Daily Log: Explorer of the Seas 11-night cruise, January 16-January 27
Mon. Jan. 16
Woke up at our friends’ house in South Orange, NJ (they picked us up in NYC last night so they could drive us to the port today at our leisure). Enjoyed a hot cup of PG Tips tea with milk and honey, caught up on my email and last check of Cruise Critic. Lovely breakfast of homemade bread, eggs and bacon (cooked in the oven on a rack, non-greasy, evenly cooked, just perfect). Talked with friends, then drove to Port of Bayonne.
Very clear signage from the highway all the way to the port entry… and then NOTHING, ended up driving well past the port entry, having to make a typical Jersey right-hand U-turn to get back to the entrance to the Cape Liberty Cruiseport, drove 2 miles out to beautiful Explorer of the Seas. Luggage handlers quickly moved our three very heavy bags from the car to the luggage carts (gave a $5 tip) and we promptly moved into the boarding area.
Bags went through scanners (though thank heavens we could keep on our shoes and coats, given the frigid temperatures!). Line moved quickly, and we were into the terminal, where we went to the Priority Boarding line (my daughter is Platinum, I am diamond)… but our cards showed her to be Gold. We were told to go to Guest Services to have this taken care of (more on that later).
I also noticed that we had early dining; my travel agent had assured me that we had confirmed late dining. Once we boarded, we walked up the stairs to deck 5 to go to Guest Relations (my daughter carrying my rollaboard as well as her backpack!). After waiting on a short line, they looked up her account and said she was still showing as Gold, and advised that we go to see the Loyalty Ambassador from 5-7pm that night (of course, with the spa raffle at 5:15 and dinner at 6, that was virtually impossible, and indeed we did not get there the first day). We also pointed out that our dining time was wrong, and were told to go “over the bridge” to have that straightened out… but that was the “My Time Dining” desk, not the Maitre D, for that we had to go downstairs to the other restaurant.
There were DOZENS of people waiting to have their dining arrangements changed, fixed, etc. – probably many who had late dining or My Time dining who wanted to move to early seating. After waiting about 10 minutes, we decided to stay with early dining, just so we wouldn’t end up so hungry by 8:30pm. We’ll see how it goes.
From there we headed up to the Windjammer, and made ourselves a lovely light lunch (after our heavy breakfast): baby spinach, honey mustard dressing; green beans with red onions; baked wahoo; I picked out 2 shrimp and 2 mussels from the Paella; and I picked up an orange, a red apple, a green apple and a kiwi to take back to the room. We drank water and found a shared table fairly quickly. There were wall-to-wall people in the Windjammer, many standing and eating from plates held in their hands, with many requests from the loudspeakers that people move along so others could enjoy their lunch… until the announcement came that the cabins were open, whereupon the place opened up quickly.
We proceeded down the stairs to deck 7; the hallways were packed with people, as apparently some of the cabins on decks 9 and 10 were not yet ready. We walked through the library and found our (TINY!!) Promenade cabin. I think it is even smaller than the cabin we just had on the 20-year-old Monarch of the Seas. However, we managed to fit all of our overpacked clothes, shoes, cosmetics, toiletries, water sports items, books, music, and more into the space.
Once we finished unpacking, we headed up to the gym to introduce ourselves to the fitness center staff (SJ and Bea) and sign up for some classes. We got a deal on 6 classes for the price of 5 (I’m taking all 6 spin classes offered, and they allowed us to “combine” our 6 yoga classes as one package, even though we’re each taking 3 classes together). Then I stayed in the gym to sneak in a quick workout, while Ariel headed up to the spa to put in raffle tickets for us.
I did 10 minutes on the treadmill, trying to get my legs back into shape after their 11-mile run on Saturday. I moved the incline and speed up and then back down, pushing myself to move at 4 mph (a 15-minute mile, just slightly ahead of the 16-minute mile required for the Disney half-marathon). While I was on the treadmill, the announcement came that it was time for muster drill, and that all customer areas would be closed. I said I’d get off in 3 minutes (after cool down), then took a few photos… and realized that the staffer was waiting for me to exit, since the exterior doors were in fact closed!
I went down the stairs to deck 7, met Ariel in the room and picked up my fleece jacket (my faux fur was packed into my suitcase under my bed already) and we headed down to deck 4 to our muster station… outside in the frigid air, of course, with me in capris and still sweaty from my time on the treadmill. I had wrapped a bath towel around my neck to keep out the cold, but it was still mighty chilly! Muster went very fast, and the captain dismissed us. We returned to the room, where I hung up my jacket before heading back up to the gym for another 10-minute session with a 3-minute cool down.
The ship started to move, and I realized it was 5 o’clock. I got off the treadmill and ran the length of the ship, on the open solarium/pool deck, to reach the aft where I could go up 4 flights of stairs to the chapel on deck 15, for the Friends of Bill W. meeting. There were just 3 of us, and I explained I would have to leave in 10 minutes to meet my daughter at the spa raffle, but at least we got to introduce ourselves. A nice start.
I then ran back downstairs, back across the freezing pool deck in my once-again sweaty workout clothes – JUST as we were passing under the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge!! – and arrived back in the gym right on time for the spa raffle. Ariel and I were not lucky tonight, but it’s always fun to participate and cheer on the others.
Then it was back to the room, where I showered and changed for dinner (Ariel had done so while I was working out before), and we then rushed down to our 6:00pm seating. We are seated with a party of 6 friends, all in their late 60s and early 70s, with grandchildren in college, from New Hampshire and Massachusetts, very nice people overall.
The restaurant management was a bit haphazard: there was no one to seat us as we entered the dining room, we had to wander around to find our own table. The assistant waiter made one bread service throughout the entire meal, and did not offer iced tea or lemonade (although he quickly provided it when requested). As is the general focus these days, there is a push for the for-pay items (bottled Evian water and sparkling Pellegrino as well as sodas and bar drinks; cappuccinos and lattes over coffee and tea; more description of the Chops steak than the regular menu items, etc.).
Dinner was delicious; I had a spicy Thai shrimp soup, a fruit plate with thumbnail-sized bites of strawberry, kiwi and pineapple, and Ariel and I shared a spinach salad with balsamic vinegar (no, not vinaigrette, just vinegar poured over the salad by the assistant waiter!); “Catch of the Day” which was sea bass, over lentils and green beans with 3 cherry tomatoes – and I also ate the mushrooms from Ariel’s mushroom alfredo!
The staff must be under a lot of pressure; when the waiter had to delay delivery of one person’s dinner, he explained, “When I was there it was in the oven. It’s not my fault.” Surely they are instructed that this is NOT the right thing to say? In any event, when I requested a cheese plate be at the table when we are seated for the rest of the week, the waiter assured me it would be in place for everyone, and when we requested a fruit plate and cheese plate for dessert, they were delivered very quickly so we could make the single-seating welcome aboard show.
Cruise Director is Jimmy Rhodes – I’m pretty sure I’ve seen him before on either the Majesty or the Monarch. The orchestra was in fine form and the dancers all look great – and most of them are VERY TALL! Can’t tell about the singers yet, but they did fine in the brief “Zoot Suit” number tonight. Comedian (Max something, an Italian name) carried most of the weight for the show, and was pretty funny.
After the show, we walked up to the Promenade, wandered through the stores, tried to pick up an extra Compass (they were all out), then walked up to deck 7, browsed in the Library, and returned to the room to look at tomorrow’s Compass and bring this log up to date.
Ariel read magazines and we listened to ipod music on the idog speaker until 10:30 when the Promenade parade started. Ariel and I watched from the windows, wearing our “blinkie” buttons… but then I rushed downstairs to guest services while the parade was on, and indeed, there was NO ONE on line!! I quickly took care of Diamond internet discount (so I can check my email and post these notes) and purchased a announcement in the Compass for the Labadee port day (a $25 fee), congratulating Ariel and thanking her for her two years of service with AmeriCorps.
Then I walked back up the Promenade after the parade was over, through piles of confetti and RC staffers clearing up and clearing out, picked up a couple of kiwis, a banana, a knife and a spoon from the café, and walked back up to the cabin. We dressed for bed, and I purchased the internet package, after pre-writing a couple of emails to send.
And there’s our first day at sea! More of a diary than a trip log, I know, but hopefully some of the detail will be of interest to other cruisers.
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