Here is part one, it's pretty long so I'm working on it slowly. Hopefully I don't bore everyone too much before I'm finished Feel free to ask questions, I probably missed some things.
A little background before I get started. I cruised with my sister and two of my best girlfriends. We left the husbands and kids at home (12 kids total). We range in age from 33 to 39.
Saturday 1/15/05 (Pre-Cruise)
Since we live in Michigan we decided that it was wise to fly down a day in advance. Both Jane and I flew from Grand Rapids, Rosie from Detroit and Monica from Kalamazoo. Jane and I left Grand Rapids at 7:45 am and should’ve been in Miami by 12:40 pm. But our plane left Memphis over an hour late and we arrived in Miami about 5 minutes ahead of Rosie (there were about 40 people on our plane booked on a Carnival cruise. The last shuttle was leaving the airport at 2:20 and we didn’t land until 2:20. Needless to say there were so very nervous people on our flight. Luckily Carnival waited for them and they did make the ship).
The three of us met up at the airport and caught the shuttle to our hotel. We stayed at the Summerfield Suites about 4 miles from the airport. I booked the room several months in advance during one of their online specials. We had a 2 bedroom/2 bath suite for just $99 for the night.
After dragging all of our luggage to the room, we returned to the desk to ask the location of the nearest grocery store. There was a Publix a couple of blocks away. It was located in a little strip mall with several other stores and restaurants. There was also a Walgreens and a CVS pharmacy on the same block. We stocked up on a few 12 packs of Diet Coke and bought a few things we had forgotten. We had dinner at a Chinese restaurant and headed back to the hotel.
Monica’s flight from Kalamazoo was delayed in Chicago for a couple of hours. She finally landed in Ft Lauderdale at about 9:00 pm. She took a shared cab to the hotel and did not arrive until about 11:00 pm – the rest of us were sleeping by this time.
Sunday 1/16/05 Day One
We arranged to take the hotel shuttle to the port ($8 per person). The shuttle left the hotel at noon so we had plenty of time to kill. We ate at the complimentary breakfast (not too bad, nothing special). We met two couples at breakfast who were also on the Explorer. Monica and I walked back to the shopping area since she had not gotten the chance the previous night to pick up a few things. We also went into the liquor store and picked up a few little bottles to stash in our toiletry bags (we figured they would blend in that way).
It was pretty darn cold in Miami. The temperature was in the high 60’s and it was very windy. We were dropped off at the Pier and had to get luggage tags for our bags (we had e-docs, I would call and request luggage tags next time). It was a royal pain trying to fill out all the tags while standing there in the wind. The porters were getting rather inpatient with us, but we finally made it inside.
There were absolutely no lines and we sailed right through. We basically just walked from station to station. It was exactly 1:00 pm when we walked onto the ship. The stateroom hallway was still closed but the sign said “1:00” so we opened the door and walked right in. We noticed that there were other people in the hallway also.
We had connecting Promenade cabins on the 8th floor (8587 and 8589). Both rooms had the beds pushed together instead of the requested twin beds (we heard from other people that it was the same case in their cabins). We dropped off our carryons and headed to the Windjammer for lunch.
It was busy in the Windjammer but we easily found a table by the window. The secret to the Windjammer is to walk all the way to the back – everyone seems to want to stop at the first lines and things get very busy in the front. Lunch was good and we had our first Pina Coladas of the week.
We then checked out our dining room table. We were assigned table 557 in the 5th floor dining room. It was a table for 4 way in the back corner. We had requested a large table so we asked to be moved. It was no problem. We were moved to table 462 on the 4th floor which was a table for 10 right by the window. (This actually turned out to be somewhat of a mistake, but more about that later.)
We headed back to the cabin to see if our luggage had appeared. We met our cabin attendant and requested that the beds be separated. We also asked for 2 extra bath towels (no problem, we had them every day) and for the wet bar to be emptied. We were informed that we could empty it ourselves – so we did, we just put everything on the top shelf above the television set.
Our cabin attendant was “efficient” but that’s about all that I can say about her. I don’t remember her name but she was from St Vincent. She wasn’t very personable, she sometimes bordered on rude. But our cabin was clean and the ice bucket was filled twice per day – we couldn’t ask for much more than that. We also had cute towel animals every night except for the first night.
By the time of the muster drill (4:30) all of our luggage had appeared except for one piece of mine. The muster drill was no big deal. It went very quickly and with the cool temperatures it wasn’t uncomfortable wearing the life jacket. We returned to the cabin and my last piece of luggage was there waiting. We dropped off our life vests and went up to the deck for sail-away.
It was VERY cold up on the deck during sail-away. Everyone was wearing coats and sweatshirts. But it was still fun. We watched two different groups of people show up at the pier late. Both groups were turned away since the ship was already untied and ready to go.
We headed down to the Promenade to check things out. We stopped at the Café Promenade for some hot chocolate to try to warm up (this didn’t seem quite right!) and walked around for awhile. This is when the ship really started moving. The water was very rough and we were really rocking. It was somewhat amusing to watch people try to walk, it looked like a bunch of drunks :0)
We spent some time unpacking before dinner and managed to find space for pretty much everything (suitcases fit nicely under the bed). Late seating the first night was at 9:00 instead of the normal 8:30.
Before dinner we went to the Welcome Aboard show (8:00 pm). The cruise director on the Explorer is Clodagh O’Connor (Clo) and she was absolutely wonderful all week. She and her staff were very visible all week. Clo’s mom happened to be on the ship along with 3 of her friends. The comedian was Jimmy Carroll, he was okay. We heard that his adult show was better the next night but we did not attend. The RCI singers and dancers also performed.
Our tablemates were already at dinner when we arrived. We were seated with two couples from Iowa, one couple was traveling with their 10 year old son. The table next to us had about 5 kids. We were not very happy about this situation. I have nothing against children (I have 4) but I since I left my children at home I really didn’t want to dine with anyone else’s children either. Our tablemates pretty much ignored us and didn’t speak to us unless we asked them a question. The first night they were all wearing jeans and sweatshirts (yes, they had their luggage).
Our waitress and assistant waitress were very efficient and friendly. Dinner moved along very quickly every night and we were often the first tables finished. The food the first night was nothing special. I ordered the chicken which turned out to be one of those frozen stuffed chicken breasts that you can buy in any grocery store. We started our shot glass collection with Andrew “the booze man”. (For those who may not know there is a shot offered every night after dinner. There are 7 different colors of the glasses, one for each night. They provide a box for taking them home)
The Bon Voyage Parade was in the Promenade at 10:45. We watched from our room.
From 11:00 pm to midnight it was “Margaritaville Madness” in two of the bars. We were not missing 2 for 1 Margaritas!! (Rosie was in bed at this point. She was so paranoid about getting seasick that she took an extra Bonine and it made her very tired). So we headed to the Crown & Kettle Pub. We took our drinks and headed to the Maharajas Lounge where the Stingrays were playing. They were pretty good, we referred to them as a “wedding band”. (they played the kind of music you’d hear at a wedding reception). They finished at midnight so we headed to the Chamber (the disco). The Chamber is a really neat place, the downside is that they play a lot of “techno” music. Maybe I’m old but to me it all sounds the same. We stayed for a little while but couldn’t take it for very long. We then wandered around the ship but it was pretty quiet by this time. We headed to bed around 1:30 am.