Embarkation – Everything went very smoothly. We were allowed through security at 12:00 sharp. There are two x-ray machines that carry-ons must go through, and a walk-through detector as well. Once though security it’s on to check-in. We are Platinum members so we proceeded around the lines to Priority Embarkation. We had printed the online SetSail pass for the 4 of us before leaving home. It didn’t work. The agent had to manually check in all 4 of us. No big deal, only 5 minutes.
The agent made a mistake that proved embarrassing to us later in the week. She entered the wrong expiration date on my Royal Caribbean VISA card. On Tuesday I was summoned to the purser’s office to present a new card since my charges had been declined by MBNA. They allowed me to make a call from the purser’s desk at no charge to MBNA. I was told it was RCI’s mistake with the expiration after waiting 30 minutes on hold with fraud prevention. They apologized, but it was uncomfortable to stand in line for 30 minutes waiting to straighten out the mess. They apologized and resent the charges. No problems from then on.
We were in Cabin 1388 on Deck 10 Aft. GREAT ROOM! I am an aft fan now. It was extremely quiet. It was a long walk, but the exercise was great. We didn’t hear Windjammer/Island Grill noise at all. The ship is so big we didn’t even feel the rocking motion of the ship, which we like. One tip…bring along Clorox wipes and clean your cabin. The stewards do an OK job between cruises, but we took no chances. All 4 of us wiped down every surface. They wipes were grey by the time we were done. We did not want to leave anything to chance and get sick from grime in the cabin. Hint: leave the curtains open slightly so you can see when getting up for the bathroom in the middle of the night. We had a pole in the foot of the queen-sized bed that made it tricky to get around in the dark. The cabin was huge. The size of a Junior Suite.
As many of you may have read on CC, the ship listed slightly on Sunday night while passing through the Florida straights. It was not a big deal, but it was clearly noticeable. On the Royal Promenade they lost around 20 bottles of liquor that were out for sale, not in bars. The floor was a mess. It smelled like a liquor factory. The whole event lasted no more than 20 seconds. We didn’t even think about it again during the week.
Meet and Mingle was held on Monday in Portofino’s at 11:30 AM. Clo came by and was surprised to see 37 had signed up and attended on a sunny day. I met some great people who I’d chatted with on CC before the sailing. Went to wine tasting session with one group from CA, and Nativeways tour in Cayman with two other groups from FL and MD. Clo mentioned that the program will continue as long as there is support for it.
We booked the Explorer for the ports. We wanted adventure, and adventure we got. Belize was nothing if not on a tour. We did the Land Rover 4 X 4 Jeep Safari. With small kids (10 and 7) we opted out of the cave tubing. This tour was one we will never forget. Best activity of the week. Well worth $100 per person. Look for my review to be posted on the Belize page later in the week.
Costa Maya is a small town with a dirt road (actually Majahual). We went to Pez Quadro at the end of the dirt road. Keep walking until you see the sign for this club on the left (beach side). Marco is an Italian from Milan, and he and two friends own the club and new hotel they’re constructing. Great place. Quiet water and good snorkeling. $2 beer, and $5 nachos and guacamole.
Cozumel was our day to relax and play at the beach before Cayman, and we went to Paradise Beach Club. Wonderful experience. $8 per person to enjoy the beach activities (trampoline, ice berg, kayaking, hammocks, and many others). Look for Tom, the owner. Friendly staff. Pricing was comparable to the US for food served on the beach. Beautiful water that was a little cloudy from Emily. We saw a starfish that was at least two feet in diameter. Oh, snorkeling equipment is included too, although you have to give your credit card or $20 deposit per person (refundable upon return) for the gear.
Grand Cayman was awesome, however RCI did a poor job with the tender schedule. Many people almost missed our Nativeways “Reef, Rays, and Rum” tour because they couldn’t get off the ship. The tour was wonderful and exciting, and we just made the last tender back to the ship. There were 33 people on the tour with us. We all wondered if they would hold the ship for so many passengers not on a RCI tour.
The ship was in good condition. I read a lot of posts about how clean or beautiful the ship is, but my theory is it’s hard to keep a ship in perfect condition with 3500+ passengers each week for 52 weeks. The staff is friendly, outgoing, and wanting to please the passengers. The ship NEVER felt crowded. Lines were nothing. Ice Show tickets line was 2 minutes. The passengers were pretty laid back and seemed to go with the flow.
Once thing that did bother us was the lack of decorum in the dining room. Even on Formal night people would show up in shorts, jeans, cut-offs, flip-flops, sneakers…whatever they wanted to wear. On top of that they would show up 30 to 90 minutes late. I’m sorry, but go to the Windjammer if you want to eat casually. That’s why they designed the dining service that way. RCI doesn’t want to offend passengers by saying something. Our waiter was Ketut, and the assistant was Gomes. Good guys. Good service. Food quality was good, not great. But it’s hard to serve 15,000 meals daily and make them at tableside. If you go in expecting 5-star or better you’ll be disappointed. Go in without high expectations and you’ll have a great experience.
The ship has so many things to do you can never get bored. It’s great for families. The kids on the cruise acted like you would expect. Most were well-behaved, and a few got out of hand and ran through the hallways and stairs. The aft elevators had more teens on them than adults. So much for getting exercise on the ship.
Debarkation was a breeze. We had a 12:00 flight from Fort Lauderdale to Atlanta so we got WHITE tags. We were through customs and on the curb with baggage in 20 minutes. We even had to wait 30 minutes for our limo driver to show up because we were so early. Job well done on debarkation.
If you’re looking for a great cruise value the Explorer will not disappoint.
Any questions? I’ll be happy to answer them. Can’t wait for the next cruise. Got to start making more money.