an opera-house ambience and excellent sightlines.
* May require additional fees
During the day, you'll find plenty of traditional cruise activities, such as bingo, ballroom dance lessons, towel folding demonstrations, art auctions, bridge pairing, arts and crafts workshops, films and seminars (on everything from healthy eating to acupuncture to facial rejuvenation). More athletic activities include rock climbing wall competitions, table tennis tournaments, boogie boarding sessions and the Men's International Belly Flop competition.
Throughout the day and night, there's often some type of performance along the Promenade, such as a parade or performances by comedians or musicians. Not to be missed is "Spirits of the Seasons" -- the ship's incredible ice skating spectacular in Studio B, complete with falling "snow." Or if you'd rather pull on the skates and show off some moves of your own, there are regular public sessions.
The Casino Royale beckons with a Vegas/rock 'n' roll theme and 300 slots, 10 blackjack tables, three Caribbean Stud tables, three roulette wheels and a craps table.
The Dancin' Under the Stars Deck Party is an evening of dancing, food and socialising with a DJ and all-star band by the pool. While indoors you can mix it up with karaoke at The Tavern, or the late-night fun of the Rock Britannia Street Party or '70s Disco on the Royal Promenade.
Other options include chilling in '60s cool of R Bar; live entertainment at the Crown & Kettle Pub; late evening sing-alongs round the piano at the Tavern; quiet drinks in the nautical inspired Schooner Bar; live music and dancing at Star Lounge; secluded Connoisseur Club; jazzy vibes in Viking Crown; The Diamond Club for the exclusive use of Diamond-level (and up) members of RCI's Crown and Anchor Society; and late-night parties with a DJ in Dizzy's.
With a huge selection of lounges and clubs of varying intimacy and style, Explorer of the Seas has a venue to appeal to every passenger.
Schooner Bar (Deck 4): Royal Caribbean's signature piano bar is a nautically themed space and the spot for cocktails, live music and trivia games.
The Tavern (Deck 4): This lively sports bar is fitted with large screens showing live sport, including NFL games, football, hockey and major sporting events.
Crown & Kettle (Deck 5): One of the most popular and eventful venues on Explorer, the Crown & Kettle resembles an old-fashioned English country pub and serves a variety of imported beers and ales.
Star Lounge (Deck 5): Star lounge (formerly Maharaja's Lounge) is a 350 capacity show lounge with a dance floor and its own full-service bar. It is an entertainment hub and the place for activities that include art auctions, karaoke, bingo and game shows.
Connoisseur Cigar Club (Deck 5): The quiet and secluded Connoisseur Cigar Club has the vibe of a sophisticated gentleman's club and is the only lounge bar where smoking is allowed onboard.
R-Bar (Deck 5): Royal Caribbean's signature cocktail bar (formerly the Champagne Bar) is an elegant bar with a sixties vibe; it's the place to go for classic handcrafted cocktails prepared by the ship's resident mixologist.
Concierge Club (Deck 9): This exclusive lounge and bar with concierge service offers hors d'oeuvres, petit fours and complimentary self-service drinks to passengers staying in Grand Suite-level rooms and higher, as well as Diamond Plus and Pinnacle Club Crown & Anchor members.
Pool Bar (Deck 11): The Pool Bar serves beverages throughout the day alongside the main pool area.
The Solarium Bar (Deck 11): This bar is for passengers visiting the adults-only Solarium pool.
Sky Bar (Deck 12): The alfresco Sky Bar is a second bar area servicing the pool and sun deck areas.
Diamond Club (Deck 14): This signature 24-hour venue -- for use by Crown & Anchor members only -- is a full service bar, also serving Continental breakfast and hors d'oeuvres
Viking Crown (Deck 14): The spacious Viking Crown Lounge is an indoor observation lounge, which offers incredible vistas over the ocean by day and cocktails and music by night.
Dizzy's (Deck 14): The lounge and bar is an atmospheric jazz club with a dance floor and bandstand for live performances and dinner shows.
Explorer is all about offering active travelers a smorgasbord of outdoor fun with loads of activities for every fitness level.
The ship's main pool area features two adjacent pools, two jumbo-size and two regular whirlpools, and stadium lounge seating. One interesting note: One of the pools and a whirlpool have hydraulic lifts for the disabled. The solarium pool is an adults-only area with a retractable glass roof making it possible to enjoy the pool and two whirlpools rain, hail or shine.
Voyager-class ships -- and Explorer of the Seas is no exception -- are famous for their "get out there" philosophy when it comes to onboard recreation. As such, a huge area (aft) is dedicated to the pursuit of athleticism. There is, of course, the rock climbing wall rising 200 feet above the sea (instruction is available), along with a golf simulator (for an extra fee), full-court basketball/volleyball, a Flow Rider Surf Simulator and miniature golf. The ship also offers a handful of ice skating opportunities on sea days at Studio B.
If you feel like running off a few of the calories from your buffet breakfast, there's a jogging track that loops around the sports deck (five times around equals a mile). The track is split in half, with one half for joggers and the other half for walkers so you can go at a pace to suit your fitness.
The rock climbing wall soars 75 feet above deck with different tracks for various experience levels. Or get your game on at the full-size sports court for basketball, volleyball, tennis and even cricket for Australian and British passengers. If you prefer a slower pace, the nine-hole miniature golf course might be more your thing.
The most exciting new addition to Explorer's outdoor line-up is the FlowRider Surf Simulator. Passengers can try stand-up surfing or opt for body boarding in the wave-shaped pool. Sessions are very popular so get in early or book a private lesson for a small surcharge.
There are two levels of sundecks and an abundance of adjustable loungers and deck chairs, though the area above and around the pool can be crowded. If you're after a little privacy, try the lounge areas at the bow or stern.
The shore excursion desk is located alongside guest services on Deck 5, and both offer friendly and efficient service.
The ship has been updated with the latest technology features, including shipwide WiFi and Digital Wayfinders to help passengers navigate around the ship. Stock up on those need-it-now camera accessories at the Focus Photo Gallery, where you'll also find a "print on demand" onboard photo service.
Cruisers can also make use of a well-stocked library on Deck 7, 24 hours a day; and the Skylight Chapel (at the highest point on the ship, on Deck 15) is a place for quite reflection.
The Steiner-operated spa has 14 multi-purpose treatment rooms, a hair salon and relaxation area with more than 100 treatments including massages, facials, Ionithermie algae detox, medispa treatments, teeth whitening and acupuncture. Service in the spa was very good -- and the quality of the treatments themselves was excellent. The prices are as one would be expect for at-sea treatments -- in other words, high. The spa did offer discounts on port days (and as the cruise wound down).
With more than 15,000 square feet of workout, aerobics and spa facilities, the Vitality Day Spa and Fitness Center has lots to offer. The ocean-view gym with stereo and TV monitors offers treadmills, Reebok strength units, recumbent and upright cycles, steppers, Body Treks and free weights with multiple benches. There's also a huge wooden-floored group exercise room for fitness classes (some, like spinning, tai chi and yoga have a U.S.$12 surcharge), an indoor thalassotherapy pool and men's and women's locker rooms with a steam room and a sauna.
Explorer of the Seas is an outstanding choice for family cruisers. The facilities on this ship are among the largest in the industry -- encompassing more than 16,000 square feet -- and include large playrooms, a video arcade and a teen nightclub (Optix) with a dance floor, DJ booth and soda bar.
Late-night Party Zone is a group sitting program for kids available from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. that comes with a per child, per hour fee.
There's even something for cruising tots with Royal Babies and Tots Open Play Sessions for children under the age of three who are accompanied by mum or dad. Other scheduled activities for families to enjoy together include scavenger hunts, family discos at Optix and bingo.
Royal Caribbean's excellent Adventure Ocean Youth Program divides kids into age-appropriate groups. For instance, Aquanauts (the program for ages 3 to 5) may feature activities like Space Night, Camp Aquanauta, plus circus-themed activities. Explorers (ages 6 to 8) play backwards bingo, enjoy late-night parties and engage in basic science activities. Voyagers (ages 9 to 11) play foosball and capture the flag, as well as engage in science experiments that demystify everything from earthquakes to hailstorms.
Open from 9 a.m. until 10 p.m. activities at Adventure Ocean cease during lunch and dinner times (children's menus are available in the main dining room), but there is the occasional organized meal outing (to Johnny Rockets, for instance). Plus, My Family Time Dining offers an option that lets kids finish dinner in the main dining room in 45 minutes, then get escorted by Adventure Ocean counselors back to the kids' club to play while Mom and Dad enjoy a more leisurely meal.
Adventure Ocean kids club offers activities for children of all abilities with families encouraged to consult with staff regarding any special needs their children may have so activities can be modified where necessary. Specially selected Autism-friendly toys are also available for families to borrow and play with in the privacy of their stateroom.
The teens are divided into two groups. Navigators (ages 12 to 14) have "open-mic" karaoke contests and a rock-wall challenge. And, the coolest group (ages 15 to 17) -- so cool, they don't have a kitschy name -- has its own dance parties, dodge ball tournaments and arcade competitions.