Part Two http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=127117
Part Three http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=127782
Part Four http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=127957
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.
Enjoy and feel free to ask any questions you might have...
Saturday 1/22 – Day 7 Day at Sea
We woke up rather depressed since our wonderful vacation was quickly coming to an end. We headed for the Windjammer and noticed that almost every chair was already “saved” around the pool area (it was only 9:00 am). We all grabbed some breakfast (gotta love those omelets) and then Jane and I headed out to save some chairs before they were all gone. We returned to eat and then headed out to Deck 12 (we were gone less than 30 minutes so we didn’t break any rules).
We spent another leisurely day in the sun and went in for lunch at about 2:00 pm. As we were getting up to leave, we noticed Mary and her friends looking for chairs. We gave them our chairs and Mary mentioned that she hadn’t seen her daughter yet that day! Hopefully she wasn’t in too much trouble :0)
After lunch I decided to try to get a little more sun so I found a chair on the deck (it took some time) and stayed there until about 4:00 pm.
When I returned to the room, all of our departure items had arrived. We had luggage tags (we had filled out forms on Wednesday), customs forms and tip envelopes. All of our alcohol had also been delivered to the room. This made it all too real that it was ending.
We did a little bit of packing and took our last nap of the week. Luggage had to be in the hallway between 7:00 pm and midnight. We planned to finish packing after dinner.
It was another pre-dinner show at 7:15 pm. It featured a comedian Mike Wilson and the Royal Carribean dancers and singers. I think they also showed the Cruise in Review video at the show.
Suggested attire was casual or red, white & blue (or the colors of your nation). Our tablemates interpreted “casual” to mean sweatsuits but by this time we weren’t at all surprised.
We handed out our tip envelopes to the waitstaff along with an extra $5 to Andrew our favorite “booze man” (and yes, we got the complete set of shot glasses).
After dinner we finished packing and put our luggage into the hallway. Jane and I decided to hit the bar one more time but Rosie and Monica headed off to bed. We closed the Crown & Kettle one last time and said goodbye to Don before heading off to bed.
Sunday 1/23 – The End :0(
What a depressing day. We woke up back in Miami with dreary, ugly weather. It was even colder than when we had left the previous week.
We had yellow tags which were one of the 8:30 am – 10:00 am groups. Jane and I had a 1:20 pm flight out of Miami which was plenty of time. We had to be out of the room by 8:00 am so we got up at 7:30 am and gathered up our last few things. We noticed that every single channel on the television now had the announcement that you had to be out of the room at 8:00 am. They weren’t giving you any excuse to hang out in the room.
(We heard the first color tags announced at 7:15 am so we must have cleared customs quite quickly)
We headed to the Windjammer for one last breakfast. It was full of very depressed looking people – what a difference from the happy crowd of one short week previous. I was looking forward to one last omelet and was very unhappy to find that the omelet station was not open on the last day.
We actually heard our color called on the way to breakfast – it was 8:15 am when they called both yellow and red. We weren’t in any hurry so we took our time having breakfast before heading out.
There was a short line on Deck 4 when we were leaving. But once we got through that line it went quickly. It was amazing, we walked up to the luggage carousal and our luggage came right up. I have never had that happen anywhere, my luggage is usually the very last ones.
We almost got stopped at Customs for having too many bottles of alcohol (you are allowed only one duty free and we each had 4 bottles. She started to write up the paperwork and then just waved us through after all. Duty is only 10% so I would have been happy to pay it if necessary).
Monica was heading back to Ft Lauderdale so she bought a shuttle from Royal Caribbean to the airport ($20). The rest of us went out looking for a cab. Someone immediately walked up to us and asked us if we were going to Miami Airport. It was a shuttle for $8 per person so we took it.
The airport was not at all busy so we sailed right though check-in. Jane and I were at our terminal by 10:30 am. Our flights were on time and we arrived home in Grand Rapids at 9:08 pm.
These comments are not in any real order, they are just some things that I wanted to mention that might be helpful to someone else cruising in the near future.
Norwalk – there has been tons of talk about this being back on the cruise ships again. I have to admit that I was a little nervous about it myself. I did not hear of any illness being on the Explorer. I did notice hand sanitizers outside the Café Promenade and at the entrance where you return to the ship from port. All of the bathrooms also had signs reminding people to wash their hands.
Packing – I WAY overpacked. My advice to anyone would be to pack and then take out at least 50% of what you packed. I mainly overpacked for daytime clothes. I wore all of my outfits for dinner – 2 formals, 2 sundresses and 1 pair black capris with 2 different dressy tops. I wore all 4 of the bathing suits that I brought (one was a old suit worn only for cave tubing in Belize) along with 3 different cover-ups. Otherwise, during the week I wore 3 pairs of shorts (could have easily used only 2), 4 t-shirts and 2 tank-tops. I probably brought home more clean clothes than dirty ones.
Other items – I’ve seen many lists on this message boards of all the things that you need to pack. I did find some of them to be useful.
- Powerstrip – very useful in my opinion. The cabin had two outlets at the desk. We had a blowdryer, curling iron, cameras, cellphones, etc..
- Insulated Mug – I used mine a couple of times, it was nice for a cold Diet Coke or Ice Water on the deck. But I would have been fine without it also.
- Blowdryer – the cabin does have a blowdryer BUT you have to hold the button on the entire time. I have very thick hair and this would not have worked for me.
- Bubblewrap – I threw a few sheets in and they came in handy for wrapping up the vanilla and hot sauce that I purchased.
- Post-it-Notes – I think we used them once.
- High-lighters – we did use them for marking activities but we still managed to miss things that we wanted to attend.
- Duct Tape – I keep a small package in my suitcase but we did not need it on this trip.
- Badge Holder – we kept our Seapass cards in holders that clipped to our waistband. This was very handy and a great alternative to the lanyard that many people wear.
Soft Drinks – We purchased several 12 packs of Diet Coke in Miami. We had no problem carrying them right onto the ship. The refrigerator in the cabin is not very good though – it barely kept things cold, more like room temperature.
Ship Stores – There were no great bargains in the stores on board. We laughed pretty hard at the “one day only” sale signs that remained in place all 7 days. Almost everyday there would be a “sidewalk sale” in the middle of the Promenade but the prices were exactly the same every day. So if you see something you want, just buy it.
Safe in Cabin – We had a safe in the closet of our cabin. You could program it with any 4 digit number that you wanted. We used ours for passports, jewelry and extra cash.
I can’t think of anything else to share so I guess my review, like my vacation, must come to an end. All in all it was a wonderful trip and I would do it again in a heartbeat.