This section is OUR OBSERVATIONS/OPINIONS:
In order to appreciate our opinions, you should know that my husband and I are in our early-30’s and traveled with children ages 6 and 15. This was the children’s 4th cruise (all RCCL: Explorer, Mariner, Navigator, Explorer) and our 13th (RCCL: Nordic Prince, Grandeur, Monarch, Explorer, Mariner, Adventure, Navigator, Enchantment, Explorer and Celebrity: Mercury, Century, Century, Galaxy). Over the past 3 years my husband and I have averaged 2-3 cruises per year on RCCL. – I specify all this especially since our opinions in some cases differ significantly from others who have posted regarding this same cruise.
The Explorer, since we last sailed on her in October 2003 definitely shows signs of wear, but nothing that infringed on our enjoyment of the cruise. And I understand that Explorer will go into dry dock in a few months, so much of this will likely be upgraded. That being said, our observations were that the carpets definitely were worn (some staircase carpets were so bad that they were being replaced while we were onboard). The furniture in our cabin (JS 9598) had obviously been partially replaced. While our 2 chairs in the sitting area were very worn and faded the sofa bed (while matching the chairs exactly in fabric patern) was bright in color and looked brand new. The deck chairs had also been partially replaced (the new ones were a dark blue instead of the light aqua color I’ve seen on most RCCL ships) – most, however, were very worn and very discolored.
I felt we were “cheated” by only having 1 parade and 1 production show. As I mentioned in “The Facts” section of my review, this was the first week that this group of Singers and Dancers were working together (the CD announced that at the end of the production show). Not only did I feel cheated by the number of production shows, but the quality of the singers and dancers was sub-par. Songs out of tune, harmonies off, and one section of the dance routine looked like they had just learned it that morning (I danced for 9 years and have done routine choreography since, so I feel comfortable making that judgment).
We enjoyed a wonderful dinner at Portofino’s, but I felt the wait staff were trying to hard…they came off as almost “snooty” but in a rude way (continuously making comments about things like how fast my husband finished a course or about how someone had cleared their plate…once or twice is cute, but comments like this were made every time they approached our table!!). Scheduling Portofino’s was also tricky. We chose to schedule on Caribbean Night (Wed, Day 4, Costa Maya) and our dining room waiter told us we had made an excellent choice. What we didn’t realize when we scheduled Portofino’s for Caribbean Night was that the Repeat Guest reception was that night and, for those of you with children, it’s also the Pirate’s Parade. In addition, it was the only night the ice show is offered twice.
There was only one headliner performance that I really enjoyed and that was Mosaic (Oh, I should admit I did not see the comedian the first night because the Adventure Ocean Family Welcome Aboard Show overlaps with the main performance in the theater for main seating dinner guests). Mosaic is a vocal group of 6 guys who performed well-known songs (mostly older music) a capella (sp??) – but they actually used their voices to create the instrumental music in addition to singing the lyrics. As I said, I really, really enjoyed it…but I’ll admit that my husband had enough after the first 20 minutes.
Carly, the cruise director, was pretty good. She seemed to be having a good time and truly enjoy what she’s doing and I appreciated that she did not have any goofy catch-phrases that she said each and every time she got up on stage. She was the first CD in a while that I didn’t feel like I could predict what would come out of her mouth next.
Unfortunately, I do not have many good things to say about the CD’s staff. Other than the Activities Director, I was very unimpressed…It was interesting, however, that this was the most international CD’s staff I’ve ever experienced (usually all residents of US, Canada, UK)…but it also resulted in at least 3 of the CD’s staff being almost impossible to understand because of their accents. And, one of the CD staff who helped with verifying winning Bingo cards actually made 2 errors during the final day’s Bingo play (read the wrong numbers off the winners’ cards). It all got resolved because the winners called him back immediately, but still not acceptable.
One of the things that bugged me, although minor, was that the Cruise Compasses and kids’ Compasses often contained information that was not relevant to Explorer. There were quite a few times that information that pertains only to Mariner and Navigator were printed (e.g., incorrect names of facilities – especially on the teen’s Compasses).
Our dining room staff was acceptable, but not great. We were shocked to learn at the end of the week that our assistant waiter (female) was on her 4th contract. She served/cleared from the wrong side on occasion, often didn’t bring condiments (dressings, sauces, etc) until we’d had our food for at least 5 minutes, took quite a while to open our wine even though it was on the table upon our arrival, etc.
Speaking of wine, we ordered the Diamond wine package. I’m sorry that I can’t recall the price, but I wanted to make you aware that if you typically order white wines the selection of white wines on the Platinum and Diamond packages were identical (according to my husband) – the only difference between these 2 packages was the selection of reds.
As for ports, we only got off the ship in Costa Maya and Cozumel. In Costa Maya, we traveled by taxi (actually, a zebra open air van) to Tapas Bar in Majahual. It was a great day at the beach. We arrived in Majahual about 11:00am (ship time) and got a table and 2 lounge chairs on the beach, right at the water. We knew to look for Tapas Bar from recommendations on the Crusie Critic port of call boards. It was everything we had hoped for. In Cozumel, we lunched at Pancho’s Backyard then played a round of mini-golf (go to the flagpole downtown then walk 2 blocks inland. It was a fun course – they give you walkie-talkies to order drinks as you go around the course and we even briefly spotted the iguana that we’d read roams the course. We had a great time and very laid back – both our choices in Costa Maya and Cozumel were perfect for an enjoyable day with our kids.
Any questions, feel free to ask!!