Explorer of the Seas LONG Review 12/30/11 New Year's Cruise

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#1
New York, NY
1,592 Posts
Joined Mar 2009
EXPLORER OF THE SEAS
December 30, 2011 – January 6, 2012
Seven-Night New Year’s Cruise to Port Canaveral, FL & Nassau, Bahamas


INTRODUCTION

We booked this cruise in May 2011, and for months leading up to it, I read dozens of reviews, watched numerous Youtube videos, and spent quite a lot of time on the Cruise Critic RCI boards. For me, the anticipation leading up to a cruise is almost as exciting as the cruise itself, and I hope that this review—as I relive my own experiences—will help you to imagine yourself onboard the beautiful Explorer with me. As I read others’ reviews, those I enjoy the most are the ones which are as detailed and thorough as possible, allowing me to fully share in the reviewer’s experience. I hope that this review does the same for you, and I look forward to your comments and questions along the way. Enjoy, and thank you for reading!

ABOUT US

My girlfriend and I are both twenty-three, and this was our fourth cruise together. This was my sixth RCI cruise (first time Platinum!) and seventh overall. This was her fourth on RCI and sixth overall.

DAY ONE
Embarkation Day in Bayonne, NJ

This cruise sailed out of Cape Liberty in Bayonne, NJ. We live about an hour away—in New York—so my brother drove us to the port, thus allowing us to save on the cost of a car service (more money for the casino!). We left the house around 9:45 a.m. and arrived at Cape Liberty just before 11:00 a.m. There was very little traffic getting to the port; I had read that the port starts to become very congested around 11:00 a.m., so we must have just missed the rush. My brother dropped us off, we gave our luggage to a porter, and we entered the terminal.

The terminal itself looks a bit dumpy (for lack of a better word). The luggage was being stored in—and the porters were operating from—underneath a large tent-like structure. We noticed a handful of people waiting on benches underneath this “tent”; it seemed as if they were still waiting for rides from the last cruise. We felt bad for them and happy for ourselves at the same time, but we both knew that in just seven days we would be in their shoes.

Once we gave our luggage, we walked into a large room to go through security. There was no heat in either of these rooms, so make sure you dress warmly. Security was quick and painless, and we immediately went to the priority check-in line (my first Platinum perk!). However, the line was about the same (only a few people in front of us) for the regular check-in, so this “perk” was not much of a benefit.
After checking in, we were given bus tickets (you have to take a sixty-second bus ride from the terminal to the ship itself), but our ticket number had already been called by the time we got to the bus area. We boarded the next bus and were boarding the ship (on deck one) within minutes. Overall, the terminal facilities at Cape Liberty were a bit shabby and without heat, but the check-in process was more efficient and faster than Miami and Fort Lauderdale and took no more than twenty to thirty minutes from the time we arrived at the port to the time we boarded the ship.

Prior to coming on this cruise, GF and I had agreed to take the steps as often as possible, since we LOVE to eat (LOL), so we boarded and immediately took the steps to deck five to check out our table assignment. We had requested a table of eight young people, and we were assigned a beautiful table. We then set out to further explore the ship. I had been on Navigator of the Seas in 2005, but neither of us had been on Explorer. We usually rush to the Windjammer and then to the pool to catch some rays, but since it was far from pool weather, we decided to explore the ship first. (We did have a beautiful day, however, as it was in the low-50s and sunny all afternoon.)

We walked on the promenade (a beautiful, mall-like central hub of the ship) and took some pictures. It was fun seeing everyone so excited and ready to start their vacations. We also stopped by Guest Relations and picked up a Compass to see what was going on for the rest of the day. We then headed up to deck eleven to check out the pool. Somewhat to my surprise, there was relatively warm water in the pool. I wondered whether they brought that water up from the Bahamas or just heated it. The hot tubs were on as well, and you could see the steam coming from the top of each one.

We stopped at the pool bar and got two strawberry daiquiris—our traditional first drink on a cruise. We took a picture as we sipped them and then decided to lay in some of the lounge chairs by the pool. We kept our jackets on and chose two chairs right in the sun, and it actually felt very nice—our vacation had begun! A few other people saw us and also plopped themselves on the lounge chairs. Had it been colder or less sunny we wouldn’t have done this, but we sat outside for about thirty minutes enjoying our drinks and the warmth of the sun.

The Windjammer opened at 12:00 p.m. the first day, and at around 12:30 p.m. we decided to get lunch. The Windjammer is the only place for lunch on embarkation day (aside from Café Promenade), so it was packed when we entered. The congestion was probably even greater since no one was in any rush to get out to the pool, being that it was winter. We searched for a table before getting food, since there was literally nowhere to sit when we first came in. It took us about fifteen to twenty minutes to find something, but we ultimately did get a small table and sat down. We got our food, and I ordered another drink from a bartender walking around (a Bahama Mama—the drink of the day).

Lunch in the Windjammer that first day was underwhelming and seemed to be of a lower quality than on previous cruises. We ate there several more times throughout the week, but I was really not very impressed with the quality of food in the Windjammer. The hot dog buns were stale (not just that first day), the meat dishes were not all that flavorful, and nothing really stood out. Some of their sandwiches are very good, and GF really enjoyed the pasta and salad options. There is definitely no shortage of food from which to choose, but I wasn’t crazily in love—as I have been on past cruises—with the Windjammer. Nonetheless, we had a nice first lunch and left as soon as we were done eating. (They were making announcements requesting that people leave their tables as soon as they were done.)

After lunch, we headed back out to the pool deck. It was a bit windier now, but we were still enjoying the warmth of the sun and the vacation feeling. I got another drink, and we went to check out our cabin when it was ready (rooms were ready at 1:30 p.m.). We were on deck six on the hump on the starboard side. We had originally booked an inside room, then switched to an inside guarantee when the New York residents rate dropped by several hundred dollars, and then to a balcony guarantee when that rate dropped significantly. This was our first cruise with a balcony, and it was more expensive than any of our previous cruises. However, I doubt we will ever be able to go back to an inside (or even porthole) room after this. I had originally stood firm in my belief that money saved on a cabin can be put to better use in the form of drinks, shopping, gambling, excursions, etc. However, our balcony brought us so much enjoyment that I don’t think we could ever go back (unless the choice was between an inside cabin and not going at all).

Our room was facing the terminal (as opposed to New York City), so there was not much of a view that first day. However, it was great having all that light flowing into our room and being able to open the door and smell the fresh air. After checking out the room, we headed back up to the promenade. I got a pina colada at the Crown and Kettle, an Irish pub. The pub itself was dark inside, but they had tables just outside on the promenade itself, and I really liked this place and its atmosphere. Unfortunately, however, they did not have any beer on tap—a small sacrifice IMHO.

We sat at one of the tables on the promenade until they announced the muster drill. The ship was set to sail at 4:00 p.m., so the muster drill was held at 3:15 p.m. It was cold (our station was outside on deck four), and I was admonished for having a drink with me (I had to warm up somehow!). The muster drill was over in fifteen minutes, and we headed back to the room when it was done.

We then decided to check out the spa. We had agreed that we would both get spa treatments, but we hadn’t made any reservations in advance. We inquired about spa specials on port days, but there were no desirable times available. Also, they told us that we could not use our Crown and Anchor discount coupons on a port-day promotion. Since the 10% and 15% discount coupons that GF and I had, respectively, made the price similar to any port-day promotions they were offering, we just booked for 10:45 a.m. the next day. On a future cruise, I would recommend making a spa reservation in advance so that you can have more options in terms of the timing of your treatment. Almost all of the other available time slots were early in the morning—not something we wanted to do. We didn’t book in advance because we thought that we would take advantage of some of the port-day promotions offered onboard, but I believe (though I am not positive) that you can book online and get refunded to your onboard account the discount you get from a C&A discount coupon. In the future, I will look into this and probably book in advance if we plan on doing the spa.

We went back to the room for a bit (something we never would have done if we had an inside room) and then noticed that the ship had started sailing! I looked out from our balcony and saw the Verrazano Bridge straight ahead. We rushed up to the pool deck and went to the thirteenth deck in the front of the ship to watch as we sailed underneath the bridge. It was absolutely magnificent to watch, the sky was a beautiful red, and the cool breeze actually felt perfect. A lot of people—including us—were taking video, and it really does feel as if you can touch the bottom of the bridge as the ship just barely clears it.

Afterwards, we went to the gym on deck eleven for the spa raffle for which we had signed up. They raffled off a few good things (spa treatments, gym classes, etc.), although we would have only been interested in a few of the things and had to listen to sales pitches from different people before the raffle winners were announced. We didn’t win anything, but it was worth a try. It was also funny to watch, as the winners were required to dance to music before claiming their prizes.

We then went back to the room and showered and changed for dinner. We had the 8:30 p.m. seating, but we wanted to be dressed and ready so that we could get ice show tickets at 7:30 p.m. and make the 7:45 p.m. show. On the way to pick up ice show tickets in the Maharajas lounge on deck five, we stopped at the complimentary liquor tasting on the promenade. I tried two different liquors—one I really liked and another I found absolutely grotesque.

We then got on line for ice show tickets (we were about twenty minutes early, since we wanted to get to the 7:45 p.m. show and didn’t want to be at the back of the line). Apparently, plenty of other people had the same idea. By 7:30 p.m.—the designated distribution time—the line was extremely long (get there early!), but it moved quickly. We got tickets for two different shows. However, we later found out that the upper-tier C&A event was an ice show! Therefore, we didn’t need to wait on line to get tickets, since we would be invited to the C&A show. However, we didn’t know this beforehand—something I think RCI needs to address. It was only a small inconvenience to wait for thirty minutes for tickets, and the special show was a nice surprise, but aside from a free drink, the special show was only a benefit insofar as it would have allowed us to avoid the ticket distribution mob. Not a big deal, however (the ice show was exellent BTW!).

After getting tickets and making a pit stop at the Café Promenade (to cleanse my pallet of the abhorrent liquor I tasted), we went to the Welcome Aboard show. The RCI singers and dancers were truly excellent on this ship (as they almost always are). The comedian, Hal Spear, was nothing great, but he was entertaining for the first night. We left the show a few minutes early, however, since we wanted to be a few minutes early to dinner the first night.

We went to our table for eight and sat down. Our waiter and assistant waiter introduced themselves and handed us menus—they were both very nice. We had a great experience on our last cruise sitting with three other young couples, and we were anticipating another similar experience on this cruise as well. However, none of the three other couples showed up! We waited until 8:45 p.m., but then we ordered and ate by ourselves that first night. It was a bit strange that three couples would all independently either switch or not show up, but we enjoyed excellent service and very good food. The maitre’d came over and asked whether we wanted to be moved to another table, but we told him we were happy sitting just the two of us at that table if the others didn’t show up.

We finished dinner and then headed to the promenade for the sailaway parade. The RCI parades are extremely corny but equally as entertaining. The costumes are magnificent, and the music and atmosphere are great. This was the only parade we attended (we missed the farewell parade), but I highly recommend you check out at least one.

The parade lasted about twenty minutes, and we then went to the casino. We arrived a little after 11:00 p.m. and inquired about the mini slot tournament listed on the Compass for 11:15 p.m. However, we were told that that tournament had already taken place and concluded. This was not the first time that the Compass listed incorrect times either, as the liquor tasting did not begin until about an hour after it was listed on the Compass. However, the listings were pretty accurate the rest of the cruise.

We tried our luck at a handful of games in the casino but with little success, as would be the case for much of the cruise. The casino is very nice and has a lot of tables, although not all of them are open all the time. They have blackjack, three card poker (which gets busy at night), roulette, one live poker table, a craps table, and one other carnival poker game I cannot seem to remember. The casino has a lot of slots and a bar in the center.

We really enjoyed our time in here (although we paid dearly for that time!), but I had two somewhat minor complaints. First, the tables are set up on one side of the casino floor, but about eight or nine tables are chained together to make one very large pit. Thus, to get from three card poker to craps, or from roulette to blackjack, you potentially had to evade oblivious, wandering gamblers and bartenders carrying trays of drinks. I think this section could be set up better, but I never saw any major problems as result.

A somewhat larger complaint I had was that there were no $5 blackjack tables. On every prior RCI cruise they have had at least one $5 blackjack table. They had $5 roulette, three card poker, and craps, but all the blackjack tables were $10 minimums. I usually bet $10-$15 in a land-based casino, but I really enjoy having lower stakes on a cruise, since my money has to last for much longer. I understand that table minimums must reflect business demands, but later in the cruise I asked them to lower the minimum when I was the only blackjack player for two empty tables and they still refused. Even in Las Vegas or Atlantic City, the supervisors usually agree to lower the table minimum if no one else is playing, so I was surprised that they refused to do so here. Nonetheless, the casino was still a lot of fun, and most of the dealers were quite friendly.

After making our donation at the casino, we headed back to our cabin. This was our first cruise out of New Jersey in the wintertime, so this was a very different first day in that we did not lay out in the sun but did more exploring. I didn’t feel as relaxed as I usually do after day one—probably because we spent some time rushing back and forth between places, but I was much more relaxed the following day. Overall, while this first day was different than usual, we had a great time and were very excited for the upcoming week. It was cold and windy out on our balcony that night, but watching the ship cut through the ocean water with the moon shining down was absolutely breathtaking. We went to bed both tired and excited for day two.
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Celebrity Zenith (August 2003)
Navigator of the Seas (August 2005)
Majesty of the Seas (December 2008)
Enchantment of the Seas (June 2009)
Liberty of the Seas (May 2010)
Majesty of the Seas (January 2011)
Explorer of the Seas (December 2011)
Jewel of the Seas (December 2012)
Freedom of the Seas (August 2013)
Enchantment of the Seas (February 2014)
Pride of America (July 2014)
Oasis of the Seas (February 2015)
Enchantment of the Seas B2B (August 2015)
Allure of the Seas (February 2016)
Norweigan Escape (August 2016)
Allure of the Seas (February 2017)
#2
New York, NY
1,592 Posts
Joined Mar 2009
I will try to post more of the review over the next few days. In between, please feel free to post any comments or questions you may have, as this experience really allows me to relive my cruise!
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Celebrity Zenith (August 2003)
Navigator of the Seas (August 2005)
Majesty of the Seas (December 2008)
Enchantment of the Seas (June 2009)
Liberty of the Seas (May 2010)
Majesty of the Seas (January 2011)
Explorer of the Seas (December 2011)
Jewel of the Seas (December 2012)
Freedom of the Seas (August 2013)
Enchantment of the Seas (February 2014)
Pride of America (July 2014)
Oasis of the Seas (February 2015)
Enchantment of the Seas B2B (August 2015)
Allure of the Seas (February 2016)
Norweigan Escape (August 2016)
Allure of the Seas (February 2017)
#3
Greater Toronto Area
590 Posts
Joined Sep 2011
Enjoyed your review, thanks - We're on Explorer for the first time in April so it's great reading.

(How did you find the quality/condition of the ship? I have heard its getting a little long in the tooth since its last refit..?)
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Mark, Ontario Canada
___
Allure of the Seas, 11/27/2011
Explorer of the Seas, 4/21/2012
Explorer of the Seas 12/13/2012
Enchantment of the Seas, 3/9/2013
Grandeur of the Seas, 12/14/2013.
Grandeur of the Seas, 12/27/2014.
Thinking about Anthem....
#4
Brookhaven, GA.
5,523 Posts
Joined Nov 2004
Great start.
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GOTTA LOVE CRUISING
I am not in a hurry, I am on VACATION!!

Emerald Seas 8/80-Bahamas
Carnival Fantasy 5/92-Bahamas

Carnival Fantasy 4/94-Bahamas
Norwegian Sea 11/02-Western Caribbean
Carnival Triumph 11/04-Eastern Caribbean
Carnival Celebration 3/07-Bahamas
Holland America Eurodam 4/09-Eastern Caribbean
Celebrity Eclipse 4/11-Western Caribbean
Royal Caribbean Liberty of the Seas 2/12-Western Caribbean (17th Anniversary )
Holland America Eurodam 3/12-Eastern Caribbean
Norwegian Epic 11/12- Eastern Caribbean
Celebrity Silhouette 4/13- Western Caribbean
Disney Dream 1/14 Bahamas
Royal Princess 4/14- Eastern Caribbean
Norwegian Epic 4/14 Western Caribbean
Celebrity Constellation 2/15 Bahamas (20th Anniversary)
Star Princess 4/15 California Coastal
Holland America Nieuw Amsterdam 4/16- Western Caribbean
#5
Raleigh NC
24,509 Posts
Joined Oct 2007
Great start, looking forward to the rest.
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Kirk


Future Cruises
HAL Prinsendam 7-15-2017 - Four months on the Elegant Explorer
Hurtengruten Fram 12-15-2017 - Christmas and New Years with the penguins
HAL Amsterdam 1-4-2018 - FLL to Sydney Segment
Azamara Journey 3-7-2018 - An Azamara World Cruise
Crystal Serenity 2-20-2019 - Perth to Cape Town
#6
3,866 Posts
Joined Sep 2005
Mets we were on this cruise as well. Looking forward to your review and your impressions of this trip. It will be interesting to compare your experiences with ours. Loved reading so far.
#7
New York, NY
1,592 Posts
Joined Mar 2009
Originally posted by Oshawapilot
Enjoyed your review, thanks - We're on Explorer for the first time in April so it's great reading.

(How did you find the quality/condition of the ship? I have heard its getting a little long in the tooth since its last refit..?)
I found the ship to be in great shape. I noticed some minor signs of aging in our stateroom, e.g., rusting on the balcony, small dents next to the sink, etc., but the public areas were very well-maintained and I was quite pleased overall.
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Celebrity Zenith (August 2003)
Navigator of the Seas (August 2005)
Majesty of the Seas (December 2008)
Enchantment of the Seas (June 2009)
Liberty of the Seas (May 2010)
Majesty of the Seas (January 2011)
Explorer of the Seas (December 2011)
Jewel of the Seas (December 2012)
Freedom of the Seas (August 2013)
Enchantment of the Seas (February 2014)
Pride of America (July 2014)
Oasis of the Seas (February 2015)
Enchantment of the Seas B2B (August 2015)
Allure of the Seas (February 2016)
Norweigan Escape (August 2016)
Allure of the Seas (February 2017)
#8
New York, NY
1,592 Posts
Joined Mar 2009
Thanks everyone. I will try to get more up later today.
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Celebrity Zenith (August 2003)
Navigator of the Seas (August 2005)
Majesty of the Seas (December 2008)
Enchantment of the Seas (June 2009)
Liberty of the Seas (May 2010)
Majesty of the Seas (January 2011)
Explorer of the Seas (December 2011)
Jewel of the Seas (December 2012)
Freedom of the Seas (August 2013)
Enchantment of the Seas (February 2014)
Pride of America (July 2014)
Oasis of the Seas (February 2015)
Enchantment of the Seas B2B (August 2015)
Allure of the Seas (February 2016)
Norweigan Escape (August 2016)
Allure of the Seas (February 2017)
#9
887 Posts
Joined Aug 2008
Great start! I am on the Explorer for the first time in November and I can't wait to read the rest!
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~Jacqui~
Carnival Victory - October 2008, Enchantment of the Seas - April 2011, Explorer of the Seas - November 2012, Explorer of the Seas, last cruise out of NJ - October 2014, Quantum of the Seas - November 2014, Quantum of the Seas - April 2015


#10
Brooklyn, NY
5,584 Posts
Joined May 2005
Great review Josh, looking forward to the rest!
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Dave
RCI Diamond / X Elite
CCL Platinum / NCL Bronze


251 Days at Sea!
-Meridian 8/93
-Century 7/96, 4/97
-Galaxy 4/98
-Mercury 4/99
-Carnival Triumph 2/00
-Carnival Destiny 8/00, 8/01
-Carnival Victory 4/8/01, 8/02
-Carnival Conquest 4/03
-Carnival Legend 8/03
-Voyager of the Seas 8/04, 6/05
-Carnival Valor 1/05
-Navigator of the Seas 12/31/05
-Brilliance of the Seas 6/16/06
-Jewel of the Seas 12/30/06
-Liberty of the Seas 6/9/07
-Carnival Liberty 12/30/07
-Carnival Splendor 12/27/08
-Carnival Pride 3/02, 8/7/09
-Explorer of the Seas 5/22/08, 5/8/10
-Carnival Breeze 12/30/12
-Celebrity Silhouette 9/26/13
-Allure of the Seas 5/11/14
-Oasis of the Seas 11/5/11, 5/26/12, 5/2/15
-Anthem of the Seas 11/10/15

-Norwegian Breakaway 11/9/14, 5/8/16

Upcoming:
Celebrity Reflection 12/3/16
Harmony of the Seas 11/4/17
#11
NYC
2,616 Posts
Joined Jul 2006
More please! Boarding the Explorer for the first time on Monday (with my 25-year-old daughter, who I'm sure would be interested in a young person's review) -- want to hear all the details!!
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-Denise

Past Cruises:1990s: 3 Big Red Boat (1 Atlantic, 2 Oceanic); 3 Carnival (Ecstasy, Destiny, Fantasy); Premier NYC cruise to nowhere; Disney Wonder 1/06; Mariner of the Seas 8/06; Sun Princess 1/07; Caribbean Princess 3/07; Crown Princess 10/07; Brilliance of the Seas 1/08; Monarch 4/08; Majesty B2B 9/08; Mariner 4/09; Radiance 11/09; Majesty 1/10; Monarch 9/10; Majesty 12/10; Monarch 12/11; Explorer 1/12; Monarch 3/12; Oasis 12/13; Explorer 3/14; Explorer Repo11/14; Majesty Solo1/15; Liberty 10/15;Coral Princess & Radiance - Alaska5/16; Rhapsody11/16; Ruby Princess 1/17. Planned Cruises: Windstar 4/17; Crown Princess 9/17; Ovation 11/17; Disney Dream 1/18; Grandeur 2/18; Cunard Queen Mary 10-11/18
(Not) Live from the Explorer, March 2014
Oasis of the Seas, December 2013, Blog & Review
Daily Log, Explorer of the Seas, January 2012
(Not) Live from the Mariner (West Coast), April 2009
(Not) Live from the Monarch (West Coast), April 2008
Live from the Brilliance, January 2008
Not Live from the Crown Princess, October 2007
#12
17,894 Posts
Joined Jun 2002
nice, well written review of my favorite ship....can't wait for more...you give great info! (and even though i am biased you present the less wonderful aspects -such as the food in the WJ, which i agree, can be hit or miss-in a nice, objective way...)

Will be awaiting the next installments....
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Cape Liberty Info blog

Cruise Photo Albums

My Cruise History:
Royal-too many to count, X-3, NCL-2, CCL-too many to count, MSC-1, HAL-1
So many cruises, so little time and money!

illegitmi non carborundum kmt
#13
Long Island, NY
16,541 Posts
Joined Mar 2006
Excellent start to your review! Can't wait to read more....we were on the same cruise!
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~Donna
139 nights at sea (81 with RCI):
RCCL Anthem of the Seas (7 nights NJ to Bahamas) 3/19/17
RCCL Anthem of the Seas (5 nights NJ to Bermuda) 4/30/16
RCCL Anthem of the Seas (3 nights sampler NJ cruise to nowhere) 3/4/16
RCCL Liberty of the Seas (5 nights NJ to Bermuda) 10/17/15
RCCL Quantum of the Seas (3 nights inaugural sampler NJ cruise to nowhere) 11/18/14
Celebrity Summit (7 nights NJ to Bermuda) 8/17/14
Celebrity Summit (7 nights NJ to Bermuda) 8/25/13
RCCL Jewel of the Seas (7 nights Southern - Barbados route) 5/25/13
RCCL Explorer of the Seas (9 nights NJ to Bermuda, Labadee, San Juan and St Maarten) 5/24/12
RCCL Explorer of the Seas (7 nights NJ to Bahamas - New Years cruise) 12/30/11
RCCL Allure of the Seas (7 nights Eastern Caribbean) 8/21/11
Caribbean Princess (9 nights NY to Bermuda, St Thomas, San Juan and Grand Turk) 7/29/10 REVIEW
Caribbean Princess (7 nights Canada/New England) 8/24/08 REVIEW
RCCL Mariner of the Seas (7 nights Western Caribbean) 8/26/07 REVIEW
RCCL Mariner of the Seas (7 nights Eastern Caribbean) 8/20/06
Carnival Miracle (7 nights NY to Bahamas) 6/26/04 REVIEW
RCCL Adventure of the Seas (7 nights Southern - Aruba route) 8/24/03
RCCL Explorer of the Seas (7 nights Western Caribbean) 8/17/02
Costa Riviera (7 nights Western Caribbean) 5/90
Cunard Countess (7 nights Southern Caribbean) 6/89
Home Lines Atlantic (7 nights NY to Bermuda) 7/88
#14
New York, NY
1,592 Posts
Joined Mar 2009
Thanks to those reading who were on the cruise with me. Aside for the scarcity of warm weather, it really was a great cruise, and I'm sure you feel the same.
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Celebrity Zenith (August 2003)
Navigator of the Seas (August 2005)
Majesty of the Seas (December 2008)
Enchantment of the Seas (June 2009)
Liberty of the Seas (May 2010)
Majesty of the Seas (January 2011)
Explorer of the Seas (December 2011)
Jewel of the Seas (December 2012)
Freedom of the Seas (August 2013)
Enchantment of the Seas (February 2014)
Pride of America (July 2014)
Oasis of the Seas (February 2015)
Enchantment of the Seas B2B (August 2015)
Allure of the Seas (February 2016)
Norweigan Escape (August 2016)
Allure of the Seas (February 2017)
#15
New York, NY
1,592 Posts
Joined Mar 2009
Here is some more from day two:


DAY TWO
At Sea--New Year's Eve

On prior cruises, we have set early wake-up calls and rushed to the pool deck to get chairs. Today would not be much of a pool day, since we were probably just off the coast of the Carolinas when we woke up; thus, we decided to sleep in. We got room service delivered for breakfast with some pastries and orange juice. Unfortunately, when the food came, I made by first balcony-rookie mistake: I opened the cabin door while the balcony door was wide open. As soon as I opened the cabin door, a gust of wind burst through the cabin and out into the hallway. The extra breakfast menus hanging in our room flew out into the hallway, the covers on our orange juice blew off, and the waiter delivering our breakfast darted away from the door so as to avoid the orange juice glasses blowing into his face. I immediately shut the cabin door, closed the balcony door, and then reopened the cabin door. I apologized to the waiter, and he told me to make sure that the balcony door was closed when opening the cabin door. He was a good sport about it, though, and I’m sure this was not his first time being greeted by a strong gust of wind and flying breakfast menus.

We ate quickly and headed up to the spa for our 10:45 a.m. massages. The waiting area for a massage—which is usually a special relaxation room at most land-based spas—was really nothing more than an ordinary waiting room. In fact, while we were waiting, they were conducting a skin seminar in the very same room. I guess I expected a more comfortable, quieter waiting area. I would recommend that the spa conduct its seminars at an alternate location so that the people waiting for treatments have a quieter atmosphere—more like a land-based spa.

This was only my third massage ever and my first on the ship. I had heard horror stories of lengthy product pitches, so I wrote on the form they had me fill out before my treatment that I did not want any product pitch. My therapist must have read this, since she didn’t mention any products to me and I didn’t say anything further to her. She did, however, ask whether I wanted to upgrade to a hot stone massage. I had been considering this, and for an extra $20 I did the upgrade. I declined to upgrade to a full body hot stone massage for an extra $10, opting for the hot stones only on my back. I’m not quite sure why I said yes to one upgrade but not to the other—perhaps I just had to feel as if I would stop agreeing at some point, and I did think that the hot stone back massage would be enough for me to try this type of massage. Overall, the massage was excellent. I think she kept me in for longer than my fifty minutes, although GF was taken after me and finished a few minutes before.

After our massages we went to Johnny Rockets for lunch. There was a $5/person cover charge, but it was well worth it. We ordered a ton of french fries and onion rings, GF got chicken tenders, and I got chicken tenders and a burger. Everything was delicious but very greasy (what do you expect?). Our waiters sang and danced twice while we were there, and people kept running in to take pictures with the waiters as part of a scavenger hunt being held elsewhere onboard.

After lunch we headed to the casino and then to bingo. They offered two different bingo packages: $32 for six cards for each of the four games and $55 for a lot more cards (using a machine). We played three times, opting for the $32 package the first two and splurging for the machine for the jackpot game ($67 this time). We didn’t win, but it was still fun. Also today was the World’s Sexiest Man Contest. Since it was windy and still cool, this was held on the promenade. We usually enjoy the sexy legs competition, but we had seen it several times before, so we didn’t bother going this time.

We then went back to the room and sat on the balcony for a bit, watching the ocean pass us by. Afterwards, we made another visit to the casino before coming back to shower and change for dinner. The night before at dinner the maitre’d told us that we were supposed to be seated with three other young couples, but tonight we were seated with a family with kids instead. I never quite figured out exactly what happened, but I suppose the other three couples moved tables.

Tonight was New Year’s Eve, so we received party hats and noise makers at our dining room table. We took our newly obtained loot and headed to the promenade. The promenade ceiling was lined with thousands of balloons, and bartenders were pouring hundreds of glasses of free champagne. We wanted a good spot to watch the giant countdown clock above the bridge on the promenade, but we also didn’t want to stand for an hour (it was just after 11:00 p.m.), so we grabbed some champagne, went down one deck, and sat in comfortable chairs at one of the bars. We talked to a couple from London for awhile and then ventured back up to the promenade as midnight approached.

The promenade had a big TV showing the ball drop in Times Square in addition to the countdown clock. We got a spot towards the top of the steps from the casino to the promenade—not the best spot, but decent considering the fact that we weren’t willing to hold our ground in a more desirable location. The promenade was VERY crowded, but it was a lot of fun. When the clock struck midnight, everyone cheered and the balloons above us dropped. It was a very nice celebration and quite a festive atmosphere. When the crowd cleared we got a quick snack at Café Promenade, sat for a little while, and then headed off to bed. This was our first New Year’s on a cruise ship together, and we had a great time tonight. We went to bed hoping that the following day would be our first warm, pool day, as we would be arriving in Port Canaveral in the afternoon.
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Celebrity Zenith (August 2003)
Navigator of the Seas (August 2005)
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Enchantment of the Seas (June 2009)
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Norweigan Escape (August 2016)
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#16
New York, NY
1,592 Posts
Joined Mar 2009
DAY THREE
Port Canaveral, FL

We woke up to an absolutely beautiful morning today. I stepped out on the balcony and felt a burst of warm air for the first time this cruise. Because we were on the hump, when we leaned our heads over the balcony while the ship was moving we got an extra gust of wind. Thus, cold wind was quite painful, but warm wind felt nice. The sun was shining, and our Compass told us that it would be 77 degrees.

We headed straight to the pool. We slept in again (the free champagne took its toll), and when we arrived on the pool deck it was very crowded. Everyone was out and about enjoying the beautiful weather, but we managed to find two empty deck chairs and move them together to a spot in the sun. Bartenders were pushing frozen drinks, but I heard quite a few people say they had drank too much the night before to even think about drinking again.

We ate lunch in the Windjammer again today; the buffet was nothing special, but it is certain to satisfy most cravings. Over lunch we discussed our table situation. We really enjoyed the service at our table, but we did not want to sit for another five nights with a family with kids. Our new tablemates were very nice—and we didn’t want to intentionally offend them—but being a young couple on our only vacation in a year, we decided that we would prefer to sit just the two of us for the remainder of the cruise.

We went down to the assistant maitre’d and asked to be switched, but—quite to my surprise—he told us that there were no more tables for two at the 8:30 p.m. seating. I found this quite odd, considering that the maitre’d told us the first night that the 8:30 p.m. seating was only 60% full. The assistant maitre’d took our name and stateroom number but assured us that he could not create another table for two. I understand that dining assignments and times often create difficulties not apparent to most guests, but I was upset with the way this was being handled. We had requested a table with other young couples months in advance, and we even received a confirmation informing us that our request had been accommodated. However, the maitre’d instead placed us with a family with kids. I realize that they try to fill the tables and accommodate everyone’s requests, but I was disappointed that we had had our request confirmed months in advance—a request we made specifically to avoid a situation such as the one we encountered—only to be placed with a family. I saw several other young couples around us seated with families or people way out of their age groups, and I’m positive they were all separate parties. RCI really needs to make a better effort to put couples with couples and families with families, even if it means changing some tables around. Most couples (IMHO) do not want to sit with a family of four or six other people, and I was shocked to see how often RCI was creating tables with such compositions. Perhaps I am alone on this, but I was extremely disappointed with the way they handled this.

We went to guest relations to make them aware of the situation and ask them to contact the maitre’d as well. We then went back to the pool and caught some more rays. We headed back to the room again to see whether they were able to do anything and found out that we had been moved to another table for eight right next to our original table! I’m not sure how my request got bungled, but this was precisely what we did not want (I asked for a table for two away from our first table). We went back to guest relations, they contacted the maitre’d after some more back-and-forths, and they told me I could go speak to the head maitre’d myself. He told me that he would have a solution for me—either a table for two on a different deck or our original table, which was sounding more and more appealing as this process dragged on. In the end, we were moved to a table for six on a different deck, but we were the only people at the table. The table was in a back corner and seemed to be very far from the galley, as it took our waiter a very long time to get the food. However, we were much happier eating alone, so an aggravating experience ended up being okay.

We arrived in Port Canaveral, FL at around 1:00 p.m., but we did not get off the ship. We had considered going to Cocoa Beach, but it was New Year’s Day, so we didn’t know what would be open, and it was our first nice pool day, so we just took advantage of the pool deck. There was a fair amount of people who stayed onboard, although we did see a long line of people waiting to get off when we docked. We really like to go to the beach, so private islands and beach ports are our favorites. None of the ship-offered excursions really appealed to us in Port Canaveral, and we figured we would be better off enjoying the pool deck on the ship rather than taking a cab to the beach and trying to find a place to get chairs (although I can’t imagine this would have been difficult, even on New Year’s Day).

As the sun started to go down, GF and I went up to deck twelve and walked 1.6 miles on the track (eight laps). It was absolutely beautiful up there, and the pool deck was pretty quiet at this time.

We then went to shower and change for dinner. The service at our new table was not nearly as good as at our old table, but we enjoyed a quieter, quicker dinner for two. There was a table of ten adjacent to our table, and the people at that table strolled into the MDR in clusters of two or three beginning at 8:40 p.m. and arriving as late as 9:10 p.m. I think this really threw off our waiters, since they would go to get our orders and then have to come back to take and retrive their orders. One of the people at this table even had the nerve to tell our waiter to hurry up with his food, and these people routinely brought their own bottle of liquor into the MDR and put it in the bucket holding our wine. I don’t know if our waiters didn’t notice or just did not want to start a confrontation, but they never said anything to them.

All in all, we enjoyed our dinners in the MDR. We didn’t really speak to the people at either adjacent table, since both tables’ occupants were speaking languages other than English, but our table location was actually a bit quieter than if we had been in the center of the MDR. The food ranged from good to excellent; only a few things I did not eat because I really did not like them, and some dishes really deserve high marks. We ordered a lot of different appetizers and entrees—usually just sampling the things we were unsure about and eating what we liked. We left dinner absolutely stuffed every night, but it was nice to be able to try different foods we might not ordinarily order in a restaurant. I would like to say that I just sampled most of the things I ordered, but unless I did not like something, I usually finished it. And there were very few things I did not like.

After dinner we went to see one of the production shows featuring the Unexpected Boys—a take-off on the Jersey Boys. The show featured four male singers and dancers, and they were absolutely great! GF LOVED the show and even considered buying their CD. These guys really did a great job. We don’t usually care for the production shows, but this one involved a relatively simple skit and songs which somewhat made sense based on that skit.

After the show we headed to bed. The captain had announced that it would be in the 80s the next day, so we decided to get an early wake-up call to get chairs by the pool first thing in the morning. We had a minor hiccup today with the dining situation, but all’s well that ends well, and our day certainly ended well. This was our first very nice weather day, and we were looking forward to another pool/beach day tomorrow.
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Celebrity Zenith (August 2003)
Navigator of the Seas (August 2005)
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Norweigan Escape (August 2016)
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#17
3,866 Posts
Joined Sep 2005
Loving your review and re-living the cruise! You made me laugh out load with the balcony door open and room service delivery.

You are not the first person I heard had a tough time with seating in the dining room. We too did not receive our original request for a table for 2.
Fortunately - or maybe not - we were able to go to the Concierge to have this fixed. Apparantly approximately 6 tables were "created" behind the stair case on deck 3 in the dining room for 2 tops. I say this because we did not have regular dining room chairs but conference room type chairs. Service was very very very slow. We figured it was the first night, we had our table for 2 - give the guys a break and just ignore the slowness. Next night, NYE - we sat for approximately 1/2 hour w/o service, then another hour - receiving on entree at around 10PM - totally unacceptable considering we only ordered 1 appy each and 1 entreee. Matre'd knew I was upset, came over and made lots of promises. Next night we went to Portofino's - hubby decided he didn't want to go back to the MDR to be aggrevated so we ate in Portofino's the rest of the week. Wish I had known you were looking for a 2 top, could have had our vacant table - although as I said - service was horrible! Never had that happen to us before.
#18
New York, NY
1,592 Posts
Joined Mar 2009
Originally posted by LovesCruising
Loving your review and re-living the cruise! You made me laugh out load with the balcony door open and room service delivery.

You are not the first person I heard had a tough time with seating in the dining room. We too did not receive our original request for a table for 2.
Fortunately - or maybe not - we were able to go to the Concierge to have this fixed. Apparantly approximately 6 tables were "created" behind the stair case on deck 3 in the dining room for 2 tops. I say this because we did not have regular dining room chairs but conference room type chairs. Service was very very very slow. We figured it was the first night, we had our table for 2 - give the guys a break and just ignore the slowness. Next night, NYE - we sat for approximately 1/2 hour w/o service, then another hour - receiving on entree at around 10PM - totally unacceptable considering we only ordered 1 appy each and 1 entreee. Matre'd knew I was upset, came over and made lots of promises. Next night we went to Portofino's - hubby decided he didn't want to go back to the MDR to be aggrevated so we ate in Portofino's the rest of the week. Wish I had known you were looking for a 2 top, could have had our vacant table - although as I said - service was horrible! Never had that happen to us before.
Wow--I can't believe that happened to you. It certainly makes our experience pale in comparison. (Portofino was great, though, wasn't it? Perhaps a blessing in disguise--less the added expense lol?) Although the people with whom we were supposed to be seated ended up moving, I e-mailed [email protected] a few months before the cruise, and they actually sent me a confirmation of my request. On our Liberty and Majesty cruises we did this as well and received similar confirmations, for a table for two and eight, respectively. Even though the concierge was able to help you out, it sounds like tables which are "created" tend to overburden the waiters and receive subpar service (with some exceptions I'm sure).
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Celebrity Zenith (August 2003)
Navigator of the Seas (August 2005)
Majesty of the Seas (December 2008)
Enchantment of the Seas (June 2009)
Liberty of the Seas (May 2010)
Majesty of the Seas (January 2011)
Explorer of the Seas (December 2011)
Jewel of the Seas (December 2012)
Freedom of the Seas (August 2013)
Enchantment of the Seas (February 2014)
Pride of America (July 2014)
Oasis of the Seas (February 2015)
Enchantment of the Seas B2B (August 2015)
Allure of the Seas (February 2016)
Norweigan Escape (August 2016)
Allure of the Seas (February 2017)
#19
New Jersey
1,791 Posts
Joined Jun 2009
Thanks for great review! Can't wait this will be our 4th time on Explorer.
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#20
Ontario, Canada
14 Posts
Joined Dec 2011
I am enjoying your detailed review very much and am gleaning several ideas for when I sail with family next month.
Hubby and I have a balcony room booked so will remember the tip about the door .

Our travelling party is 16 people, and we have requested 2 tables of 8 together for dinner at the 8:30 seating. My sister who was arranging our dinner plans ran into some glitches, ( I believe things are set now) so I will be interested in how it all works out, and what kind of service we get.
I will pass on to all in our group the importance of us all showing up for dinner on time which should help out our servers.

Will definately try to be out on top deck for the sail away.
Don't want to miss going out under the bridge...sounds so cool.
Keep your review coming.
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