Just got back from the Explorer ~ Review

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#1
New York, NY, USA
196 Posts
Joined Nov 2003
Hello everyone. We just returned yesterday from our First Royal Caribbean Cruise on Explorer of the Seas. (Western Caribbean Itinerary). I’ll write my observations and helpful tips on saving money by “doing it on your own in each port” (We kept our final bill to 295.00)

When commenting on this cruise, I’m keeping in mind our past cruising experience, Celebrity Horizon, Carnival Paradise, Disney Wonder (two weeks ago for 4th of July), and now the Explorer.

The Boat Itself: Beautiful, kept clean, although I did not see that presence of people frequently disinfecting elevator buttons, handrails, like on other cruises I had been on. Disney keeps trays of free hand sanitizer packets in front of all their dining rooms, I think all cruise lines should do this. We saw two people throw up on the ship (one small child by the elevators, and another person a few days later on the deck). It must have been because they were sick because we felt very little movement on this ship (the seas were calm). I have always wanted to sail on a mega-ship, and the Explorer did not disappoint me, she is a beautifully designed ship.

The Food: Here is the only area where Royal Caribbean disappointed me, the food on this boat was terrible! The worst food on any vacation we have ever been on (land or sea). I actually lost 2 pounds on this cruise, my husband called it “the diet cruise.” In terms of the lines we have been on, here is (in our opinion), a “report card” of the dining:

Celebrity A
Disney A-
Carnival B+
Royal Caribbean D-

When I read some reviews about this boat, I expected average to so-so food, but we couldn’t believe just how bad the food was on this cruise. The Windjammer Buffet was so terrible that we ate all of our meals in the main dining room! We have never had lunch or breakfast in the main dining room on any of our other cruises, but after 2 awful meals in Windjammer, we knew we were in trouble. Here are some examples: breakfast would have hot orange juice and apple juice (it was like drinking hot cider in the mornings), awful scrambled eggs, Lunch NO variety, the same buffet meals every day, mashed potatoes every day. We would go to Johnny Rockets, which was good, but who wants to eat hamburgers every day on a cruise? Even in the dining room, you would get occasional good dishes (some of the soups were good, some salads were good, the turkey dish on the last night was good, but we never had one great meal the entire cruise.) The lobster was disgusting, it tasted like a not fully defrosted tiny lobster tail I bought in my local A&P freezer. The chicken marsala was inedible; my local Italian Deli makes one that puts the cruise one to shame. Our servers were charming, they were the only pleasure we got going to the dining room because (and this is a first for us) we never looked forward to eating in the dining room. My local diner serves food much better than this ship did. We were truly amazed at how bad the food was, it was such a disappointment. The deserts, even in the dining room the deserts were awful! We had sherbet or ice cream every night!

We talked to a lot of fellow passengers who expressed how terrible they also thought the food was. One man said, if this dining room were a restaurant at home, I’d never eat there again! Also, we cruised the week before on Disney, and the cuisine was exceptional. We did not know exactly what type of food to expect on RCCL, but we never expected such poor food on a pretty expensive cruise! (For example I paid ½ of what I did on Carnival last year when I did the exact same itinerary on the Paradise, and Carnival’s food was far superior to the Explorer’s). We talked to quite a few first time cruisers who said comments like “we though the food is really good on a cruise.” Others we talked to were pissed that the food was so bad considering the price they paid. A lot of people were talking about it. On my survey sheet I basically wrote that RCCL has a lot of nerve charging what they do if this is the type of food they serve.

Now we had a great time on the cruise, we loved the staff and the boat was gorgeous, but a great dining experience is something we expect on a cruise and this was the first time we ever had such awful food. I always love going to the dining room at night, but there was no joy in it this time.

Are all RCCL boats like this? What RCCL boats have better food?
I’d hate to write off RCCL entirely, but I want to make sure I never have to eat like this again on a cruise.

Helpful Hints:
The ice show, see it!
Johnny Rockets did not charge a cover charge, just for sodas & shakes. The shakes are excellent! (Disney now gives free sodas on all their cruises. We thought this is a nice touch that hopefully catches on to all the other lines.)

We saved loads of money by doing each island on our own! Here is what you can do:

Costa Maya: Go into the shopping area, there are booths set up for various excursions. We did a 20.00 per person snorkeling by boat which was great. (1/2 the price the boat wants). You will be completely safe, the guides were wonderful and we had a great time. (The company’s name starts with an O, I forget the name. There is one big booth, you will see it. You take a 3 minute cab ride to the Tequila Hotel where the guide is waiting for you. Other explorer passengers did this tour as well. It’s a nice group, 12 at a time. You snorkel for an hour or so, a nice canopied boat, I highly recommend it.

Grand Cayman (free snorkeling): Take the public bus, there are loads of them (2.50 US dollars per person) to “Cemetery Reef”. There is no cover charge, it’s on a public access section of 7 mile beach (next to a cemetery, of course). The beach is gorgeous, and the snorkeling is great, no cover charge.

Cozumel: (free snorkeling) Take a cab (about 6.00 for your entire party) to Dzul Ha, there is no cover charge, great snorkeling.

Belize: We just did shopping this time & enjoyed the pretty empty boat. We snorkeled last year when we were on the Paradise, but there are plenty of tour operators at the town. A lot of cruise passengers used them.

By the way, I got the white tags & had no problem making our 11:40 flight. We were off the boat by 7:20 and at the airport by 8:00. We could have even been on standby for an earlier flight home, but hubby does not like to change flights.

Hope this info helps,
Marina
#2
New York, NY, USA
196 Posts
Joined Nov 2003
Forgot to add,

Portofino's was 20.00 PP, did not go (thought the cover charge was too high)
Reservations were available all week, did not seem to sell out.

Cabin 8352 was a great D2 cabin and our view was not at all obstructed by the "bump" (I was curious about that when I booked this cabin).
#3
Dayton, Ohio
724 Posts
Joined Jan 2004
It is interesting what you said about the food...I was on the same cruise...there was 6 of us and we thought the food on the Windjammer buffet beat Carnivals Paradise buffet anyday! The food was always fresh and nicely presented...and very tasty. The buffets were kept very clean. Our dining room meals were delicious....we have no complaints at all about the food. But then, our expectations were that of a banquet-type meal, not a 5 star restaurant.
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#4
Florida
279 Posts
Joined Mar 2004
Ocruise wrote the following:


“The Food: Here is the only area where Royal Caribbean disappointed me, the food on this boat was terrible! The worst food on any vacation we have ever been on (land or sea). I actually lost 2 pounds on this cruise; my husband called it “the diet cruise.” In terms of the lines we have been on, here is (in our opinion. When I read some reviews about this boat, I expected average to so-so food, but we couldn’t believe just how bad the food was on this cruise. The Windjammer Buffet was so terrible that we ate all of our meals in the main dining room! We have never had lunch or breakfast in the main dining room on any of our other cruises, but after 2 awful meals in Windjammer, we knew we were in trouble. Here are some examples: breakfast would have hot orange juice and apple juice (it was like drinking hot cider in the mornings), awful scrambled eggs, Lunch NO variety, the same buffet meals every day, mashed potatoes every day. We would go to Johnny Rockets, which was good, but who wants to eat hamburgers every day on a cruise? Even in the dining room, you would get occasional good dishes (some of the soups were good, some salads were good, the turkey dish on the last night was good, but we never had one great meal the entire cruise.) The lobster was disgusting; it tasted like a not fully defrosted tiny lobster tail I bought in my local A&P freezer. The chicken marsala (it’s Marcela not marsala) was inedible; my local Italian Deli makes one that puts the cruise one to shame. Our servers were charming, they were the only pleasure we got going to the dining room because (and this is a first for us) we never looked forward to eating in the dining room. My local diner serves food much better than this ship did. We were truly amazed at how bad the food was, it was such a disappointment. The deserts, even in the dining room the deserts were awful! We had sherbet or ice cream every night!”


First off I was on the Explorer in May and the food was outstanding. You give a lot of reasons on why you think the food was bad but you don’t say what you expect from food on a cruise. One of your main complaints is that the food in the Windjammer was the same every day…it’s a ship, who cares if it is the same every day it’s a stupid buffet. When I’m on a cruse I can care less what I eat during the day as long as it is edible and on Royal Caribbean all the food was edible. The food in the main dining room is among the best in the world. I would like to know why the chicken Marcela (not marsala as you so elegantly put it) was so “inedible” and I doubt that your lobster was not defrosted. In your above statement about Johnny Rockets you wrote it as if Johnny Rockets was the only place on the ship to eat and yes some people would love to eat hamburgers everyday but I don’t recommend it. The deserts in the dining room, as you put it, were awful…no they are actually very good and I’m sorry you have such a immaculate food standard but don’t fret this is just my opinion just like the above is your opinion.

Vote in 2004 for either Bush or Kerry/Nader.
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#6
St. Louis, MO
9 Posts
Joined Jul 2004
You have to look at your "standards" when it comes to food. If you are on cruise to experience "fine dining" quality food - you may a bit disappointed (I've thought several of the dishes were rather bland); however, if you're just happy because you don't have to shop, prepare, clean up, etc. then the food will rank a 10 out of 10!

As long as I don't have to cook it I'm pretty happy!
#7
Massachusetts
150 Posts
Joined Jun 2003
I was on the Explorer two weeks before you (same itinerary) and I thoroughly enjoyed the food. What it all comes down to is personal preference. As with anything, there are going to be people who agree and those who disagree. My opinion, however, was that the food was delicious
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#8
Florida
279 Posts
Joined Mar 2004
oops my mistake...it is Marsala
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#9
Phoenix, AZ
52 Posts
Joined Feb 2004
I really don't get why people think certain ships have terrible food. Guess what, amazingly enough, the kitchen staff does occasionally change. So the staff you had is not on the ship all the time. Also, some staff aren't as good as others. Some of the cooks may have been their last week or they may be trainees. If your food was so bad, why didn't you send it back? Especially the lobster? We were offered extra lobster about 5 times, I'm pretty sure you could have received a replacement. And the lunch buffet complaint. Wow, they had the same stuff every day. Mashed potatos! The horror. Seriously, when we were on the Explorer in April, there were at least 10 different things you could eat as your entree with lots of other extras. How can you complain about eating there three or four times? Also, did you not try the Promenade Cafe? They had great sandwiches. Sorry if I sound insulting, but these kind of complaints just boggle my mind.
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4/24/04, Explorer of the Seas, Western Caribbean
4/3/05, Rhapsody of the Seas, Western Caribbean
4/8/06, Serenade of the Seas, Southern Caribbean
#10
Dayton, Ohio
724 Posts
Joined Jan 2004
Zamt...I agree with you..I just don't get it! There are so many choices every day at every meal, I don't know how anyone can make a blanket statement like that. I had a pork chop that was tough one night..I sent it back and got another that was awesome. I wouldn't complain about the entire menu because of one pork chop. This is probably the couple that was sitting at the table next to us that complained to their waiter about EVERYTHING...including that they had to pay for a babysitter on board! Can you believe there are people like that??
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Celebrity Century 2000
Carnival Paradise 2003
RCCL Explorer of the Seas July 2004
RCCL Mariner of the Seas May, 2006
RCCL Adventurer of the Seas March 2007
RCCL Serenade of the Seas March 2009...First balcony EVER!
RCCL...Freedom of the Seas December 2009...the cruise that will make us Platinum!
NCL Pride of America Hawaiian Islands...May 2010...celebrating our 35th Wedding Anniversary!
RCCL Serenade of the Seas May 2011
RCCL Oasis of the Seas May 2013
RCCL Freedom of the Seas May 2014
Carnival Dream August 2015
Princess Coral Princess Panama Canal October 2016...celebrating our 40th Anniversary & Retirement!
#11
Pittsburgh, PA (Churchill)
2,046 Posts
Joined Jul 2003
I have cruised on the Explorer and thought the food to be very good. All of the people in our group were of the same opinion. One couple is actually the manager of a local night club in our hometown that serves good food and were quite impressed with their meals on the Explorer. I'm not quite sure what some people expect but I for one have never had BAD food on an RCI cruise!!

Cindy
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Life is grand....Cancer sucks...Let's enjoy LIFE!!!
#12
Conception Bay South, NF, Canada
974 Posts
Joined Feb 2003
Marina - thanks for the review of the Explorer. I enjoyed reading it.

A couple of questions

1) How was embarkation - did it take long?
2) How was the entertainment?
3) When are both formal nights?
4) Are the pools salt or fresh water?
5) Was anybody lucky enough to get a pier upgrade?
6) How was the sea?

It sounds like you had a good cruise with the exception of the food.

Would you cruise RCCL again? If you had to pick one of the cruise lines you mentioned above, which one would you not hesitate to go on again?

Thanks for your response.
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#13
88 Posts
Joined Jul 2004
I thought the food on the Explorer was good but not excellent. But it depends on what your comparing it to. Our first cruise was on Celebrity where we were blown away by how good the service and food was. Our table mates were 100 years old though on Celebrity and we felt like we were eating dinner at the nursing home. Celebrity never tried to match up there table mates according to age or anything. On Explorer we sat with another family who had 2 kids our kids ages and we all hit it off and had a blast going to the shows together after dinner. Same thing on our Voyager cruise. RCCL really tries to match table mates up and seems to care more. We had a much better time on RCCL than Celebrity even though the food was better on Celebrity and I will probably try Celebrity again when I'm celebrating my 100th birthday!
The food on the Explorer did seem a little better then the Voyager IMHO. Our tiny lobstertail on the Voyager did taste like it was microwaved or something. There is so much food on a cruise that maybe you start to lose your appetite after a while.
I seem to dislike the dinning room food more the last 2 nights of our cruise. But I always enjoy the Windjammer buffets for breakfast, lunch and even dinner. We discovered on our last cruise that the food in the Island Grill buffet was the same as the dinning room and seemed more elegant because of the tableclothes and candles they set up with. The waiters bring you your drinks and the food was HOT and fresh.
You also can see what looks good and what doesn't, and you can get a steak or lamb chops or other delicous grill items hot off the grill prepared specially for you.
#14
Raleigh, NC, USA
21 Posts
Joined Sep 2000
Defense of Marina:

It has been years since I posted on Cruise Critic and here I am doing so twice in three days.

First point, I agree with Marina's opinion of RCCL food. Please see my post under the "Cruise Foodies: Food on Royal Caribbean" thread.

However, whether I agree with her or not I found the comments of DolphinDan, Zamt, and BopRN agressively defensive, rude, snide and insulting. Marina offended them by stating an opinion different from their own.

For example:

"this is probably the couple that complained about EVERYTHING... can you believe there are people like that?"


"These kind of complaints bogle the mind"

and from the spellingly challenged Dan, "I'm sorry you have such a immaculate food standard"

and most tellingly, the following:

"Who cares... it's a stupid buffet"? "When I'm on a cruse(!) I can care less what I eat... the food in the main dining room is among the best in the world"


Yeah, Dan real smooth. That's telling her! She had a bad experience on your favorite cruise line and by golly, had the nerve to write about it.
#15
Fort Lauderdale, FL USA
639 Posts
Joined Jul 2001
I cannot compare food from other lines, but I will say that RCCL doesn't exactly earn any awards in my book for food quality. Chops and Portofino's aside, I often felt like I was eating hospital food. There's a great place to compare, anyone ever eat at the cafe inside an IKEA? Now that's serving up mud and calling it soufflé!

I've often wondered why RCCL doesn't have focus groups try the food ON a ship (not in on land or freshly prepared, because that's not how we are served the food), or employ some sort of mystery guest program. Hotel chains, airlines, retailers all do it...why not RCCL? Are they afraid of the outcome?
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Until we sail RCCL's Liberty of the Seas...




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#16
Mishawaka,IN
210 Posts
Joined Mar 2004
I have to agree about the food in the windjammer. The first few mornings the food was soso and didn't get anybetter. I wised up after a few days and started eating the fresh fruit and cereal. Now the dining room food I found to be excellent. I am a very picky eater. I tried everything from the escargot to lobster. It was all wonderful. And the dessert don't get me started on the flourless chocolate cake. I am love with this cake!! It really all depends on your taste and what you expect. I did expect better for what I paid but you know I don't regret going on the cruise.

One more thing! I see a lot of people bring up the point that the staff does not clean the buttons or railings very often. I witnessed the staff cleaning all of the time it was non stop. Unless you are standing by the elevators all day watching the staff clean there is no way to know if they were just there cleaning before you got there. It only takes one person to leave fingerprints. You can also buy pocket size hand cleanser for 50cents at any walmart.
#17
Phoenix, AZ
52 Posts
Joined Feb 2004
Andy, thank you for putting us in our place. You are obviously much smarter than the rest of the posters. Thanks for misspelling boggle, and then insulting the spelling of someone else. I am not here to defend RCCL. Here is the problem. I think you missed my point. I could care less that she did not like the food. There will always be people who don't like the food on a cruise. Whether it's not to their taste, or they have high standards or only like macaroni and cheese, it doesn't matter. It happens. Where I took issue is that she assumed that the Explorer always served bad food.
Here is the telling quote:
"Are all RCCL boats like this? What RCCL boats have better food?
I’d hate to write off RCCL entirely, but I want to make sure I never have to eat like this again on a cruise"
I simply cannot imagine why someone would think the food on the Explorer is simply bad on every sailing, every night. I guess that means that the vast majority of people who enjoyed the food have no taste buds. My motto is to give a restaurant the benefit of the doubt. I would never assume that a restaurant is terrible after one meal. And I would have certainly have sent the lobster back. It doesn't do a lot of good to complain later to people on the internet. Anyway, take this for what it's worth. I'm quite glad that I'm not a person like Brad1185 who chooses to believe the worst in these kinds of situations.
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4/24/04, Explorer of the Seas, Western Caribbean
4/3/05, Rhapsody of the Seas, Western Caribbean
4/8/06, Serenade of the Seas, Southern Caribbean