Explorer of the Seas

Welcome to Cruise Critic! If you'd like to participate on our forums by joining in the conversation, please Register Now! Be sure to visit our FAMOUS Roll Call forums, where you can meet other cruisers sailing with you and share a tour or shore excursion and SAVE MONEY!

440 Posts
Joined Sep 2004
My wife and I recently sailed on the RCL Explorer of the Seas. We enjoy cruising and have tried several lines and a variety of itineraries. The following are personal observations using our previous cruise vacations as a baseline. Everyone has a unique opinion; if you have booked this ship then do not second-guess your decision, you will no doubt enjoy it. If you are contemplating this ship, then recognize that you should not let other people’s opinion make up your mind. I will forego comments on the ports of San Juan, St. Martin, St. Thomas (a great port) and Nassau since this has been covered many times. We always book our own excursions in ports where safety is not a concern and usually save about 50% off the ship’s excursion prices.
Embarkation: We arrived at 11:30 AM and were onboard and in our cabin within 45 minutes. RCL states 1PM for cabin availability but seems very flexible on this point. We brought liquor onboard without any problem. A TSA approved lock was broken off and I do not believe that the cruise ships have the master key to this type of lock.
Cabin and attendant: The balcony cabin interior is similar to most of the ships we have sailed on, but our cabin was showing it’s age and was pretty worn. The accommodations offer great utilization of space and there were a few storage areas we never even noticed until we were packing to depart. The balconies on the Voyager class ships seem too enclosed and lack the openness of some other ships. The new Princess vessels for example have great balconies and do not feel like a white iron capsule overlooking the ocean. The cabin attendant is luck of the draw and this time we were assigned one that did a fairly poor job. He did the bare minimum despite an extra $25 tip upfront.
Dinning and Drinks: We did not believe that the Windjammer food was very good and the place simply wasn’t clean. We stopped eating there by Tuesday after noticing some unpleasant things and also reacting to an ingredient in the food that gave us both cramps. The formal dinning room food was mediocre; mind you, we have realistic expectations and do not anticipate gourmet food with 3,000 passengers to feed. However the meals were not very good, usually presented at room temperature and were loaded with salt. Desert was the exception and we enjoyed the variety and quality. Service was excellent and the staff tries hard and does a terrific job. The dinning at Portofinos on the other hand was incredible. The menu does not change but the quality and the service are absolutely wonderful. Pizza in the Promenade Café is very good, as are the burgers and fries at Johnny Rockets. Wine selection and prices are good; bartenders are attentive and the drink quality is good and prices are reasonable. Liquor purchased in port is diligently confiscated by the security staff and returned at the end of the cruise.
Entertainment: With a doubt the entertainment on the Explorer is the best we have experienced on any previous cruise. The production shows are well choreographed and produced; the dancers and singers are lively, well rehearsed, and very, very good. We were fortunate to experience a performance by Rain, a group who does an incredible “Beatles” review. It truly felt like a Beatles performance; the sound, costumes, appearance and even the vintage instruments all combined to provide memorable entertainment. The ice show is not to be missed and all the other venues on the ship offered wonderful singers and instrumentalists. The casino staff is very friendly but like all other ship casino staff, a little lacking in training and experience. If you play craps, pay very close attention to your bets and pay-offs. My wife won $500 on a slot machine the first night; I gave all that and more back at the tables. However the casino is lively, great fun and not very smoky.
Disembarkation: Explorer does a great job of getting the people off the ship, however the luggage is a different matter. We were off the ship by 7:30 and didn’t even have time for a cup of coffee, but our luggage did not arrive on the conveyers until almost 9:30. This is a creative way to prepare the ship for arriving passengers, so in some ways, the trade off when boarding is worth the long wait at the end.
Summation: Our opinion is that perhaps to remain competitive, RCL is being forced to economize and it is very apparent. Still, the Explorer has much to offer and remains a wonderful vacation experience.
New Jersey
408 Posts
Joined Jan 2005
It was great reading your observations. You are correct in the fact that everyone has their own unique opinions.

I know that we have our own expectations , likes and dislikes... Nonetheless I love reading reviews on the explorer... We will be on her in July... I've only cruised once before on the Grand Princess which I thought was amazing in every way. I only have that to compare with.

Either way, so glad you enjoyed your trip.... What will be your next cruise ship to travel on? Any thoughts yet?
Carterville, IL USA
5,429 Posts
Joined Jul 2002
I enjoyed reading your review and appreciate your point blank approach. I also appreciate your first statements about everyone having their own opinion and not blasting the entire cruise due to the food not being as good as it probably should have been. Thanks for an honest review of the cruise. I will be on her and look forward to it.

I can agree with you on the balcony. We have been on Voyager and she has the same balcony as Explorer, not very open. However, Navigator and Mariner have utilized glass and feels very much open.

East Coast
903 Posts
Joined Nov 2004
I also appreciate your point of view. I'm sorry all parts of your vacation wasn't spectacular, but, I can tell you had a great time. Thank you for your input.
Expand Signature
Collapse Signature

January 6, 2017 - Freedom of the Seas
Amazing (1st Back to Back)

January 15, 2017 - Freedom of the Seas
Fabulous (1st Back to Back)

January 3, 2016 - Anthem of the Seas

November 29, 2014 - Grandeur of the Seas
Very Nice!!!!!!!!!!!!!

November 2013 Thanksgiving Day Cruise - Explorer of the Seas
9 Day....YES we had a Blast!

December 3, 2012 - Explorer of the Seas
10 Day Cruise....LOVED IT!

December 4, 2011 - Allure of the Seas
WOW!!!! It was wonderful

December 12, 2010 - Adventurer of the Seas
Not our favorite, but had a good time!!!!

November 29, 2009 - Liberty of the Seas

December 2, 2007 - Freedom of the Seas
"We had a fantastic time"

12/2005 - Radiance of the Seas "Beautiful Ship. We had a ball.

10/2004 - Mariner of the Seas
"Loved the ship, and the crew"

10/1998 - Sovereign of the Seas
1,944 Posts
Joined May 2004
Thank you for your honest appraisal of your cruise, richard1s! Your comments are reasonable and fair - and I agree that the pizza of in the Promenade Cafe is very good!
Expand Signature
Collapse Signature

2016-12 Anthem of the Seas - E. Caribbean (Christmas and New Years)
2015-12 Anthem of the Seas - Bahamas (The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly)
2015-09 Liberty of the Seas - Bermuda (Mini Picture Review)
2014-08 Explorer of the Seas - Canada/New England (Picture Review)
2014-03 Norwegian Breakaway - Bahamas (Picture Review)
2013-08 Serenade of the Seas - Venice (Picture Review)
2010-04 Oasis of the Seas - E. Caribbean (25 Most Memorable Things)
3,579 Posts
Joined Dec 2001
Thanks for sharing your thoughts! I'm looking forward to our cruise in September.
Expand Signature
Collapse Signature

RCCL Viking Seranade 4/93
Carnival Jubilee 4/95
RCCL Majesty of the Seas 4/97
Norwegian Sun 4/00
Carnival Destiny 5/01
Carnival Destiny 4/02
Carnival Pride 3/03
Carnival Spirit 3/04
Norwegian Star 3/05
RCCL Explorer of the Seas 9/05
Carnival Spirit 5/06
RCCL Freedom of the Seas 11/06
Carnival Pride 4/07
RCCL Adventure of the Seas 10/07
Carnival Destiny 5/08
RCCL Liberty of the Seas 10/08
Carnival Pride 5/10
RCCL Allure of the Seas 11/11
Celebrity Infinity 4/13
RCCL Oasis of the Seas 11/14
RCCL Radiance of the Seas 5/15
Carnival Miracle 4/16
Regal Princess 11/16
144 Posts
Joined Jun 2004
We are heading out in May, and I have a question for you. How warm is it in the dining room at night? Is it safe to wear a sleaveless top, or would it be too cool for that?


Toronto, Canada
4,514 Posts
Joined Nov 2004
Thanks for your review. I can't wait to be on her in 8 months. Also, she will be fresh from refurbishment then and hopefully won't show her age as much.

Expand Signature
Collapse Signature
a.k.a. -- Sharonna

178 days at Sea.......so far

Freedom of the Seas - Nov/16 - 10th Annual BFF Cruise!
Adventure of the Seas - Feb/16 - BFF Family Cruise
Independence of the Seas - Nov/15 - 9th Annual BFF Cruise!!
Independence of the Seas - Nov/15 - First Solo Cruise!!
Oasis of the Seas - Mar/15 - March Break cruise with my daughters!!

Liberty of the Seas - Nov/14 - 8th Annual BFF Cruise
Liberty of the Seas - Nov/14 - 1st Back to Back!!
Freedom of the Seas - Mar/14 - Family cruise
Explorer of the Seas - Nov/13 - 7th Annual BFF Cruise
Freedom of the Seas - Mar/13 - Family cruise
Freedom of the Seas - Feb/12 - BFF Familes together again!
Freedom of the Seas - Oct/11 - 6th Annual BFF Cruise
Explorer of the Seas - Mar/11- Family cruise
Freedom of the Seas - Nov/10 - 5th Annual BFF Cruise
Liberty of the Seas - Aug/10 - Extended family cruise
Freedom of the Seas - Aug/09 - 4th Annual BFF Cruise
Explorer of the Seas - Mar/09 - Family cruise
Mariner of the Seas - Nov/08 - 3rd Annual BFF Cruise
Adventure of the Seas - Mar/08 - BFF Familes together!
Mariner of the Seas - Nov/07 - 2nd Annual BFF Cruise
Carnival Triumph - Aug/07 - Family cruise
Voyager of the Seas - Feb/07 - Family cruise
Radiance of the Seas - Nov/06 - BFF Cruise
Carnival Valour - Aug/06 - Mother/Daughter Cruise
Explorer of the Seas - Jan/06 - Cruise with my parents and kids!!
Radiance of the Seas - Feb/05
Rochester NY, The World's Image Centre
286 Posts
Joined Sep 2004
Thanks for your forthright comments, Richard. You haven't dissuaded us a bit, but you've given us some very useful opinions and information.

Now if I can just find a way to speed up the next 6 months
Expand Signature
Collapse Signature
Ken & Kathy Hazlett
Rochester NY

Not exactly cruising, but Ken (in 4th grade) sailed New York City to Gibraltar on Italian Line's "Rafaelo" in January 1966 and Great Britain back to NYC on Holland America's "Statendam" in September 1966.
Royal Caribbean "Sovereign of the Seas", 12/98 (4 nts)
"Cruise Virgins" deflowered. Awesome food and "shooter" drinks. Missed Coco Cay due to high seas, but had a great "day at sea" on the way to KW.
Carnival "Sensation", 07/00 (7 nts)
A balcony suite shared with best friends, lunch with Emeril in New Orleans, and a surprise proposal. Swimming with stingrays in Grand Cayman was a blast, and you can't pass up a trip to Hell.
Carnival "Jubilee", 01/01 (4 nts)
Key West was in the deep freeze, but margaritas at Jimmy Buffet's helped. Cozumel was toasty.
Carnival "Paradise", 12/01 (7 nts)

A perfect honeymoon on the only totally non-smoking ship --- what a breath of fresh air !
Royal Caribbean "Explorer of the Seas", 10/23/05 (7 nts)
The threat of Hurricane Wilma made departure interesting. The Meet & Mingle and spending time with other CCers was awesome. RCI's food IS better than Carnival's, and Portofino was a real treat.
<center style="margin: 0px;"></center><center style="margin: 0px;"></center><center style="margin: 0px;"></center>
Northern New Jersey
319 Posts
Joined Apr 2005
Hi Ricard,

Thanks for your opinion. I hope our food in the main dining room turn out better. We have traveled on Carnival a few times, so I was hoping for a ship with better amenities. That’s why we switched to RCC. Either way we are all looking forward to our 28-Aug-05 cruise on her.

Kansas City, MO
859 Posts
Joined Feb 2002
Originally posted by mbwebman
Hi Ricard,

Thanks for your opinion. I hope our food in the main dining room turn out better. We have traveled on Carnival a few times, so I was hoping for a ship with better amenities. That’s why we switched to RCC. Either way we are all looking forward to our 28-Aug-05 cruise on her.

Try not to let the whole food review bother you. Food is VERY subjective to a lot of people. While we weren't excited about Windjammer(we aren't thrilled about any buttets), we thought the food in the dining room to be quite good. Portofinos was great!! We also like going up to Johnny Rockets. We really enjoyed our cruises on Explorer, and would not hesitate to return. The entertainment was topnotch on our cruise. Have confidence in your choice, as Explorer is a wonderful ship!!!
Expand Signature
Collapse Signature
Upcoming Adventures!!

Carnival Elation, April, 13, 2016

Liberty of the Seas, September 18, 2016

Done these ones...
Carnival Liberty 09/06/2015 - the engine room caught fire!!
Caribbean Princess - 10/04/2014
The ill-fated oil spill cruise of March 22, 2014 on the Caribbean Princess in the Houston harbor
Island Princess, 10/2009 Panama Canal
Emerald Princess - 03/2008------Crown Princess - 11/2008
Caribbean Princess - 10/2005------Caribbean Princess - 10/2006 Halloween Cruise
Explorer of the Seas - 03/2005------Explorer of the Seas - 10/2004
Explorer of the Seas - 03/2004------Celebrity Millenium - 03/2002
Disney Wonder - 12/2000-----------Disney Wonder - 12/1999
Norwegian Majesty - 12/1995-------Carnival Fantasy - 11/1994

NW Burbs, Chicago
306 Posts
Joined Feb 2004
Can anyone help me to understand the food quality. I realize that everyone has a different opinion but for the sake of example... is the food similiar to Chili's? Maybe an Olive Garden? Is it worse than Wendy's?

Can anyone give me an example of another restaurant that would be equal to the food onboard?
Thanks, Kelly
Seattle, WA USA
6,385 Posts
Joined Feb 2003
I find that most of the food is better than any of your choices (in the dining room). The buffet is just that and not a great one. The rare times that I've selected something that I didn't like, I just ordered something else. I've never gone hungry!
Expand Signature
Collapse Signature
aka Traveling Trish Happy-snew-Who
WGIG #48C - First Class Crew Member

"Be kinder than necessary, for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle."
"Until you are convinced that prayer is the best use of your time, you will not find time for prayer."

Radiance of the Seas 9/2002 - PNW; Rhapsody of the Seas 4/2003 - Western; Splendour of the Seas 1/2004 - PC (partial)/Western; Legend of the Seas 8/2004 - Mexican Riviera; Explorer of the Seas 1/2006 & 2/2006 B2B - Western and Eastern; Mustard of the Seas I (aka Jewel of the Seas) 2/2007 - Eastern; Celebrity Mercury 10/2007 - PNW; Voyager of the Seas 4/2008 - Western; Windy City Mustard Dawgs, EH! 7/2008; Viking River Cruise 12/2008 (Vienna to Nurnberg - Danube) and Steamboat family and Captain Speaking F2F; Mustard of the Seas II (aka Serenade of the Seas) 5/2009 - Alaska; Radiance of the Seas 10/2009 - Mexican Riviera; Freedom of the Seas 3/2010 - Eastern; Voyager of the Seas 2/2011 - Western; Sapphire Princess 5/2011 - Vancouver to Seattle; Mustard of the Seas III (aka Emerald Princess) 8/2011 - Baltic, Visit new grandbaby 11/2011; Celebrity Equinox 1/2012 - Ulitmate Caribbean; Texas 11/2012; Salzburg 12/2012; Splendour of the Seas 5/2013 - Greece/Med B2B; Visit 2nd new grandbaby - 1/2014; Jewel of the Seas 4/2014 - Southern;Christmas Markets River Cruise and Munich - 12/2014
159 Posts
Joined Sep 2002
Food is very subjective. We just got off the Explorer yesterday, western route. The food was great. Certainly way better than any chili's or Olive Garden. There was a group of 10. We had no problems with any of the meals, the Prime Rib, the lobster etc. We all loved the food each night. There were plenty of appetizers we liked ( most of us had 2 and then a salad each night). The entrees were varied enough to please us all, the desserts great.

The service was outstanding. The crew as a whole was super friendly, always said hello, how was your day etc. The dining room staff were awesome. We didn't have a problem with the windjammer. We ate breakfast everyday there except for the two sea days when we ate lunch too.

The entertainment was very good. The comedians were good, Rain was awesome.

Overall it was a great cruise, probably one of the best ( 8 on RCCL so far).

Can't wait for number nine, Jewel or Navigator, eastern for sure.
NW Burbs, Chicago
306 Posts
Joined Feb 2004
Hey, that sounds great! If you think the food is certainly better than an Olive Garden, I can live with that. I completely agree that the food issue is VERY different from diner to diner. But the way that people talk (negatively) about the food, I keep invisioning eating burger king type food!
440 Posts
Joined Sep 2004
Thanks to all for your kind comments. I agree that the food is very subjective and I wonder if there could even be variation from 1 dinning room level to another. The food was never bad, just not very good.

I believe that many lines are trying to cut corners to compensate for escalating operating costs, particularly fuel. Sometimes however this economizing seems silly. For example, menus used to be in a reusable leather binder; it seemed like a nice touch. Now they are a printed insert in a folded heavy gauge paper holder, like something you would get at a Denny’s. There is no longer a bread basket, but instead the assistant waiter makes his rounds and serves you a piece of bread. It’s the little things that make cruising special and slowly they seem to be disappearing on some lines. The exception we recently experienced is sailing on the Diamond Princess; dinning was very good and even the buffet was terrific.

Finally, we didn’t find the dinning room, or any public room for that matter, too cold. Sometimes it actually felt too warm but that’s the way we prefer it.
159 Posts
Joined Sep 2002
From what I understood from previous cruises the bread baskets were done away with to cut down on hand to hand contact, from all the norovirus scares. The assistant waiter does dole out the bread but it flows freely. We had to keep telling him no more. He would gives us 2 rolls at the start and then keep putting them on the plate evrytime it was empty.

I can see how with the buffets the ability to please is harder. The food is generally warm to hot but never piping hot. But if you judge the quality of the food by the quantity people take then they must love it. Just when you think you've seen the absolute maximum a plate can hold go by, someone tops it. I know quantity does not equal quality but if the food was bad people wouldn't be stuffing themselves that much.

People go on vacations with different expectations as well your own perception is not always the same as the next persons.

I will give you two examples

1. We overheard a couple talking at the airport when we were flying home from Miami, they were telling the people next to them they just came from a cruise and would never do it again. The seas were too rough, people were sick in the hallways everywhere, it was a miserable trip. I was sure they were exaggerating but I was flabbergasted to hear they were talking about Explorer, the ship I had just gotten off of. The seas were dead calm, I never saw or heard of anyone getting sick, if that trip made them sick then just being awake must be a nightmare for them.

2. A friend of mine who just came off another RCCL ship said he heard the people at the next table talking and saying to someone else not to take the steak, it was rotten the night before. So bad it had a foul smell. Now he knew the night before the steak was served with a blue cheese sauce ( and yes there is an aquired taste to liking heated blue cheese) and could only imagine how this story would be spun out of control when they got home.

If you are booked on Explorer go and have a great time, the ship was fantastic. As they say you are on vacation. Don't worry about the bar bill, etc ( although I do find the price of the photos a little too extreme). get a balcony get a bottle of booze ( yes pay the 9.50 take it to your cabin fee) and at the end of the day ( past midnight for sure) sit out on your balcony and have a few drinks. There is no feeling like it. And if your really lucky it will be an aft balcony and the pleasure is double.
Expensive Southern California
4,216 Posts
Joined Feb 2001
Thank you for posting your comments about your Explorer sailing. I’m glad that the issues you experienced didn’t deter you from having a good time. I was on the Explorer in Sept 01, and it brought back great memories to read your comments.
Expand Signature
Collapse Signature
Happy Sails,
Mrs. T (I'm a Mariner Maniac/Liberty Lunitik and suffer from PCD)

Here are all of our wedding, house, cruise compass pages, cruise menus, and cruise vacation pics!

Read all of our very detailed cruise reviews ... Complete with PICTURES!! ... to find out:
* How we almost drowned in Curacao (Adventure)
* What Tara and Skippy did (Mariner)
* How we opened our balcony dividers and had a 6 balcony Sail-Away Party! (Liberty Sept 07) ... The 119 page review is still online

Naren, koi tumsa nahin! Mere dilke chor ho tum. Kiya tumhe ehsaas hai?

James gets his sea legs on the Radiance this fall. We sail 12/11/09!!

8/14/2010 - James is 35" tall and weighs 32 lbs !!
Here is James' very own website .. NOW with a cruising blog and MOVIES! Updated 7/14/10

Cruising Since 9/00 ..... Carnival - 11 ..... Princess - 1 ..... RCCL - 18 ... from Sunny Expensive So Cali
League City TX
1,073 Posts
Joined Jul 2003
Just wondering when the formal nights on the eastern route are going to be.
I would assume the first one is the first day at sea.
Is the second formal on the last full sea day or when we leave St Thomas?
Expand Signature
Collapse Signature
"Somewhere under the sun"
Carnival Inspiration 12/30/01
Rhapsody of the Seas 08/03/03
Carnival Celebration 12/06/03
Grand Princess 12/04/04
Explorer of the Seas Sept 04, 2005
Carnival Conquest April 30, 2006
Splendour of the Seas Jan 2007
Rhapsody of the Seas April 2007
Adventure of the Seas May 2008
Carnival Ecstasy Sept 2008 Ike chased us back home
Carnival Conquest Sept 20, 2009
Golden Princess-Alaska May 29, 2010
Carnival Conquest May 1, 2011
Mariner of the Seas Nov 11 2011
Carnival Magic April 29, 2012
NCL Star-Bermuda Sept 02, 2012
Carnival Breeze Nov 24, 2012
Caribbean Princess Nov 16, 2013
Celebrity Solstice-Hawaii April 28, 2014
Carnival Magic Oct 5, 2014
NCL Dawn-Bermuda July 3, 2015
Adventure of the Seas B2B May 20/28 2016 the heart attack cruise..... don't leave home without travel insurance
Carnival Breeze May 2018 cruising again
Stoney Creek, Ontario
177 Posts
Joined Dec 2003
Originally posted by Shar27
Thanks for your review. I can't wait to be on her in 8 months. Also, she will be fresh from refurbishment then and hopefully won't show her age as much.

Where does one find information on ship refurbishment?? I have read in different posts about different ships and them being refurbished. I have checked cruiseline websites but find no info on this. We are planning on sailing the Explorer or Voyager in March 2006, the one we end up on depends on flights. Thanks.