We were on Explorer - May 1 through May 8th. Traveling were myself, my husband, my 6 year-old daughter and my parents (in their 60's). We went Eastern Caribbean. It was an absolutely fabulous vacation. I had no idea what to expect and was actually kind of nervous whether or not we would have a good time. Needless to say I should not have spent anytime worrying. Everything went perfectly in part to all the great tips and ideas I picked up on this message boards! THANKS TO ALL!!!!
We went to Miami the night before and stayed at the Marriott Biscayne Bay hotel. It was very nice, a little pricey but I felt it was worth the money. The shuttle took us to the pier Sunday morning.
Getting on the ship went extremely smoothly! We left the Marriott at 11:30 am and we were through the line and on the ship by 12:15. We even got to enjoy cookies and lemonade while we were getting our Seapass cards!
The ship is beautiful! We stayed on Deck 10 (balconies). For us it was definately worth the extra money. We loved getting up in the morning and being able to sit out on the balcony and enjoy the view.
As far as the food - we ate breakfast every morning (except the last) at Windjammers. There certainly was plenty to choose from. Lunch was at either Windjammers for Johnny Rockets. We ate in the dining room every evening and I'm glad we did! I thought the food and service was excellent (especially lobster night). There were certainly ample portions and we even ordered two appetiziers on numerous evenings. I was concerned about how dressed up to get for formal night and I certainly over packed. There was a wide variety of attire (from what I thought was too casual (jeans) to formal evening dresses)! The servers were great - we were extremely impressed!
Someone told me there were only 300 kids on board the week we sailed and I'm not sure if that made a difference or not, but the pool deck was not overly crowded. We had no problems finding a lounge chair and never came across the "Chair Hogs" I had read so much about!!
As far as the entertainment, all I can say is WOW! It is amazing what they can do with a tiny little ice rink. My daughter is a figure skater and we were amazed by the ice show. Make sure you don't miss it! The other shows were two comedians, two nights of the Royal Caribbean dancers, Herb Reed and the Platters and the Osmond brothers. Even my daughter enjoyed herself!
Ports - We went to the Bacardi Rum factory in San Juan, snorkeled at Coki Beach in St. Thomas and shopped in St. Maarten. My husband shopped in Nassau, but the rest of us just enjoyed staying on the ship that day.
My daughter did not go to the Kids Program so I can't post much about that. We did go on the tour and it seemed pretty organized from what I did see. She really enjoyed just spending time with us. She was able to use the rock climbing wall quite a bit - the longest she had to wait was about 5 minutes to take another turn.
The only thing that was kind of a pain was that we had to go through Immigration before getting off the ship in St. Thomas. I had heard someone saying that her parents were on Explorer three weeks ago and did not have to do this, but we did. It took about 45 minutes (the line was all the way down the Promenade deck).
As far as Final Departure it wasn't too bad. We were off the ship, in a cab and to the airport by 11:00 am for a 12:55 pm flight back home.
It was definately one of the best vacations ever! We will definately cruise again on Royal Caribbean. Now we just have to decide where to go next! We even asked my daughter if she would rather go to Disneyworld or on another cruise next year and her answer was "Another Cruise". That's saying alot from a 6 year old!
Again I just wanted to share our experience and I will try to answer any questions you might have.