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Explorer of the Seas LONG Review 12/30/11 New Year's Cruise

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EXPLORER OF THE SEAS

December 30, 2011 – January 6, 2012

Seven-Night New Year’s Cruise to Port Canaveral, FL & Nassau, Bahamas

 

 

INTRODUCTION

 

We booked this cruise in May 2011, and for months leading up to it, I read dozens of reviews, watched numerous Youtube videos, and spent quite a lot of time on the Cruise Critic RCI boards. For me, the anticipation leading up to a cruise is almost as exciting as the cruise itself, and I hope that this review—as I relive my own experiences—will help you to imagine yourself onboard the beautiful Explorer with me. As I read others’ reviews, those I enjoy the most are the ones which are as detailed and thorough as possible, allowing me to fully share in the reviewer’s experience. I hope that this review does the same for you, and I look forward to your comments and questions along the way. Enjoy, and thank you for reading!

 

ABOUT US

 

My girlfriend and I are both twenty-three, and this was our fourth cruise together. This was my sixth RCI cruise (first time Platinum!) and seventh overall. This was her fourth on RCI and sixth overall.

 

DAY ONE

Embarkation Day in Bayonne, NJ

 

This cruise sailed out of Cape Liberty in Bayonne, NJ. We live about an hour away—in New York—so my brother drove us to the port, thus allowing us to save on the cost of a car service (more money for the casino!). We left the house around 9:45 a.m. and arrived at Cape Liberty just before 11:00 a.m. There was very little traffic getting to the port; I had read that the port starts to become very congested around 11:00 a.m., so we must have just missed the rush. My brother dropped us off, we gave our luggage to a porter, and we entered the terminal.

 

The terminal itself looks a bit dumpy (for lack of a better word). The luggage was being stored in—and the porters were operating from—underneath a large tent-like structure. We noticed a handful of people waiting on benches underneath this “tent”; it seemed as if they were still waiting for rides from the last cruise. We felt bad for them and happy for ourselves at the same time, but we both knew that in just seven days we would be in their shoes.

 

Once we gave our luggage, we walked into a large room to go through security. There was no heat in either of these rooms, so make sure you dress warmly. Security was quick and painless, and we immediately went to the priority check-in line (my first Platinum perk!). However, the line was about the same (only a few people in front of us) for the regular check-in, so this “perk” was not much of a benefit.

After checking in, we were given bus tickets (you have to take a sixty-second bus ride from the terminal to the ship itself), but our ticket number had already been called by the time we got to the bus area. We boarded the next bus and were boarding the ship (on deck one) within minutes. Overall, the terminal facilities at Cape Liberty were a bit shabby and without heat, but the check-in process was more efficient and faster than Miami and Fort Lauderdale and took no more than twenty to thirty minutes from the time we arrived at the port to the time we boarded the ship.

 

Prior to coming on this cruise, GF and I had agreed to take the steps as often as possible, since we LOVE to eat (LOL), so we boarded and immediately took the steps to deck five to check out our table assignment. We had requested a table of eight young people, and we were assigned a beautiful table. We then set out to further explore the ship. I had been on Navigator of the Seas in 2005, but neither of us had been on Explorer. We usually rush to the Windjammer and then to the pool to catch some rays, but since it was far from pool weather, we decided to explore the ship first. (We did have a beautiful day, however, as it was in the low-50s and sunny all afternoon.)

 

We walked on the promenade (a beautiful, mall-like central hub of the ship) and took some pictures. It was fun seeing everyone so excited and ready to start their vacations. We also stopped by Guest Relations and picked up a Compass to see what was going on for the rest of the day. We then headed up to deck eleven to check out the pool. Somewhat to my surprise, there was relatively warm water in the pool. I wondered whether they brought that water up from the Bahamas or just heated it. The hot tubs were on as well, and you could see the steam coming from the top of each one.

 

We stopped at the pool bar and got two strawberry daiquiris—our traditional first drink on a cruise. We took a picture as we sipped them and then decided to lay in some of the lounge chairs by the pool. We kept our jackets on and chose two chairs right in the sun, and it actually felt very nice—our vacation had begun! A few other people saw us and also plopped themselves on the lounge chairs. Had it been colder or less sunny we wouldn’t have done this, but we sat outside for about thirty minutes enjoying our drinks and the warmth of the sun.

 

The Windjammer opened at 12:00 p.m. the first day, and at around 12:30 p.m. we decided to get lunch. The Windjammer is the only place for lunch on embarkation day (aside from Café Promenade), so it was packed when we entered. The congestion was probably even greater since no one was in any rush to get out to the pool, being that it was winter. We searched for a table before getting food, since there was literally nowhere to sit when we first came in. It took us about fifteen to twenty minutes to find something, but we ultimately did get a small table and sat down. We got our food, and I ordered another drink from a bartender walking around (a Bahama Mama—the drink of the day).

 

Lunch in the Windjammer that first day was underwhelming and seemed to be of a lower quality than on previous cruises. We ate there several more times throughout the week, but I was really not very impressed with the quality of food in the Windjammer. The hot dog buns were stale (not just that first day), the meat dishes were not all that flavorful, and nothing really stood out. Some of their sandwiches are very good, and GF really enjoyed the pasta and salad options. There is definitely no shortage of food from which to choose, but I wasn’t crazily in love—as I have been on past cruises—with the Windjammer. Nonetheless, we had a nice first lunch and left as soon as we were done eating. (They were making announcements requesting that people leave their tables as soon as they were done.)

 

After lunch, we headed back out to the pool deck. It was a bit windier now, but we were still enjoying the warmth of the sun and the vacation feeling. I got another drink, and we went to check out our cabin when it was ready (rooms were ready at 1:30 p.m.). We were on deck six on the hump on the starboard side. We had originally booked an inside room, then switched to an inside guarantee when the New York residents rate dropped by several hundred dollars, and then to a balcony guarantee when that rate dropped significantly. This was our first cruise with a balcony, and it was more expensive than any of our previous cruises. However, I doubt we will ever be able to go back to an inside (or even porthole) room after this. I had originally stood firm in my belief that money saved on a cabin can be put to better use in the form of drinks, shopping, gambling, excursions, etc. However, our balcony brought us so much enjoyment that I don’t think we could ever go back (unless the choice was between an inside cabin and not going at all).

 

Our room was facing the terminal (as opposed to New York City), so there was not much of a view that first day. However, it was great having all that light flowing into our room and being able to open the door and smell the fresh air. After checking out the room, we headed back up to the promenade. I got a pina colada at the Crown and Kettle, an Irish pub. The pub itself was dark inside, but they had tables just outside on the promenade itself, and I really liked this place and its atmosphere. Unfortunately, however, they did not have any beer on tap—a small sacrifice IMHO.

 

We sat at one of the tables on the promenade until they announced the muster drill. The ship was set to sail at 4:00 p.m., so the muster drill was held at 3:15 p.m. It was cold (our station was outside on deck four), and I was admonished for having a drink with me (I had to warm up somehow!). The muster drill was over in fifteen minutes, and we headed back to the room when it was done.

 

We then decided to check out the spa. We had agreed that we would both get spa treatments, but we hadn’t made any reservations in advance. We inquired about spa specials on port days, but there were no desirable times available. Also, they told us that we could not use our Crown and Anchor discount coupons on a port-day promotion. Since the 10% and 15% discount coupons that GF and I had, respectively, made the price similar to any port-day promotions they were offering, we just booked for 10:45 a.m. the next day. On a future cruise, I would recommend making a spa reservation in advance so that you can have more options in terms of the timing of your treatment. Almost all of the other available time slots were early in the morning—not something we wanted to do. We didn’t book in advance because we thought that we would take advantage of some of the port-day promotions offered onboard, but I believe (though I am not positive) that you can book online and get refunded to your onboard account the discount you get from a C&A discount coupon. In the future, I will look into this and probably book in advance if we plan on doing the spa.

 

We went back to the room for a bit (something we never would have done if we had an inside room) and then noticed that the ship had started sailing! I looked out from our balcony and saw the Verrazano Bridge straight ahead. We rushed up to the pool deck and went to the thirteenth deck in the front of the ship to watch as we sailed underneath the bridge. It was absolutely magnificent to watch, the sky was a beautiful red, and the cool breeze actually felt perfect. A lot of people—including us—were taking video, and it really does feel as if you can touch the bottom of the bridge as the ship just barely clears it.

 

Afterwards, we went to the gym on deck eleven for the spa raffle for which we had signed up. They raffled off a few good things (spa treatments, gym classes, etc.), although we would have only been interested in a few of the things and had to listen to sales pitches from different people before the raffle winners were announced. We didn’t win anything, but it was worth a try. It was also funny to watch, as the winners were required to dance to music before claiming their prizes.

 

We then went back to the room and showered and changed for dinner. We had the 8:30 p.m. seating, but we wanted to be dressed and ready so that we could get ice show tickets at 7:30 p.m. and make the 7:45 p.m. show. On the way to pick up ice show tickets in the Maharajas lounge on deck five, we stopped at the complimentary liquor tasting on the promenade. I tried two different liquors—one I really liked and another I found absolutely grotesque.

 

We then got on line for ice show tickets (we were about twenty minutes early, since we wanted to get to the 7:45 p.m. show and didn’t want to be at the back of the line). Apparently, plenty of other people had the same idea. By 7:30 p.m.—the designated distribution time—the line was extremely long (get there early!), but it moved quickly. We got tickets for two different shows. However, we later found out that the upper-tier C&A event was an ice show! Therefore, we didn’t need to wait on line to get tickets, since we would be invited to the C&A show. However, we didn’t know this beforehand—something I think RCI needs to address. It was only a small inconvenience to wait for thirty minutes for tickets, and the special show was a nice surprise, but aside from a free drink, the special show was only a benefit insofar as it would have allowed us to avoid the ticket distribution mob. Not a big deal, however (the ice show was exellent BTW!).

 

After getting tickets and making a pit stop at the Café Promenade (to cleanse my pallet of the abhorrent liquor I tasted), we went to the Welcome Aboard show. The RCI singers and dancers were truly excellent on this ship (as they almost always are). The comedian, Hal Spear, was nothing great, but he was entertaining for the first night. We left the show a few minutes early, however, since we wanted to be a few minutes early to dinner the first night.

 

We went to our table for eight and sat down. Our waiter and assistant waiter introduced themselves and handed us menus—they were both very nice. We had a great experience on our last cruise sitting with three other young couples, and we were anticipating another similar experience on this cruise as well. However, none of the three other couples showed up! We waited until 8:45 p.m., but then we ordered and ate by ourselves that first night. It was a bit strange that three couples would all independently either switch or not show up, but we enjoyed excellent service and very good food. The maitre’d came over and asked whether we wanted to be moved to another table, but we told him we were happy sitting just the two of us at that table if the others didn’t show up.

 

We finished dinner and then headed to the promenade for the sailaway parade. The RCI parades are extremely corny but equally as entertaining. The costumes are magnificent, and the music and atmosphere are great. This was the only parade we attended (we missed the farewell parade), but I highly recommend you check out at least one.

 

The parade lasted about twenty minutes, and we then went to the casino. We arrived a little after 11:00 p.m. and inquired about the mini slot tournament listed on the Compass for 11:15 p.m. However, we were told that that tournament had already taken place and concluded. This was not the first time that the Compass listed incorrect times either, as the liquor tasting did not begin until about an hour after it was listed on the Compass. However, the listings were pretty accurate the rest of the cruise.

 

We tried our luck at a handful of games in the casino but with little success, as would be the case for much of the cruise. The casino is very nice and has a lot of tables, although not all of them are open all the time. They have blackjack, three card poker (which gets busy at night), roulette, one live poker table, a craps table, and one other carnival poker game I cannot seem to remember. The casino has a lot of slots and a bar in the center.

 

We really enjoyed our time in here (although we paid dearly for that time!), but I had two somewhat minor complaints. First, the tables are set up on one side of the casino floor, but about eight or nine tables are chained together to make one very large pit. Thus, to get from three card poker to craps, or from roulette to blackjack, you potentially had to evade oblivious, wandering gamblers and bartenders carrying trays of drinks. I think this section could be set up better, but I never saw any major problems as result.

 

A somewhat larger complaint I had was that there were no $5 blackjack tables. On every prior RCI cruise they have had at least one $5 blackjack table. They had $5 roulette, three card poker, and craps, but all the blackjack tables were $10 minimums. I usually bet $10-$15 in a land-based casino, but I really enjoy having lower stakes on a cruise, since my money has to last for much longer. I understand that table minimums must reflect business demands, but later in the cruise I asked them to lower the minimum when I was the only blackjack player for two empty tables and they still refused. Even in Las Vegas or Atlantic City, the supervisors usually agree to lower the table minimum if no one else is playing, so I was surprised that they refused to do so here. Nonetheless, the casino was still a lot of fun, and most of the dealers were quite friendly.

 

After making our donation at the casino, we headed back to our cabin. This was our first cruise out of New Jersey in the wintertime, so this was a very different first day in that we did not lay out in the sun but did more exploring. I didn’t feel as relaxed as I usually do after day one—probably because we spent some time rushing back and forth between places, but I was much more relaxed the following day. Overall, while this first day was different than usual, we had a great time and were very excited for the upcoming week. It was cold and windy out on our balcony that night, but watching the ship cut through the ocean water with the moon shining down was absolutely breathtaking. We went to bed both tired and excited for day two.

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I will try to post more of the review over the next few days. In between, please feel free to post any comments or questions you may have, as this experience really allows me to relive my cruise!

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Enjoyed your review, thanks - We're on Explorer for the first time in April so it's great reading. :)

 

(How did you find the quality/condition of the ship? I have heard its getting a little long in the tooth since its last refit..?)

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Mets we were on this cruise as well. Looking forward to your review and your impressions of this trip. It will be interesting to compare your experiences with ours. Loved reading so far.

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Enjoyed your review, thanks - We're on Explorer for the first time in April so it's great reading. :)

 

(How did you find the quality/condition of the ship? I have heard its getting a little long in the tooth since its last refit..?)

 

I found the ship to be in great shape. I noticed some minor signs of aging in our stateroom, e.g., rusting on the balcony, small dents next to the sink, etc., but the public areas were very well-maintained and I was quite pleased overall.

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More please! Boarding the Explorer for the first time on Monday (with my 25-year-old daughter, who I'm sure would be interested in a young person's review) -- want to hear all the details!!:)

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nice, well written review of my favorite ship....can't wait for more...you give great info! (and even though i am biased:o;) you present the less wonderful aspects -such as the food in the WJ, which i agree, can be hit or miss-in a nice, objective way...)

 

Will be awaiting the next installments....:p

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Excellent start to your review! Can't wait to read more....we were on the same cruise!

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Thanks to those reading who were on the cruise with me. Aside for the scarcity of warm weather, it really was a great cruise, and I'm sure you feel the same.

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Here is some more from day two:

 

 

DAY TWO

At Sea--New Year's Eve

 

On prior cruises, we have set early wake-up calls and rushed to the pool deck to get chairs. Today would not be much of a pool day, since we were probably just off the coast of the Carolinas when we woke up; thus, we decided to sleep in. We got room service delivered for breakfast with some pastries and orange juice. Unfortunately, when the food came, I made by first balcony-rookie mistake: I opened the cabin door while the balcony door was wide open. As soon as I opened the cabin door, a gust of wind burst through the cabin and out into the hallway. The extra breakfast menus hanging in our room flew out into the hallway, the covers on our orange juice blew off, and the waiter delivering our breakfast darted away from the door so as to avoid the orange juice glasses blowing into his face. I immediately shut the cabin door, closed the balcony door, and then reopened the cabin door. I apologized to the waiter, and he told me to make sure that the balcony door was closed when opening the cabin door. He was a good sport about it, though, and I’m sure this was not his first time being greeted by a strong gust of wind and flying breakfast menus.

 

We ate quickly and headed up to the spa for our 10:45 a.m. massages. The waiting area for a massage—which is usually a special relaxation room at most land-based spas—was really nothing more than an ordinary waiting room. In fact, while we were waiting, they were conducting a skin seminar in the very same room. I guess I expected a more comfortable, quieter waiting area. I would recommend that the spa conduct its seminars at an alternate location so that the people waiting for treatments have a quieter atmosphere—more like a land-based spa.

 

This was only my third massage ever and my first on the ship. I had heard horror stories of lengthy product pitches, so I wrote on the form they had me fill out before my treatment that I did not want any product pitch. My therapist must have read this, since she didn’t mention any products to me and I didn’t say anything further to her. She did, however, ask whether I wanted to upgrade to a hot stone massage. I had been considering this, and for an extra $20 I did the upgrade. I declined to upgrade to a full body hot stone massage for an extra $10, opting for the hot stones only on my back. I’m not quite sure why I said yes to one upgrade but not to the other—perhaps I just had to feel as if I would stop agreeing at some point, and I did think that the hot stone back massage would be enough for me to try this type of massage. Overall, the massage was excellent. I think she kept me in for longer than my fifty minutes, although GF was taken after me and finished a few minutes before.

 

After our massages we went to Johnny Rockets for lunch. There was a $5/person cover charge, but it was well worth it. We ordered a ton of french fries and onion rings, GF got chicken tenders, and I got chicken tenders and a burger. Everything was delicious but very greasy (what do you expect?). Our waiters sang and danced twice while we were there, and people kept running in to take pictures with the waiters as part of a scavenger hunt being held elsewhere onboard.

 

After lunch we headed to the casino and then to bingo. They offered two different bingo packages: $32 for six cards for each of the four games and $55 for a lot more cards (using a machine). We played three times, opting for the $32 package the first two and splurging for the machine for the jackpot game ($67 this time). We didn’t win, but it was still fun. Also today was the World’s Sexiest Man Contest. Since it was windy and still cool, this was held on the promenade. We usually enjoy the sexy legs competition, but we had seen it several times before, so we didn’t bother going this time.

 

We then went back to the room and sat on the balcony for a bit, watching the ocean pass us by. Afterwards, we made another visit to the casino before coming back to shower and change for dinner. The night before at dinner the maitre’d told us that we were supposed to be seated with three other young couples, but tonight we were seated with a family with kids instead. I never quite figured out exactly what happened, but I suppose the other three couples moved tables.

 

Tonight was New Year’s Eve, so we received party hats and noise makers at our dining room table. We took our newly obtained loot and headed to the promenade. The promenade ceiling was lined with thousands of balloons, and bartenders were pouring hundreds of glasses of free champagne. We wanted a good spot to watch the giant countdown clock above the bridge on the promenade, but we also didn’t want to stand for an hour (it was just after 11:00 p.m.), so we grabbed some champagne, went down one deck, and sat in comfortable chairs at one of the bars. We talked to a couple from London for awhile and then ventured back up to the promenade as midnight approached.

 

The promenade had a big TV showing the ball drop in Times Square in addition to the countdown clock. We got a spot towards the top of the steps from the casino to the promenade—not the best spot, but decent considering the fact that we weren’t willing to hold our ground in a more desirable location. The promenade was VERY crowded, but it was a lot of fun. When the clock struck midnight, everyone cheered and the balloons above us dropped. It was a very nice celebration and quite a festive atmosphere. When the crowd cleared we got a quick snack at Café Promenade, sat for a little while, and then headed off to bed. This was our first New Year’s on a cruise ship together, and we had a great time tonight. We went to bed hoping that the following day would be our first warm, pool day, as we would be arriving in Port Canaveral in the afternoon.

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DAY THREE

Port Canaveral, FL

 

We woke up to an absolutely beautiful morning today. I stepped out on the balcony and felt a burst of warm air for the first time this cruise. Because we were on the hump, when we leaned our heads over the balcony while the ship was moving we got an extra gust of wind. Thus, cold wind was quite painful, but warm wind felt nice. The sun was shining, and our Compass told us that it would be 77 degrees.

 

We headed straight to the pool. We slept in again (the free champagne took its toll), and when we arrived on the pool deck it was very crowded. Everyone was out and about enjoying the beautiful weather, but we managed to find two empty deck chairs and move them together to a spot in the sun. Bartenders were pushing frozen drinks, but I heard quite a few people say they had drank too much the night before to even think about drinking again.

 

We ate lunch in the Windjammer again today; the buffet was nothing special, but it is certain to satisfy most cravings. Over lunch we discussed our table situation. We really enjoyed the service at our table, but we did not want to sit for another five nights with a family with kids. Our new tablemates were very nice—and we didn’t want to intentionally offend them—but being a young couple on our only vacation in a year, we decided that we would prefer to sit just the two of us for the remainder of the cruise.

 

We went down to the assistant maitre’d and asked to be switched, but—quite to my surprise—he told us that there were no more tables for two at the 8:30 p.m. seating. I found this quite odd, considering that the maitre’d told us the first night that the 8:30 p.m. seating was only 60% full. The assistant maitre’d took our name and stateroom number but assured us that he could not create another table for two. I understand that dining assignments and times often create difficulties not apparent to most guests, but I was upset with the way this was being handled. We had requested a table with other young couples months in advance, and we even received a confirmation informing us that our request had been accommodated. However, the maitre’d instead placed us with a family with kids. I realize that they try to fill the tables and accommodate everyone’s requests, but I was disappointed that we had had our request confirmed months in advance—a request we made specifically to avoid a situation such as the one we encountered—only to be placed with a family. I saw several other young couples around us seated with families or people way out of their age groups, and I’m positive they were all separate parties. RCI really needs to make a better effort to put couples with couples and families with families, even if it means changing some tables around. Most couples (IMHO) do not want to sit with a family of four or six other people, and I was shocked to see how often RCI was creating tables with such compositions. Perhaps I am alone on this, but I was extremely disappointed with the way they handled this.

 

We went to guest relations to make them aware of the situation and ask them to contact the maitre’d as well. We then went back to the pool and caught some more rays. We headed back to the room again to see whether they were able to do anything and found out that we had been moved to another table for eight right next to our original table! I’m not sure how my request got bungled, but this was precisely what we did not want (I asked for a table for two away from our first table). We went back to guest relations, they contacted the maitre’d after some more back-and-forths, and they told me I could go speak to the head maitre’d myself. He told me that he would have a solution for me—either a table for two on a different deck or our original table, which was sounding more and more appealing as this process dragged on. In the end, we were moved to a table for six on a different deck, but we were the only people at the table. The table was in a back corner and seemed to be very far from the galley, as it took our waiter a very long time to get the food. However, we were much happier eating alone, so an aggravating experience ended up being okay.

 

We arrived in Port Canaveral, FL at around 1:00 p.m., but we did not get off the ship. We had considered going to Cocoa Beach, but it was New Year’s Day, so we didn’t know what would be open, and it was our first nice pool day, so we just took advantage of the pool deck. There was a fair amount of people who stayed onboard, although we did see a long line of people waiting to get off when we docked. We really like to go to the beach, so private islands and beach ports are our favorites. None of the ship-offered excursions really appealed to us in Port Canaveral, and we figured we would be better off enjoying the pool deck on the ship rather than taking a cab to the beach and trying to find a place to get chairs (although I can’t imagine this would have been difficult, even on New Year’s Day).

 

As the sun started to go down, GF and I went up to deck twelve and walked 1.6 miles on the track (eight laps). It was absolutely beautiful up there, and the pool deck was pretty quiet at this time.

 

We then went to shower and change for dinner. The service at our new table was not nearly as good as at our old table, but we enjoyed a quieter, quicker dinner for two. There was a table of ten adjacent to our table, and the people at that table strolled into the MDR in clusters of two or three beginning at 8:40 p.m. and arriving as late as 9:10 p.m. I think this really threw off our waiters, since they would go to get our orders and then have to come back to take and retrive their orders. One of the people at this table even had the nerve to tell our waiter to hurry up with his food, and these people routinely brought their own bottle of liquor into the MDR and put it in the bucket holding our wine. I don’t know if our waiters didn’t notice or just did not want to start a confrontation, but they never said anything to them.

 

All in all, we enjoyed our dinners in the MDR. We didn’t really speak to the people at either adjacent table, since both tables’ occupants were speaking languages other than English, but our table location was actually a bit quieter than if we had been in the center of the MDR. The food ranged from good to excellent; only a few things I did not eat because I really did not like them, and some dishes really deserve high marks. We ordered a lot of different appetizers and entrees—usually just sampling the things we were unsure about and eating what we liked. We left dinner absolutely stuffed every night, but it was nice to be able to try different foods we might not ordinarily order in a restaurant. I would like to say that I just sampled most of the things I ordered, but unless I did not like something, I usually finished it. And there were very few things I did not like.

 

After dinner we went to see one of the production shows featuring the Unexpected Boys—a take-off on the Jersey Boys. The show featured four male singers and dancers, and they were absolutely great! GF LOVED the show and even considered buying their CD. These guys really did a great job. We don’t usually care for the production shows, but this one involved a relatively simple skit and songs which somewhat made sense based on that skit.

 

After the show we headed to bed. The captain had announced that it would be in the 80s the next day, so we decided to get an early wake-up call to get chairs by the pool first thing in the morning. We had a minor hiccup today with the dining situation, but all’s well that ends well, and our day certainly ended well. This was our first very nice weather day, and we were looking forward to another pool/beach day tomorrow.

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Loving your review and re-living the cruise! You made me laugh out load with the balcony door open and room service delivery.

 

You are not the first person I heard had a tough time with seating in the dining room. We too did not receive our original request for a table for 2.

Fortunately - or maybe not - we were able to go to the Concierge to have this fixed. Apparantly approximately 6 tables were "created" behind the stair case on deck 3 in the dining room for 2 tops. I say this because we did not have regular dining room chairs but conference room type chairs. Service was very very very slow. We figured it was the first night, we had our table for 2 - give the guys a break and just ignore the slowness. Next night, NYE - we sat for approximately 1/2 hour w/o service, then another hour - receiving on entree at around 10PM - totally unacceptable considering we only ordered 1 appy each and 1 entreee. Matre'd knew I was upset, came over and made lots of promises. Next night we went to Portofino's - hubby decided he didn't want to go back to the MDR to be aggrevated so we ate in Portofino's the rest of the week. Wish I had known you were looking for a 2 top, could have had our vacant table - although as I said - service was horrible! Never had that happen to us before.

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Loving your review and re-living the cruise! You made me laugh out load with the balcony door open and room service delivery.

 

You are not the first person I heard had a tough time with seating in the dining room. We too did not receive our original request for a table for 2.

Fortunately - or maybe not - we were able to go to the Concierge to have this fixed. Apparantly approximately 6 tables were "created" behind the stair case on deck 3 in the dining room for 2 tops. I say this because we did not have regular dining room chairs but conference room type chairs. Service was very very very slow. We figured it was the first night, we had our table for 2 - give the guys a break and just ignore the slowness. Next night, NYE - we sat for approximately 1/2 hour w/o service, then another hour - receiving on entree at around 10PM - totally unacceptable considering we only ordered 1 appy each and 1 entreee. Matre'd knew I was upset, came over and made lots of promises. Next night we went to Portofino's - hubby decided he didn't want to go back to the MDR to be aggrevated so we ate in Portofino's the rest of the week. Wish I had known you were looking for a 2 top, could have had our vacant table - although as I said - service was horrible! Never had that happen to us before.

 

Wow--I can't believe that happened to you. It certainly makes our experience pale in comparison. (Portofino was great, though, wasn't it? Perhaps a blessing in disguise--less the added expense lol?) Although the people with whom we were supposed to be seated ended up moving, I e-mailed rcldining@rccl.com a few months before the cruise, and they actually sent me a confirmation of my request. On our Liberty and Majesty cruises we did this as well and received similar confirmations, for a table for two and eight, respectively. Even though the concierge was able to help you out, it sounds like tables which are "created" tend to overburden the waiters and receive subpar service (with some exceptions I'm sure).

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I am enjoying your detailed review very much and am gleaning several ideas for when I sail with family next month.

Hubby and I have a balcony room booked so will remember the tip about the door ;).

 

Our travelling party is 16 people, and we have requested 2 tables of 8 together for dinner at the 8:30 seating. My sister who was arranging our dinner plans ran into some glitches, ( I believe things are set now) so I will be interested in how it all works out, and what kind of service we get.

I will pass on to all in our group the importance of us all showing up for dinner on time which should help out our servers.

 

Will definately try to be out on top deck for the sail away.

Don't want to miss going out under the bridge...sounds so cool.

Keep your review coming.

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Wow--I can't believe that happened to you. It certainly makes our experience pale in comparison. (Portofino was great, though, wasn't it? Perhaps a blessing in disguise--less the added expense lol?) Although the people with whom we were supposed to be seated ended up moving, I e-mailed rcldining@rccl.com a few months before the cruise, and they actually sent me a confirmation of my request. On our Liberty and Majesty cruises we did this as well and received similar confirmations, for a table for two and eight, respectively. Even though the concierge was able to help you out, it sounds like tables which are "created" tend to overburden the waiters and receive subpar service (with some exceptions I'm sure).

 

That was my thought exactly, the extra tables overburdened the staff - howoever - the couple directly behind us - in a created table - were done with their meal, had dessert and coffee and were leaving before we got our entree. It appeared our wait staff was trying to pace us with a table/family of 12 who ordered everything on the menu and since we didn't we were the ones sitting looking at each other with no food. It was just too long and drawn out.

 

Portofino's saved our dining experience. While we did have to pay the surcharge, it was well worth it. That staff treated us like royalty and we did give the waiter (same one every time) his assistant and the maitre d up their tip envelopes the last night since they were so good to us. The maitre'd in Portofino's went out of his way to fit us into a full restaurant, seat us when promised and find us to tell us we had a reservation when on a wait list. Can't get better than that!

 

And as an after thought, after we did not show up for dinner ever again in the MDR - I found it odd since the MDR Maitre'd knew how upset we were, no one ever contacted us to say come back - we will fix it - we're sorry - where are you - nothing! And please know we are not demanding people.

 

Looking forward to the rest of your review!

Edited by LovesCruising

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How long until you got into the warm weather and how long again did you stay in the warm weather on the way back. We are going on the 10 day Jan 27 - Feb 6 with 3 kids and would like to know when we can start using the pool:)

 

Thanks.

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How long until you got into the warm weather and how long again did you stay in the warm weather on the way back. We are going on the 10 day Jan 27 - Feb 6 with 3 kids and would like to know when we can start using the pool:)

 

Thanks.

 

The first full sea day was a bit too windy to lay out by the pool, but plenty of people were in the hot tubs, and I was wearing shorts around the ship. By the second full day (day 3 on the compass) we were laying by the pool. For us, we only had two pool-weather days (days 3 and 4--Port Canaveral and Nassau), but that was because there was a Nor'easter in/near the Bahamas, so even our second day in Nassau (we missed Coco Cay) was cold.

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How long until you got into the warm weather and how long again did you stay in the warm weather on the way back. We are going on the 10 day Jan 27 - Feb 6 with 3 kids and would like to know when we can start using the pool:)

 

Thanks.

 

Departed 12/30 - first warm day was 1/1 - however you are doing 10 days so I assume you are going down into the Caribbean? Bahamas was nice on 1/2 - very windy and cool/overcast on 1/3 - never know what the weather will do in the Bahamas/Florida at this time of year. Was supposed to be 80ish or at least high 70 and it wasn't.

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Mets- please, could you explain about the ice shows and tickets. We will be platinum on our EOS cruise and if I understand you correctly there is a special presentation for that C&A level. Also, are there 2 different shows, or just 1 show, performed several times. Would like to see both if that is the case.

I am loving your review and look forward to the rest. Thanks.

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Mets- please, could you explain about the ice shows and tickets. We will be platinum on our EOS cruise and if I understand you correctly there is a special presentation for that C&A level. Also, are there 2 different shows, or just 1 show, performed several times. Would like to see both if that is the case.

I am loving your review and look forward to the rest. Thanks.

 

There is only one version of the ice show, but it is performed multiple times throughout the cruise. You are allowed to see it more than once, but I believe it is the same show. They do multiple showings since Studio B (the ice rink theater) can only accommodate so many people at once.

 

They give out tickets in advance (ours was the first night), and you need a ticket to get into a given show (the tickets are for specific show times). However, on our cruise, there was a special ice show for platinum members and up (I believe it was the same show, but we did not need to pick up a ticket). You just give them your invitation--which you receive in your stateroom--and you will be admitted. They have bartenders handing out some free drinks when you enter.

 

If I were you, I would stop by guest relations or the loyalty ambassador if he is open on the first day and ask whether they will be doing this as the top-tier event for platinum and up. If yes, then there is no need to get separate tickets for the ice show.

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Still enjoying the review!

 

Regarding tables for 2: Its been my experience that there are a very limited number of tables for 2 on the larger ships. On Explorer the last time I went, we went to the Maitre D' early on Day 2 (day 1 ended up being open seating due to a delayed embarkation) and he was able to switch us to a 2 top in an excellent, central location on deck 3.

 

On Oasis, we made a stop at the Maitre D' literally the first thing we did on the ship to make sure we had gotten the 2 top we had requested. We hadn't, but since we were probably the first people who had come to him he was able to switch us to one right away.

 

Unfortunally, it seems that on most sailings there are more couples who want 2 tops than they can accommodate. In my case I think I was lucky on Explorer because while the Maitre D' didn't switch us immediately (had to wait for a notification in the cabin later in the day), he basically said that becuase I was diamond he would make every possible effort (his emphasis) to accommodate us... I think a lot of people were trying to get switched as he seemed to have a long list in front of him. I do wish they could find a way to add in some more tables for 2 so more people can be accommodated, but I realize they have limited space to play with and are probably doing the very best that they can.

 

Looking forward to the rest of the review! Glad to hear that the weather improved where you left off.

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Still enjoying the review!

 

Regarding tables for 2: Its been my experience that there are a very limited number of tables for 2 on the larger ships. On Explorer the last time I went, we went to the Maitre D' early on Day 2 (day 1 ended up being open seating due to a delayed embarkation) and he was able to switch us to a 2 top in an excellent, central location on deck 3.

 

On Oasis, we made a stop at the Maitre D' literally the first thing we did on the ship to make sure we had gotten the 2 top we had requested. We hadn't, but since we were probably the first people who had come to him he was able to switch us to one right away.

 

Unfortunally, it seems that on most sailings there are more couples who want 2 tops than they can accommodate. In my case I think I was lucky on Explorer because while the Maitre D' didn't switch us immediately (had to wait for a notification in the cabin later in the day), he basically said that becuase I was diamond he would make every possible effort (his emphasis) to accommodate us... I think a lot of people were trying to get switched as he seemed to have a long list in front of him. I do wish they could find a way to add in some more tables for 2 so more people can be accommodated, but I realize they have limited space to play with and are probably doing the very best that they can.

 

Looking forward to the rest of the review! Glad to hear that the weather improved where you left off.

 

I agree that they need more two-person tables. We have never not been accommodated when we asked, but I was just upset with how we were bounced around before they made the change and how willing they were to place couples with families, as there were at least two or three other young couples seated near our original location with families or larger groups of much older people.

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Great review, wanting more!

 

We leave next month. Can you tell me how many 3 card poker tables and black jack tables they have in the casino?

 

Thanks and keep the review coming!

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I agree that they need more two-person tables. We have never not been accommodated when we asked, but I was just upset with how we were bounced around before they made the change and how willing they were to place couples with families, as there were at least two or three other young couples seated near our original location with families or larger groups of much older people.

 

Yep, I agree, that makes absolutely no sense. :confused:

 

I like to think that they spend a few minutes to make an effort to match up compatible table mates... but it seems like someone on EOS dropped the ball.

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My friend Jean and I also sailed on this New Year's cruise in seperate balcony cabins.

I'm a Diamond Plus member, and this was my 41st RCCL cruise. My friend is only Diamond, and wasn't allowed to accompany me to the Concierge Lounge. so I would sometimes go to the lounge by myself for a little appetizer and a glass of champagne, and meet her a bit later on deck 14 the ninth hole, where they held the Diamond get-together.

 

I had requested a specific round table for 8 on deck 4 by the railing, and they have always given me the table, as this is part of the Diamond + amenities.

This was my 7th cruise on the Explorer, and I like sitting at this table and always did.

Well, we noticed that we had been assigned a different table and I saw the maitre d" upon boarding. He reassigned us to the table of our choice, as it was available. We sat there by ourselves the first evening, and we requested that the head waiter would kindly move some other people over, as there were many tables with 2 or 4 people. Instead of doing this we were assigned a different large table for 10 by the window, where only one other couple was seated. They announced that they were only there because it was a formal night, and wouldn't eat in the dining room again, as they didn't care to dresss for dinner.

Our table was between two large tables with young children that were noisy and running around. On our way out we saw the head waiter again and told him we wanted to be seated at our original table, but he said that that table was full now, but the next table had two empty seats and we would be seated there the following night. It turned out someone had given some other people those 2 seats the next night and we were moved again. After 5 different tables in 5 nights, I was so angry that I couldn't fall asleep that night. I remembered my late husband always saying, if you don't get satisfaction at the lower level, you have to go to the top.

Well, I got out of bed and wrote a note to the captain, telling him that there would not be a 42nd cruise on Royal Caribbean for the reasons stated. I also was still waiting for my Diamond Plus cabin amenities, my wine and daily appetizers.

The captain must have made a few phone calls and things started to change. I received my wine and all amenities on day 6, and we were invited to dine with the staff captain on the last formal night, and assigned to a wonderful table for 6 on deck 4 for the last night.

It was a bit late in my opinion, but we had a wonderful time with these 2 couples and we have already e-mailed each other and exchanged photos we took at Dizzie's the last night.

We truly hit it off with these people, although Jean and I are a bit older than they are.

One young man in his thirties e-mailed me today and said that he would have Cosmos with Jean and I anytime.

The captain also invited us to the bridge on the last day, and he apologized for this inexcusable shuffling around in the dining room and the general treatment of a Diamond + member. They gave me an award, and I had to come on stage to receive a beautiful piece of chrystal and a bottle of Champagne. I had no intention of going to the party, but the loyalty ambassador kept calling my cabin and begging me to show up for the event.

 

I have to add a funny note.

As customary, when dining at the captains table the photographer takes a photo of the table and brings it over for the captain to sign and put a personal note on the picture. When the staff captain came around to hand it to us I noticed that this was NOT a photo of our table, as the lady sitting in my seat was a lot younger. We all laughed and thought it was funny. but our host hadn't noticed the mistake and didn't like this one bit. We had the photo sent to our cabins the next day.

 

I also noticed that with each RCCL cruise the quality of food seems to go down, and so does the selection.

 

I felt that the staff was poorly trained, for the most part. There was a lack of communication among the head waiters. I sailed the Explorer in October 2010 and in February 2011 and met a lot of regular well trained staff members, but none of them were on this cruise. They seem to move the experienced crew to the new ships and put the new people on the older ships.

Jean and I met wonderful people, old and young, and we enjoyed ourselves in spite of this.

 

I sent a letter to RCCL telling them about my experience. I'm sailing again on February 10th on the Silhouette of Celebrity cruises. I'm looking forward to this cruise as she is a new ship, and will probably have a better trained staff on board.

 

Ginnie

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My friend Jean and I also sailed on this New Year's cruise in seperate balcony cabins.

I'm a Diamond Plus member, and this was my 41st RCCL cruise. My friend is only Diamond, and wasn't allowed to accompany me to the Concierge Lounge. so I would sometimes go to the lounge by myself for a little appetizer and a glass of champagne, and meet her a bit later on deck 14 the ninth hole, where they held the Diamond get-together.

 

I had requested a specific round table for 8 on deck 4 by the railing, and they have always given me the table, as this is part of the Diamond + amenities.

This was my 7th cruise on the Explorer, and I like sitting at this table and always did.

Well, we noticed that we had been assigned a different table and I saw the maitre d" upon boarding. He reassigned us to the table of our choice, as it was available. We sat there by ourselves the first evening, and we requested that the head waiter would kindly move some other people over, as there were many tables with 2 or 4 people. Instead of doing this we were assigned a different large table for 10 by the window, where only one other couple was seated. They announced that they were only there because it was a formal night, and wouldn't eat in the dining room again, as they didn't care to dresss for dinner.

Our table was between two large tables with young children that were noisy and running around. On our way out we saw the head waiter again and told him we wanted to be seated at our original table, but he said that that table was full now, but the next table had two empty seats and we would be seated there the following night. It turned out someone had given some other people those 2 seats the next night and we were moved again. After 5 different tables in 5 nights, I was so angry that I couldn't fall asleep that night. I remembered my late husband always saying, if you don't get satisfaction at the lower level, you have to go to the top.

Well, I got out of bed and wrote a note to the captain, telling him that there would not be a 42nd cruise on Royal Caribbean for the reasons stated. I also was still waiting for my Diamond Plus cabin amenities, my wine and daily appetizers.

The captain must have made a few phone calls and things started to change. I received my wine and all amenities on day 6, and we were invited to dine with the staff captain on the last formal night, and assigned to a wonderful table for 6 on deck 4 for the last night.

It was a bit late in my opinion, but we had a wonderful time with these 2 couples and we have already e-mailed each other and exchanged photos we took at Dizzie's the last night.

We truly hit it off with these people, although Jean and I are a bit older than they are.

One young man in his thirties e-mailed me today and said that he would have Cosmos with Jean and I anytime.

The captain also invited us to the bridge on the last day, and he apologized for this inexcusable shuffling around in the dining room and the general treatment of a Diamond + member. They gave me an award, and I had to come on stage to receive a beautiful piece of chrystal and a bottle of Champagne. I had no intention of going to the party, but the loyalty ambassador kept calling my cabin and begging me to show up for the event.

 

I have to add a funny note.

As customary, when dining at the captains table the photographer takes a photo of the table and brings it over for the captain to sign and put a personal note on the picture. When the staff captain came around to hand it to us I noticed that this was NOT a photo of our table, as the lady sitting in my seat was a lot younger. We all laughed and thought it was funny. but our host hadn't noticed the mistake and didn't like this one bit. We had the photo sent to our cabins the next day.

 

I also noticed that with each RCCL cruise the quality of food seems to go down, and so does the selection.

 

I felt that the staff was poorly trained, for the most part. There was a lack of communication among the head waiters. I sailed the Explorer in October 2010 and in February 2011 and met a lot of regular well trained staff members, but none of them were on this cruise. They seem to move the experienced crew to the new ships and put the new people on the older ships.

Jean and I met wonderful people, old and young, and we enjoyed ourselves in spite of this.

 

I sent a letter to RCCL telling them about my experience. I'm sailing again on February 10th on the Silhouette of Celebrity cruises. I'm looking forward to this cruise as she is a new ship, and will probably have a better trained staff on board.

 

Ginnie

 

Hi Ginnie! We met and spoke in Concierge Lounge as well as meeting you and Jean in 19th hole! Ron and Cheryl. We truly enjoyed your company and hope to sail with you again someday. Dining room was a mess wasn't it? We ended up eating in the MDR night 1 and 2 - then in Portofino - then the buffet and then the rest of the time in Portofino (4 nights total in Portofino) never returned to dining room! Next time we will have to sit together! Cheryl

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Hi Ginnie! We met and spoke in Concierge Lounge as well as meeting you and Jean in 19th hole! Ron and Cheryl. We truly enjoyed your company and hope to sail with you again someday. Dining room was a mess wasn't it? We ended up eating in the MDR night 1 and 2 - then in Portofino - then the buffet and then the rest of the time in Portofino (4 nights total in Portofino) never returned to dining room! Next time we will have to sit together! Cheryl

 

I remember you too, Ron and Cheryl. You were smarter than we were, but we were hoping each night that they would get their act together. We are both social butterflies and were hoping to find a table with other people. It's different when you are a couple, than when you are widowed and live alone. Cruising for us is a time to meet and mingle with people.

 

It was great meeting you both,

Ginnie

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My friend Jean and I also sailed on this New Year's cruise in seperate balcony cabins.

I'm a Diamond Plus member, and this was my 41st RCCL cruise. My friend is only Diamond, and wasn't allowed to accompany me to the Concierge Lounge. so I would sometimes go to the lounge by myself for a little appetizer and a glass of champagne, and meet her a bit later on deck 14 the ninth hole, where they held the Diamond get-together.

 

I had requested a specific round table for 8 on deck 4 by the railing, and they have always given me the table, as this is part of the Diamond + amenities.

This was my 7th cruise on the Explorer, and I like sitting at this table and always did.

Well, we noticed that we had been assigned a different table and I saw the maitre d" upon boarding. He reassigned us to the table of our choice, as it was available. We sat there by ourselves the first evening, and we requested that the head waiter would kindly move some other people over, as there were many tables with 2 or 4 people. Instead of doing this we were assigned a different large table for 10 by the window, where only one other couple was seated. They announced that they were only there because it was a formal night, and wouldn't eat in the dining room again, as they didn't care to dresss for dinner.

Our table was between two large tables with young children that were noisy and running around. On our way out we saw the head waiter again and told him we wanted to be seated at our original table, but he said that that table was full now, but the next table had two empty seats and we would be seated there the following night. It turned out someone had given some other people those 2 seats the next night and we were moved again. After 5 different tables in 5 nights, I was so angry that I couldn't fall asleep that night. I remembered my late husband always saying, if you don't get satisfaction at the lower level, you have to go to the top.

Well, I got out of bed and wrote a note to the captain, telling him that there would not be a 42nd cruise on Royal Caribbean for the reasons stated. I also was still waiting for my Diamond Plus cabin amenities, my wine and daily appetizers.

The captain must have made a few phone calls and things started to change. I received my wine and all amenities on day 6, and we were invited to dine with the staff captain on the last formal night, and assigned to a wonderful table for 6 on deck 4 for the last night.

It was a bit late in my opinion, but we had a wonderful time with these 2 couples and we have already e-mailed each other and exchanged photos we took at Dizzie's the last night.

We truly hit it off with these people, although Jean and I are a bit older than they are.

One young man in his thirties e-mailed me today and said that he would have Cosmos with Jean and I anytime.

The captain also invited us to the bridge on the last day, and he apologized for this inexcusable shuffling around in the dining room and the general treatment of a Diamond + member. They gave me an award, and I had to come on stage to receive a beautiful piece of chrystal and a bottle of Champagne. I had no intention of going to the party, but the loyalty ambassador kept calling my cabin and begging me to show up for the event.

 

I have to add a funny note.

As customary, when dining at the captains table the photographer takes a photo of the table and brings it over for the captain to sign and put a personal note on the picture. When the staff captain came around to hand it to us I noticed that this was NOT a photo of our table, as the lady sitting in my seat was a lot younger. We all laughed and thought it was funny. but our host hadn't noticed the mistake and didn't like this one bit. We had the photo sent to our cabins the next day.

 

I also noticed that with each RCCL cruise the quality of food seems to go down, and so does the selection.

 

I felt that the staff was poorly trained, for the most part. There was a lack of communication among the head waiters. I sailed the Explorer in October 2010 and in February 2011 and met a lot of regular well trained staff members, but none of them were on this cruise. They seem to move the experienced crew to the new ships and put the new people on the older ships.

Jean and I met wonderful people, old and young, and we enjoyed ourselves in spite of this.

 

I sent a letter to RCCL telling them about my experience. I'm sailing again on February 10th on the Silhouette of Celebrity cruises. I'm looking forward to this cruise as she is a new ship, and will probably have a better trained staff on board.

 

Ginnie

 

Wow. You definitely did the right thing getting the higher-ups involved, and I suppose it is a lesson to be learned to do that in the first place. It now seems that the MDR really was a mess this cruise, but I'm glad you had a nice time on the final couple of nights.

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Great review, wanting more!

 

We leave next month. Can you tell me how many 3 card poker tables and black jack tables they have in the casino?

 

Thanks and keep the review coming!

 

They only have one three card poker table ($5 minimum). There were three multi-deck blackjack tables and one single-deck blackjack table, although not all four were open all the time. All of the blackjack tables were $10 minimums.

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DAY FOUR

Nassau, Bahamas

 

I woke up even before our wake-up call this morning—at 7:40 a.m.—and felt the beautiful, warm sea air from the balcony. Today would be a nice day.

 

I went upstairs to reserve lounge chairs, we did a lap around the jogging track, and then we plopped ourselves by the pool for the morning. We were not scheduled to arrive in Nassau until 2:00 p.m., so we wanted to get as much pool time in as possible.

 

After laying in the sun for a few hours, we decided to head inside and play bingo. We lost (of course) again, but not that many people played today, so we had some extra (false) hope of winning. We ate lunch in the Windjammer and headed back out to the pool. When 2:00 p.m. arrived, the ship had still not docked but was instead sitting in the harbor. We later found out that a Celebrity ship was late leaving port and delayed our arrival. Thus, we did not actually dock until about 3:30 p.m. Also, the captain made an announcement that, due to strong winds, it would be impossible to tender at Coco Cay the following day, so we would remain in Nassau overnight and depart at 4:00 p.m. the following day. Coco Cay was the port we were most looking forward to as beach people, but the captain obviously has no control over the weather, and we had prepared for the possibility that we would not make it to Coco Cay. In fact, the Bahamas experienced a Nor’easter the following day, and the tenders at Coco Cay were actually relocated to a different port.

 

We had booked a private island beach excursion for Nassau—Blackbeard’s Cay—but received notice that this tour had been cancelled due to renovations on the island. Since we arrived in Nassau so late, I doubt we could have gone anyway, so the cancellation ended up making little difference (we were refunded our money). It was about 4:00 p.m. when we finally got off the ship, so we decided against doing a day pass at a hotel and headed to Atlantis. I had been there before, but GF hadn’t, so it was nice to walk around. There is not all that much at Atlantis for public access other than the casino and the high-end shops, both of which were nice, however. I played $20 in roulette and (of course) lost, but I did purchase a $1 chip as a souvenir.

 

We walked onto Cabbage Beach, which is a public beach accessible through a short path from the road just outside Atlantis. This beach was swarming with people offering anything from liquor to lounge chairs to hair-braiding. We didn’t stay very long, as it was already starting to get dark. The beach felt a bit sketchy, and I don’t think I would come here for a full beach day, preferring instead a private resort or hotel. However, this beach is free and public, and there were a ton of tourists enjoying themselves. We put our feet in the water and headed back through Atlantis to get a cab.

 

Once back on the ship, we took another walk on the jogging track. It felt good to counteract all of that eating with some exercise, even if the impact would be slight. At dinner I ordered the for-fee Chops steak. I had ordered it before and really enjoyed it, but this time it seemed very dry. Perhaps that is just the nature of a filet mignon, and I really did enjoy it, but I did ask for steak sauce—something I would seldom do in an upscale steakhouse at home.

 

After dinner we went to the Love and Marriage game show. This has always been a favorite for us, and this show was pretty good. The cruise director Jimmy Rhodes did a good job with the show, and I liked how he removed the spouses from the theater while their respective spouses were answering questions as opposed to having each spouse record their answers on paper while they all sit on stage. The show was funny, but the questions were the same as on previous cruises. It would be nice if they thought of some new questions every now and then, but the show was still entertaining.

 

Tonight was also the midnight buffet and party on the pool deck. We grabbed some dessert from the buffet and brought it up to deck twelve to sit in peace and quiet, enjoying our ice cream and brownies (which we certainly didn’t need). We didn’t really stick around for much of the party, but it was a very nice night, and everyone seemed to be having fun.

 

Before going back to the cabin, we checked out the Viking Crown Lounge and the Skylight Chapel. The Viking Crown Lounge has beautiful views, and I kind of regret not spending more time up here.

 

The winds were picking up—as the captain said they would be—and we decided to call it a night. Another great day aboard Explorer of the Seas.

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DAY FOUR

Nassau, Bahamas

 

I woke up even before our wake-up call this morning—at 7:40 a.m.—and felt the beautiful, warm sea air from the balcony. Today would be a nice day.

 

I went upstairs to reserve lounge chairs, we did a lap around the jogging track, and then we plopped ourselves by the pool for the morning. We were not scheduled to arrive in Nassau until 2:00 p.m., so we wanted to get as much pool time in as possible.

 

After laying in the sun for a few hours, we decided to head inside and play bingo. We lost (of course) again, but not that many people played today, so we had some extra (false) hope of winning. We ate lunch in the Windjammer and headed back out to the pool. When 2:00 p.m. arrived, the ship had still not docked but was instead sitting in the harbor. We later found out that a Celebrity ship was late leaving port and delayed our arrival. Thus, we did not actually dock until about 3:30 p.m. Also, the captain made an announcement that, due to strong winds, it would be impossible to tender at Coco Cay the following day, so we would remain in Nassau overnight and depart at 4:00 p.m. the following day. Coco Cay was the port we were most looking forward to as beach people, but the captain obviously has no control over the weather, and we had prepared for the possibility that we would not make it to Coco Cay. In fact, the Bahamas experienced a Nor’easter the following day, and the tenders at Coco Cay were actually relocated to a different port.

 

We had booked a private island beach excursion for Nassau—Blackbeard’s Cay—but received notice that this tour had been cancelled due to renovations on the island. Since we arrived in Nassau so late, I doubt we could have gone anyway, so the cancellation ended up making little difference (we were refunded our money). It was about 4:00 p.m. when we finally got off the ship, so we decided against doing a day pass at a hotel and headed to Atlantis. I had been there before, but GF hadn’t, so it was nice to walk around. There is not all that much at Atlantis for public access other than the casino and the high-end shops, both of which were nice, however. I played $20 in roulette and (of course) lost, but I did purchase a $1 chip as a souvenir.

 

We walked onto Cabbage Beach, which is a public beach accessible through a short path from the road just outside Atlantis. This beach was swarming with people offering anything from liquor to lounge chairs to hair-braiding. We didn’t stay very long, as it was already starting to get dark. The beach felt a bit sketchy, and I don’t think I would come here for a full beach day, preferring instead a private resort or hotel. However, this beach is free and public, and there were a ton of tourists enjoying themselves. We put our feet in the water and headed back through Atlantis to get a cab.

 

Once back on the ship, we took another walk on the jogging track. It felt good to counteract all of that eating with some exercise, even if the impact would be slight. At dinner I ordered the for-fee Chops steak. I had ordered it before and really enjoyed it, but this time it seemed very dry. Perhaps that is just the nature of a filet mignon, and I really did enjoy it, but I did ask for steak sauce—something I would seldom do in an upscale steakhouse at home.

 

After dinner we went to the Love and Marriage game show. This has always been a favorite for us, and this show was pretty good. The cruise director Jimmy Rhodes did a good job with the show, and I liked how he removed the spouses from the theater while their respective spouses were answering questions as opposed to having each spouse record their answers on paper while they all sit on stage. The show was funny, but the questions were the same as on previous cruises. It would be nice if they thought of some new questions every now and then, but the show was still entertaining.

 

Tonight was also the midnight buffet and party on the pool deck. We grabbed some dessert from the buffet and brought it up to deck twelve to sit in peace and quiet, enjoying our ice cream and brownies (which we certainly didn’t need). We didn’t really stick around for much of the party, but it was a very nice night, and everyone seemed to be having fun.

 

Before going back to the cabin, we checked out the Viking Crown Lounge and the Skylight Chapel. The Viking Crown Lounge has beautiful views, and I kind of regret not spending more time up here.

 

The winds were picking up—as the captain said they would be—and we decided to call it a night. Another great day aboard Explorer of the Seas.

 

While I know alot of places celebrated the holiday on Monday January 2 - as Nassau did - I found it kind of odd that most (probably 90%) of the stores were closed in town on this day. If you wanted high end jewelery they were open (Diamonds International etc) but Liquor, perfume etc all closed. I would have thought enough ships in port to warrent being open. Or did we jusgt dock/arrive too late?

Edited by LovesCruising

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While I know alot of places celebrated the holiday on Monday January 2 - as Nassau did - I found it kind of odd that most (probably 90%) of the stores were closed in town on this day. If you wanted high end jewelery they were open (Diamonds International etc) but Liquor, perfume etc all closed. I would have thought enough ships in port to warrent being open. Or did we jusgt dock/arrive too late?

 

I doubt the stores ordinarily close by 4 p.m., at which time we had already debarked. I guess the store owners wanted to take a holiday, even if it meant losing out on cruise passenger business. Nassau probably has multiple ships everyday, so I suppose they didn't care that much.

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DAY FIVE

Nassau, Bahamas

 

I felt a cold gust of wind hitting my face as I leaned over our balcony this morning. It was VERY windy, and I could now see why the captain said there was absolutely no way we could have tendered at Coco Cay. In fact, the captain told us that the winds were even stronger at Coco Cay (which is sixty miles to the north of Nassau). We were disappointed with this itinerary change, but the circumstances were obviously uncontrollable, and I didn’t hear many other people complain about it either.

 

I headed up to the pool to see whether it would be too windy to sit up there. The temperature was only in the 60s, and with the wind it felt even colder. Most of the lounge chairs even on the main pool deck had been folded up or removed so that they would not blow around. I did, however, find one section on the pool deck with significantly less wind next to the pool bar (this area was protected by part of the ship) but still in the sun. When the sun was shining it was nice, and we were relatively protected from the wind.

 

We plopped ourselves down on our chairs; there were only a few people out on the pool deck, even though it wasn’t that early. We had slept in a little bit and couldn’t decide on any excursions we wanted to do. Normally, we would have purchased a day pass at one of the hotels, but it was so windy that we figured it wouldn’t be as enjoyable. I’d like to check out the Hilton, since it is within walking distance of the dock and looks very nice, but for $55/person it had better be beautiful weather. We did the Sheraton last year, but we figured the weather did not really make for a great beach day. Since we were not going to go to the beach and hadn’t seen any excursions in which we were interested, we decided to just stay on the ship again.

 

We went into the hot tub for awhile, and when we came out we participated in a baggo competition (basically just throwing bean bags into a hole in a board). We were the only two contestants (until a third came in late), and I won (hey, it’s still an accomplishment!). All three of us got RCI waterproof wallets, which were actually immediately useful, as I used mine to store my digital camera.

 

We laid by the pool some more, had lunch in the Windjammer (they actually had some really good Asian selections), and came back out to the pool. By the afternoon the wind had become even colder, and the sun was hiding behind the clouds. We left the pool deck and explored the ship some more (I didn’t want to miss any parts of the ship). We went back to the room and then came up to the pool deck again. It was much colder at this point, and we sat down in our lounge chairs but covered our entire bodies with towels and sweatshirts. One of the activities directors saw us and told us that we were crazy. I guess when you work on a cruise ship sailing the Bahamas and Caribbean, you are not too motivated to make the best of a chilly Bahamian day. We, on the other hand, knew that when we got home we’d be wishing for a cold Bahamian day (as compared to a cold New York City day).

 

After awhile, we came back to the room and took a short nap. It actually felt nice to recharge, and there was very little going on around the ship—since we were in port—so we were not missing much. After our nap, we headed to the C&A Welcome Back party being held in the Palace Theater. We have enjoyed these parties in the past, so we were looking forward to this one. The party didn’t start until 5:00 p.m., but there were a lot of people waiting to enter the theater well before that time. I noticed that this happened a lot, but I suppose there is not much RCI can do—if they open the doors early, then people will start to line up even earlier. The member of the cruise director’s staff collecting invitations assured everyone that there were enough seats and drinks for us all, but that did not stop someone in a motor scooter from driving over my foot to get in!

 

We were supposed to leave Nassau at 4:30 p.m.—the captain had made several announcements over the last twenty-four hours. However, at 4:45 p.m., the captain announced that there were a few passengers missing and that he was going to wait a few minutes for them. We found out later (from the Captain’s Corner program, which was broadcasted on our TVs) that these people were stuck in the security checkpoint in the Nassau terminal (a very congested and slow-moving place), and they had called Miami to ask them to ask the ship to wait. I believe everyone did get back in time, so a potential crisis was averted; we sailed a little bit after 5:00 p.m.

 

In the past, C&A receptions have had finger foods and have included lots of officers thanking cruisers for their loyalty. This reception, however, had no food (not that we needed it, but we were looking forward to some mini egg rolls). Two RCI singers performed for about twenty minutes, and after that, the hotel director apologized for missing Coco Cay for five minutes and then showed us the new Shellphone commercial. He made it like we were watching something only shown to a select group, but this commercial—along with the interviews from RCI executives—had been e-mailed to all C&A members weeks before. They then showed the commercial a second time, and the Loyalty Ambassador spoke for about fifteen minutes about the RCI Visa credit card and future cruise booking. We had a few free drinks—which was certainly nice—but this Welcome Back reception felt much more like a sales pitch than a party. The music was nice, and they did give awards to two cruisers with the most RCI cruise nights, but the Welcome Back party should not just be a sales pitch. I understand that they need to promote their products, but a few minutes about the credit card and future bookings would have been enough.

 

We then went to check out the dinner menu, but there was not much that really stood out to us. We hadn’t planned on going to Portofino (we weren’t crazy about it on Liberty), but we wanted to just see whether they had any open tables. They were completely booked for the rest of the cruise, but they put us on the waiting list and told us that we might be able to get in after 9:00 p.m. Before showering, I went up again and spoke to the Portofino manager. He said that he could possibly get us in by 9:30 p.m. We really wanted to eat earlier—closer to 8:30 p.m.—since we wanted to make Quest at 11:15 p.m. After shaking hands with a $10 bill, he assured me that we would not starve. ☺

 

We showered, made a donation to the casino (we had to make up for not playing the day before!), and headed up to Portofino. The manager told us that he would have us in shortly, and we were seated by 8:50 p.m. (not bad for a completely booked restaurant).

 

Portofino was absolutely amazing! Last time, the meal lasted almost three hours; this was too long for us, so we told our waiters that we wanted to be out by 11:00 p.m., a request they happily accommodated. We each got caesar salads (which they prepared tableside) and shared a fried zuchini appetizer for two. This appetizer was absolutely amazing, although it was really only enough for one person if that is all you were getting. I also got the risotto ai gambereti, which was great. The bread was also delicious, but I tried not to fill up. For our main courses, GF ordered a pasta dish (excellent) and lamb chops (also excellent). I got a porterhouse and the gamberoni main dish, which came with a tiny lobster tail, shrimp, scallops, and salmon. Both of these entrees were amazing, although I did have to pay an additional $10 (on top of the $20/person) for the second entrée. GF was not charged an additional fee, however, since the waiter said you could order meat and pasta for the regular cover charge but not two meat dishes. There was no way I was only going to order one (I’m on vacation!), so I just bit the bullet and forked up the extra cash. For dessert, we got the sampler, but we were way too full to enjoy it. Overall, this was our best dinner of the cruise, and I highly recommend Portofino to anyone considering it. It is annoying to have to pay an extra fee for dinner—especially when the MDR is free—but $55 (with a small extra tip) for the meal we had would have cost five times that on land, so I’d say it was worth every penny.

 

We got out of dinner in time for Quest. While I had been on five prior RCI cruises, I had never actually made it to Quest. We were determined to make it this time, and we were not disappointed. Apparently it is CC taboo to mention any of the Quest challenges, but I will say that it is an adult scavenger hunt, and many contestants did not keep all (or even most) of their clothes on for part of the show. We didn’t really contribute to our team—except for the parts during which every had to dance—but it was great fun and we will definitely go again.

 

Since it was so windy, the ship was really rocking tonight—more so than any other time during the cruise. We saw vomit outside of the ladies room on our way back, and I heard others talking about how they were feeling seasick.

 

We were both really tired, so we went back to the room and went to bed. There were far fewer activities today, since we were in port. Had we known about the weather and itinerary change, we probably would have planned something to do in port, but we just rolled with the flow and didn’t have a desire to get off the ship again. We really do enjoy getting off at the ports, but on a non-beach day, walking through the congested terminal and fighting 40 mph winds ashore did not really appeal to us. Tomorrow would be our first of two consecutive sea days, and we were ready for it with our Compass heavily marked up with things we wanted to do.

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