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Explorer OTS and kids/teens (vs CCL Dream)


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Our family's road trip for next summer (assuming I will ever be allowed to leave my state...) is wrapping around a cruise out of Galveston.  I had my eyes on Carnival Dream, but with room inventory so low for our weird group (9 people in three staterooms) I also decided to look at other lines.

 

Explorer OTS has a cruise on 5/19 that would work out well timing wise and the cost is similar (though one day shorter-Dream is six), as are the ports.

Comparing ships is like buying mattresses...  but while I see Explorer has rock wall and Flow Rider, they don't seem to have a waterslide area/kids pool area.

 

My group is me, DH, "kids" 20, 18, 16, 15, 10, 8, and my mother (70's).  
Food is a big deal and we loved Guy's and Blue Iguana on Carnival Valor, but the Promenade looks like fun, too.

(In any case it will be state rooms with 4, 3 (Gma and two teen girls), and 2 adult boys in their own.)

 

AGH - I can't decide. 

 

Can anyone comment on things for kids to do on Explorer OTS without a fabulous pool set up?

THANK YOU!

Edited by Vacationdreamer<><
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2 hours ago, Vacationdreamer<>< said:

Can anyone comment on things for kids to do on Explorer OTS without a fabulous pool set up?

Other than the slide you'll have more things for the kids on Explorer but you won't have Guy's. Unless the food is that important, go with Explorer.

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Thank you for your response!

 

6 minutes ago, Biker19 said:

Unless the food is that important, go with Explorer.

 

We enjoy dinner in traditional dining room style.  The "fun food" on deck is important, but not as important as the dining rooms.  I'm assuming RCCL has wonderful dining room meals.... would you say they do?

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We have been on Adventure (which I believe is Explorer's sister ship) and loved it.  We went with four kids, my sister and father in law.  So we have a wide range of ages too. In fact, we loved it so much we went on Adventure a second time.  We felt that there was plenty to do for our family.  We like to do things together and not have the kids doing their own thing so they never went to the kids club.  It's our vacation and we really enjoy the lack of internet and time together.  

 

We have also been on the Dream.  We personally did not have a great experience.  It was our first with Carnival and we probably won't cruise with them again.  We have all boys, so a big thing for us is the food.  The boys love to get several entrees and try new things.  They always eat everything unless it is something that they don't like.  On Adventure the servers were always happy to let them try new things and even brought us extra when we didn't ask for it.  We always had our preferred drinks on the table when we arrived for dinner.  In fact, the second time we went on Adventure was a year later and our server from the prior cruise still remembered our name!  When we were on the Dream the server was very rude.  When our boys tried to order more than one appetizer, the scoffed an would only bring them one.  My son ordered chicken one night and there were two chicken dishes.  The server brought him the wrong one.  When my son asked for the other one the server fought with him and insisted that is the one he ordered.  I know I should have asked for a different table so I am responsible for that.   

 

Also, we felt that the Dream did not have a lot of family entertainment that we could do together.  Although, I have to say, when we were on the Adventure it was going out of Puerto Rico and we only had one sea day.  So, maybe it would be different with more sea days.  But I did feel like the Adventure had more family oriented activities.  There were ice skating shows and movies during the day on sea days which I don't remember the Dream offering.  We didn't use the rock wall but my nephew loved the flowrider.  They also liked the sport court.  They played basketball a lot and of course mini golf.  I don't remember a dull moment on the ship.  However, on the Dream I felt like we spent a lot of time in our room trying to figure out what to do.  

 

Our boys loved Guys hamburgers and the Blue Iguana! That was the only thing that they have ever said that they liked on that ship besides the 24 hour ice cream. We never really went on the waterslides because it seemed like they were closed a lot.  The shows were really corny and low budget in my opinion.  We definitely enjoyed the meals in the MDR wayyy more on Adventure.  There were several meals in the MDR on the Dream that we didn't like and felt like it was kind of gross.  I also didn't feel that there were many places in the MDR where we could enjoy the ocean either.  When we first arrived on the boat, I went to the dining room and asked for a table by the water.  They refused.  My father in law uses a wheelchair.  He can walk, but it is hard for him.  So, I asked for a table that was easy for him to access.  I was told that he would have to go all the way around this hallway to get him to a dark table in the corner.  We were really disappointed in that because our family dinners on cruises are always super special to us since we aren't able to get together as much during the year.  It just was a poor experience overall.  Again, it could have just been us and since it was our only time on Carnival, we may not be the best to ask. 🙂

 

I guess it is personal preference.  We are in CA and have considered the Panorama, but I am leery because of our experience on the Dream.  

 

What were your thoughts on the Caribbean Princess?  We are considering that one for next year and have never been on Princess.  We were canceled because of Covid while at the port waiting to get on the ship, so we have lots of FCC!  Did you bring your kids with you?

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Thank you so much for your detailed response.  Wow.  That is disappointing about the Dream!  We had a very different experience on Valor.  Our wait staff was very good.  My oldest has food allergies and they met that well.  We did have a dark corner, BUT it ended up being near a quiet exit toward a bathroom - so it ended up perfect.  We also had a good view for the nightly dancing by the staff and the parade of baked Alaska.  😉
My DD15 (then) is huge into trying new things (frog legs, ox tongue) etc., and she delighted in the unusual offerings.  I ordered two desserts almost every night. It would have been an exceptional disappointment if the dinners had been bad.

 

I did the Princess cruises with just me and another mom friend.  Both were awesome, but I'm not sure I can recommend them for families.  I suspect smaller kids who enjoy clubs would be fine, bc they do get great reviews for kids' programming.  But there really wasn't much in the way of "activities."   In general shows aren't really my thing, but we do like Movies.  MUTS is fun, but that is always subject to what is showing.  Maybe for a port intensive cruise.... but I'd probably look at other options, too.  


Did your kids actually make time to do ice skating?  

 

My big kids never liked clubs when they were younger, but my youngest two loved Camp Ocean on Valor last year.  The staff was very engaging.  Kids' clubs aren't a deal breaker for me, though.  We spend much of our time together, like you say.  

 

Thank you!

 

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45 minutes ago, Biker19 said:

Other than the slide you'll have more things for the kids on Explorer but you won't have Guy's. Unless the food is that important, go with Explorer.

Biker always gives good advice imo.

 

One thing to consider is rcl is more flexible, though I'm guessing as you said this might be last road trip with the boys wouldnt work at a later time. Rcl has cwc, cruise with confidence and even if you booked non refundable deposits, allows you to cancel or move the cruise to another date within 48 hours of sailing, I'd give 3 business days, but carnival right now is far less flexible than rcl. Though you get future cruise certificates, not a refund, at least rcl gives you the flexibility to move the cruise date.

 

I loved the promenade myself. There is a cafe down there that had biscotti I liked and and it has breakfast and lunch items. Get the pizza here, not up on the buffet, grab it when it comes out of the oven. There will be some open ice skating times for the kids. As I remember the main pool area has two large pools not one like on carnival and the solarium area is better, more seating. Carnival I can never find seating at their tiny spa area and unless you have someone saving seats impossible. Pool areas to me superior on rcl. 

 

Perks are better on rcl long term.

 

Sounds like it comes down to slides on ccl, vs rcl who has more flexible booking options and better pools. Food is subjective. Both dining rooms offer about the same food. The buffet on rcl for dinner had cheap steak every night I used to get rather than the long time to eat in Mdr. I preferred the buffet on rcl. I didnt particularly like the desserts on ccl, the icing just tasted like lard to me, cookies were better and soft kn rcl.

20200809_111208395.jpeg

Edited by firefly333
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36 minutes ago, Vacationdreamer<>< said:

Thank you for your response!

 

 

We enjoy dinner in traditional dining room style.  The "fun food" on deck is important, but not as important as the dining rooms.  I'm assuming RCCL has wonderful dining room meals.... would you say they do?


Food is very subjective...many times my wife and I have ordered the same thing at a restaurant and I will love it and my wife will say it was only okay, or vice versa. However, we both agree the food in the MDR on RCI is better than the food in the MDR on Carnival, which we both like. 
 

There are three reasons why we both prefer the MDR on RCI. First, the food just tastes better on RCI. We have never ordered something we didn’t like on RCI, which we can’t say about Carnival.  Second, the menus are better on RCI. They have more options available every night and it is often difficult to decide what to order, even when ordering multiple appetizers and/or entrees. On the other hand there have been multiple times we have gone to a speciality restaurant on a Carnival ship because nothing looked appealing on the MDR menu for that night.   Third, and this may not matter to you, but RCI still uses table clothes in the MDR every night of the cruise. In my opinion this enhances the experience and is definitely something we miss on casual nights on Carnival ships. 

Edited by PhillyFan33579
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5 minutes ago, PhillyFan33579 said:

Food is very subjective

 

So true.  But I am not a foodie, so I am not hard to please.  My family is the same.   We can even handle "just ok" for one meal here or that.  Sounds like I wouldn't be disappointed with Explorer OTS.  Thank you.
 

 

I see RCCL has some far forward Ultra Spacious Ocean View rooms available, which takes me back to the question I started with on Carnival's page.... will far forward be "ok."  

The only time I had problems was after a forward interior voyage on Caribbean Princess.  Post-disembarkation I spent four days sleeping off "mal de disembarquement" or some such seasickness.  I would hate to do that to my mom.  

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The younger kids did ice skate.  It was fun and gave us something else to do on sea days.   Mainly though, our sea days were about food.  They loved trying all the different foods too!  If it sounds weird, my kids want to try it.  I think they ate a hundred cheesecake pops (or maybe that was me 😉 ) . I'm sad that they didn't have those last year on Allure.  

 

I always feel like on RC we get great oceanview seats in the MDR.  We always have early dining and watching the sun go down while we eat dinner is pretty special to us.  Man, I am missing our yearly family cruise!!  

 

We decided to try Princess because we could drive to the ship and it was a surprise for our son's 14th birthday.  We didn't tell him until we got a couple of blocks away from the port.  He thought we were going to his grandpa's house.  He now says it was the best and worst birthday surprise ever!  lol!  Anyway, they gave us all our money back and a lot of FCC since we were sitting in the terminal for eight hours before they cancelled.  It won't cost us anything  except taxes to go on Princess.  I think we will wait for Enchanted Princess though in 2022 during spring break or Royal in 2022 out of LA.  

 

 

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21 minutes ago, jp2746 said:

Man, I am missing our yearly family cruise!!  

 

I'm sorry.

Oddly enough, we had planned to skip a family vacation this year to put some attention (coff-coff- money) into our house.  We instead updated a bathroom.  That said, I've had to cancel one NCL cruise and one MSC cruise the last few years when our plans abruptly changed.

 

Wow - when was that Princess trip supposed to be?  Glad you didn't get stuck ON the ship! 😲

 

Do you get oceanview seating in the MDR with a large group?  That impresses me.  We've never had dinner near a window on any ship.  

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If far forward bothered you before it could again. You can buy chewable bonine at krogers or some place, but may waves should not be high. Seasickness is different for different wave motions. Some reaction to one motion who never reacted before .. it's very individual. I buy chewable, because if I am in big waves and react pills dont sit well with me. But may isn't big hurricane wave season.

 

Those ultra spacious ov cabins are nice... hard to know if you will react again. Takes some really big waves to bother me and I never reacted once back on land like you did. 

 

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Ok.  I'm calling my TA in the morning and have her run "official" numbers.  I need the rates that allow for cancellation until PIF.  We've had too many cancellations through our lifetime to have non-refundable anything.

 

It sounds like I can't go wrong with either venture.  The dates for Explorer are a wee bit better, but it is one less day on the ship.

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1 minute ago, firefly333 said:

If far forward bothered you before it could again. You can buy chewable bonine at krogers or some place, but may waves should not be high. Seasickness is different for different wave motions. Some reaction to one motion who never reacted before .. it's very individual. I buy chewable, because if I am in big waves and react pills dont sit well with me. But may isn't big hurricane wave season.

 

Those ultra spacious ov cabins are nice... hard to know if you will react again. Takes some really big waves to bother me and I never reacted once back on land like you did. 

 

 

I've been on three cruises since, but haven't been high and forward again.  My mom has a history of Meniere's disease, so I wonder if that would predispose her.

Honestly - I see that I could have (as of now) three OV for the almost the same as the ultra spacious and I'd rather offer my mom an ocean view than an interior.  ♥

(8121/8123/8500 vs 2300/2302/2304) 

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5 minutes ago, firefly333 said:

Takes some really big waves to bother me and I never reacted once back on land like you did. 

 

Our last night at sea we were really rocking and rolling.  I was trying to watch MUTS and the water was pouring out of the pool and the empty chairs were sliding.  The staff was picking up any seat that people were not in.

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7 hours ago, Vacationdreamer<>< said:

Ok.  I'm calling my TA in the morning and have her run "official" numbers.  I need the rates that allow for cancellation until PIF.  We've had too many cancellations through our lifetime to have non-refundable anything.

 

It sounds like I can't go wrong with either venture.  The dates for Explorer are a wee bit better, but it is one less day on the ship.

Don't count out Liberty. Since Allure is on hold until 2022 they are putting Liberty in it's place. Much more to do on Liberty vs Explore and a bit larger. Liberty has a open three story MDR and it might be easier to get a window view. We always try for a table along the balcony overlooking the the lower two decks on Royal ships. happy cruising

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7 hours ago, Vacationdreamer<>< said:

 

I'm sorry.

Oddly enough, we had planned to skip a family vacation this year to put some attention (coff-coff- money) into our house.  We instead updated a bathroom.  That said, I've had to cancel one NCL cruise and one MSC cruise the last few years when our plans abruptly changed.

 

Wow - when was that Princess trip supposed to be?  Glad you didn't get stuck ON the ship! 😲

 

Do you get oceanview seating in the MDR with a large group?  That impresses me.  We've never had dinner near a window on any ship.  

We were supposed to be on the Princess ship out of LA March 7th.  We checked our luggage and waited eight hours with no food.  Everyone in the terminal was getting hangry since we were all expecting to go to a buffet as soon as we got on the boat so no one had eaten breakfast!  Anyway, we rescheduled for March 14th and that one was cancelled too.  So, Princess really took care of us.  I have the video of my son being so surprised and in disbelief that I had packed and hid the suitcases in the trunk without him even knowing.  Then... well...it didn't turn out to be so much fun.  lol

 

Yes, we have a group of 8 and I always go to the MDR on the first day after boarding to ask for a window seat or an ocean view.  With the exception of that one Carnival cruise, I have always been able to make sure we have a view of the ocean.  However, I felt on the Dream the dining room was really dark and there wasn't a great view anywhere.  Maybe it was the level we were on?  I can't tell you how much we look forward to our dinners together.  My father in law lives in Chicago so all of us getting together is something we really look forward to.  I had to stop looking at our previous cruise pictures the other day because it was too depressing.  

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35 minutes ago, taglovestocruise said:

Don't count out Liberty. Since Allure is on hold until 2022 they are putting Liberty in it's place. Much more to do on Liberty vs Explore and a bit larger. Liberty has a open three story MDR and it might be easier to get a window view. We always try for a table along the balcony overlooking the the lower two decks on Royal ships. happy cruising

I'll look at Liberty.  I need Galveston for 5/6 nights though.  
Thank you!

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34 minutes ago, jp2746 said:

it was too depressing.

 

I'm sorry - I understand this.

At the start of this lockdown, I focused on making books of prior trips (a girls' trip to WDW was in Nov).  Then I did started an album from a cruise in 2016 we never made a book for.  Then when lockdown persisted I had to walk away.  I'm in NY.  I still can't go anywhere... 😛 unless I want to quarantine afterward.  So we are camping again next week.  

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