I didn't have the pleasure of finding this site until July of this year. We had booked this cruise through a TA (terrible TA btw) last December, so we flew in the day of the cruise. There were no problems getting there on time, but a long day of travel was much too draining and it took away from our first evening on the ship.
Embarkation: Did not go well at all. It took us just over 2 hours from the time we arrived to get on the ship. There were rumors running all over the place as to why it took so long. It went from the computers crashing to a problem with customs because there were so many international travelers on the previous cruise to a stowaway. LOL Anyway, it's all soon forgotten once you get on the ship.
Day 1: We missed lunch because it took so long to get on the ship and it was almost 4p before we boarded. We were all starving by the time dinner came. Our waiter Ali and assistant waiter George were both very good imo. Ali was a new waiter and wasn't like I had read. He didn't know our names even by the end of the cruise and didn't joke around. I wasn't upset about this though because it was obvious he was concentrating very hard on doing his job well. He was friendly and I think he did well. After dinner we did a little exploring, unpacked, and went to bed. No show for us.
Day 2: Day at sea. My husband was not feeling well most of the cruise and it turned into an actual cold by Thursday. So he didn't do a lot of the active stuff I did. I spent time at the rock wall, BJ tournament, and doing more exploring of the ship. Ate lunch in the main dining room and had one of those delicious Caramel Banana Splits I had read about. Yummy! We didn't bring walkie talkies based on the negative things I'd read here. My DH and I decided to rent the phones about half way through this day since we couldn't find eachother for lunch. With a group of 11 it would have really helped us to have walkie talkies. We could never find eachother if we wanted to do something, and we spent a lot of time looking around for people. I went to the M&M and met a few people I've seen online. It was nice to put some faces to names, but I had plans with my mom at 11a so I couldn't stay very long. I went down and got tickets to the ice show right away. They basically have 2 shows for the 1st dinner and 2 shows for 2nd dinner. I only got tickets for my husband and I because I didn't know which show the others in my group would want to see. That was a bad move. It ended up they all wanted to go to the same one as DH & I and by the time they got down there ALL the tickets for BOTH 1st dinner shows were gone. It was because people would get tickets for all 4 shows for their groups (because they weren't sure when they wanted to go) and they wouldn't bring the extras back. I witnessed a couple people do this while I was in line. Just an annoyance by typical rude people that you come across everywhere. Tonight was formal dinner and we all got lots of pictures taken. Glen Smith was the after dinner show and was decent. Mick Lazinski was the late night comedian and I thought he was pretty good, but some of the people in the group weren't impressed.
Day 2: Belize. Tendering was fairly slow and I heard a lot of people were upset about it. DH and I missed most of the delay so we weren't bothered by it. We didn't have an excursion here. I know Belize is pretty crappy w/o an excursion. We thought about doing the cave tubing, but we had stuff planned for Costa Maya and GC that was more important to us. We wanted to have 1 port day where we didn't have anything planned. Anyway, we slept in, ate lunch on the ship, did a little shopping, and called home to talk to our girls. I can't complain about Belize because I knew we weren't going to be impressed. The shopping is ok at best and as I already knew w/o an excursion the place isn't that great. We went back to the ship early and had a snack at Cafe Promenade. We thought the pizza was very good and the cookies weren't. The cookies were hard every time we got them. More pictures before dinner and History Repeating after dinner. That was a great show! We all loved it. We had an early excursion in Costa Maya, so we went back to the room, ordered room service, and went to bed. Room service always came earlier than they told us which was good. It was hit or miss as far as taste, but I didn't expect anything great so I wasn't disappointed.
Day 4: Costa Maya. We had an 8a (ship time) excursion, so we got room service breakfast (all very good except the eggs). Since we were docked it was very nice to walk on and off the ship when we pleased. We did the ATV Xplorer Jungle & Beach Break. The jungle was still flooded from Wilma, so he told us at the beginning we would be taking an alternate route along a sand road instead. 4 people complained and said they wanted their money back, and they got it. Too each their own, we had a blast. I just hate that it's not the tour peoples fault, but they had to suffer for it. More on this tour in the Costa Maya section. We got done with that and went back to the ship to shower, change, and eat lunch. We went to the Windjammer since we wanted to get back off the ship and shop. The windjammer food was typical buffet. I have no complaints. We always sat in the back of the Island Grill area by the windows. It's really a wonderful view and we ate lunch here almost every day because of it. We spent a lot of time shopping and called home again. Everything in the shopping area is WAY overpriced. So yes we dickered with them and usually paid half price (sometimes less). I didn't think I was getting a great deal. I think the dickering just brought them down to what the stuff was worth. We went back to the ship and played around in the arcade until dinner time. (My husband loves video games and he spent a lot of time there throughout the cruise.) The games are overpriced, but most days between 4-6p they were half price which made it decent. After dinner I went to the casino. My overall experience for the week was this...lost at the slots, won at blackjack, and broke even for the week. Went to the Love & Marriage game. That was definately a highlight of the cruise. We might not have gone if it weren't for me reading how good it was on this site. We were tired from the long day, but are SO glad we went. It was hysterical. We were too tired to stay up for the Poolside Buffet. We ordered room service again and went to bed.
Day 5: Day at sea. DH spent most of the day in the arcade. I did lots of rock climbing, watched the Dodgeball tournament (very fun to watch!), went ice skating (which was easier than I thought it would be on a ship), played Bingo to win a cruise (a lady we ate breakfast with won), and played with DH in the arcade a little. After dinner the Fast Forward show was another great time. Not as good as History Repeating imo, but very good. We went to the Quest afterward and were laughing our butts off again. I think I'd like to be a runner next time we cruise, if I can talk DH into it. Room service and bed again for us.
Day 6: Grand Cayman. We came into port 1 1/2 hours earlier than originally posted. I think because of the sea day from Cozumel. We had taken the advice from the GC thread on this board and rented a car to Rum Point. Avis was great, the car was great, my DH had no trouble driving on the left side of the road, and Rum Point was very nice. We also went to Hell and got some pics and souvenirs. I loved having the freedom to do whatever we wanted without having to wait for and pay for a taxi. Spent a lot of money on souvenirs here. Went back to the ship about 4:30p to get ready for our 2nd formal night. We had tons of pictures taken with our group all over the place. The after dinner show was excellent. It was supposed to be Paul Boland, but he was sick so we got Oscar-something instead. He was GREAT!! I can't imagine the original guy being that good. He did music, comedy, you name it. We were too tired for the buffet again, so I went down and took pics then came back to the room and went to bed.
Day 7: Day at sea. My husband spent a lot of time in the room this day as he really wasn't feeling well. I did the Mini-golf tournament which was fun, but incredibly windy. I liked when the wind would blow my ball closer to the hole (I needed all the help I could get!) Did the rock wall, was able to find most of the group to eat lunch with them, then went to the Mr. Sexy Legs contest. I got to be one of the judges and I had to pick Mr. Aged to Perfection. It was a good time. I did the Adult Rock Climbing Competition and came in 1st place out of the women (there were only 4 of us) and 3rd place overall (there were 12 people total). I missed the ice show to do this, and was told by my family that the ice show was ok, but not their cup of tea. I don't feel as bad about missing it now. We all spent about an hour down at the Photo Gallery finding our pictures and picking what we wanted. I was really happy with how they turned out.
We had all prepaid our tips through our TA, but none of us had gotten the vouchers for our envelopes. I asked Jose (our room steward) about it and he said he never got vouchers for us. I went to guest relations about 5 minutes before dinner and they said they didn't have us or anyone in our group down for prepaid gratuities. So DH and I scrambled to get the money together for our dining room waiters. When we got to the dining room we broke the news to the group. We all felt like idiots because the rest of the group had to wait until dinner was over, go back to their rooms, get the envelopes and money, and take it to the wait staff before second seating. It really put a damper on our last night. Long story short the TA had thought he marked us for prepaid tips, but RCI didn't take the money for it. They cut us a check the first day we got back. Needless to say, we will NEVER do tips that way again. We all wanted to pay a little extra anyway, so there was really no point in it. We thought it would be one less thing for us to worry about, and it turned out to be a huge embarassement. Our waiter had 1 table of 8 and our table of 9 (2 in our group did late seating). At his other table 4 people didn't show up the last night, which pretty much confirms what I read about 1/4 of the people stiff the waiters. The fairwell show was ok and we went back to the room to finish packing. After getting our luggage in the hall I went around the ship and took some final pictures.
Disembarking: Took about 45 minutes, so not as bad as getting on the ship, but still not as quick as I think it could have been. We found our luggage fairly quickly, got a cab and on our way. So many memories. We are already planning our next group cruise for 2007.
Final thoughts: Johnny Rockets was a lot of fun. I liked the food, but DH wasn't impressed. It didn't matter because it was a good time regardless. We didn't spend any time at the pool, but I noticed there was a lot of chair hogging going on every time I was in the area. However, if you wanted a chair, you could find one in the back. We had a couple of issues with our room attendant, but nothing that ruined it for us. First he sent our dry cleaning bag to the crew laundry area and DH's caribbean shirt was lost for 2 days. Second, he (or whomever is supposed to do it), didn't get our breakfast room service card turned in and it never came. This was on our GC day and we didn't want to wait around, so we had to eat a quick breakfast in the windjammer. I am not much of a "show" person and had fully expected to be uninterested at best with the after dinner shows. Much to my surprise I really liked them all. So I'd say give them a chance at least and you may find that you like them too.
Cruising with RCI: If you go into it expecting to have problems you will. If you go in with a good attitude and realize that little things go wrong here and there no matter what you do for vacation you'll have a great time. We all had a great time and love the Explorer. I don't think I'd want to go on anything smaller than a Voyager class ship after this cruise.
If there are any questions feel free to ask. I feel like I left a lot out, but the review was already long enough.