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Review - RCI Explorer


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Background Information

We have cruised 2 other times, both on Celebrity Summit, so comparisums are unavoidable to a point. In addition, this is our first cruise with our children (7 and 9) so we knew that we would have a different experience. In the end, we enjoyed the cruise. My wife put it best when talking to her friends on the cell on the way home... a cruise is either a great place to take the kids, or a great place to go alone, but not a great place to try to do both at once. Nothing negative to RCI here directly, just the perspective that we are coming from. I felt like I needed a day off to unwind after we got back.

Ship Info

The ship is BIG... and it was sold out (or at least seemed to be). There is no question that it is a beautiful ship, with tons of things to do. Even after 5 days we were still discovering things. As impressive as the ship is, it seemed very crowded at times. This was most acute during breakfast and lunch at the Windjammer (buffer) on Deck 11. It seemed that everything took a while, and that they were often running out of popular items. Of course, it may be tough when 2000 people come to a buffet at the same time, but that is the nature of a populated ship and we felt that they could have been better prepared for it. The popular sports things were always a wait... rock climbing especially. The kids camp was great, but the check in and check out seemed to take forever.... same with debarkation at the off ramp... but on a big cruise on a big ship during high season, I guess you have to expect some to this.... we just felt that RCI may have had better solutions to handling the crowds.

The list of things to do is impressive, and many unique... ice shows, ice skating, inline skating, rock climbing, miniture golf course, running track, water slide (for kids), on board open (5 deck high!) shopping promenade with restaurants and shops, all sorts of bars and clubs (not that we spent that much time in them with the boys along)... and all the usual things on the big ships like a gym and spa and pools etc.

One observation is that the ship seems to need better upkeep. We did see an occasional crew cleaning, but rarely, and not in the common areas. So, with all the activity on the ship, it should have been cleaned more. It wasn't that the ship was dirty, just seemed to be showing it's age a lot more than the Summit.


See above, but there is a lot to do in terms of facilities. We felt that the social / cruise directors (the cute and ultra pert even at midnight Ashley Kerr)activities were lacking. There was bingo, and an occasional stalwart like 'name that tune', but not much of the more boutique things that we enjoy like cooking classes, or demonstrations. It also seemed that if there ever were 2 things that we wanted to do, that they were invariably at the same time... I should probably note that over the course of the cruise, there was a nice variety of things, but they only seemed to happen once... example.. the belly flop contest... fun and well attended on the pool deck. This, or something like it, would have been a great daily dish.

These is lot to do a night including the usual shows, but almost all of it is centered in the clubs and bars. We discovered a GREAT guitarist in the Crown and Anchor (British style pub) on the promenade named... Kenny B... the guy could jam! but his set was 10 - 1 and we got there on the way back from late seating and the boys was passing out, so we didn't get to stay. I think if it was just my wife and I was would have taken more advantage of the clubs and bars. The Chamber, spanning the 4 th and 5th deck seemed like a very cool place, and hosted the 'disco party' one night.


This pales in comparisum to Celebrity. (there I said it).. both in terms of quality and quantity... our stateroom attendent was fine... but he had to cover so many rooms that it took him 15 - 20 minutes to get to us at times (and for minor things like ice and water). The dining room service was the same... one over extended waiter and an even more overextended assitant waiter. The head waiter was very friendly and nice and made good conversation but did little to aleviate the need for more staff. The general staff around the ship was professional and helpful. A special mention to the people at the ice rink who were very nice and went out of their way to help us out.

Shore Excursions

We basically got the 2 day bus pass (the cheapest way by far to get around in Bermuda), and went all over. We'd hit a beach for an hour, then get back on and check out something else. We were only docked for about 30 hours, so we tried to get around as much as possible.

For us, I would skip Hamilton in the future.. it's a city... with guys in shorts and knee high socks... (cute outfit!)... but it's still a city with some very expensive shops with things that you can buy most anywhere, let alone at any other Carribean port.

Horsehoe Beach was beautiful as promised, but we enjoyed Elbow Beach (nearby) just as much. Both beaches were packed. There was a beach within a short walk from the dock call 'Snorkel Beach' which was adequate for snorkeling and swimming but not one of the tour book types.


on a 1 - 5, I'd give this a 3.5 overall. There was nothing singular to complain about, and maybe because it was a shorter cruise, and / or we were with our kids... we never seemed to really get our 'cruise groove' on, like we have on 7 and 14 day cruises. Naturally we met some nice people (you always do) and the kids had a great adventure. Do not take this cruise if you don't want to be around kids... of 3500 on the ship, 1000 were under 18.

Travel To Port of Embarkation

We live near Phila Pa, so we drove to Bayonne. It was easy to get there and except for a traffic jam, the last 1/2 mile up to the drop off, it was fine. They need to get a better system of segregating drop off and pick up and getting to long term parking. It's a mess now... but convenient and easy to use.


on the small side compared to a similar class on the Summit... but functional, but ours smelled like smoke. After asking 3x or stateroom attendent came and sprayed it down with something that smelled equally bad. We spend most of the trip with the balcony door open (no great when it was as humid as it was). The room was very standard fare... Long, thin, little storage, small functional bathroom (with the darn light on the outside... WHEN WILL THEY FIGURE OUT TO PUT THE LIGHTSWITCH ON THE INSIDE OF THE BATHROOM!?!?!?!?!?...


The food is good / very good. Not great. The menu seemed to be a bit limited, but they had the standard one of everything... 1 meat, 1 chicken, 1 fish, 1 vegtable... we consistently found that the appetizers were the best part of the meal.. the oatmeal raison cookies were really good too... overall, the food was not something we talked about after we got home where as in the past we have raved about some meals. But no one went hungry and there is a chance to eat a all hours somewhere on the ship. I lost 3 pounds on the cruise...

Children's Clubs

Our 2 boys spent the sea days here... the boy one 9 .. loved it... he wanted to go back even after it was closed... the little one 7... was ambivalent. It think it was more that he wanted to be with us, rather then didn't like the camp. The camp has a great variety of activities with purpose (not just hide and seek type stuff) including science and art project as well as games. It is a very good program. Definitely worth it and a safe place to put your kids for part or all of the day. The only complaint was that it took forever to sign them in and out each time.


pretty standard cruise fare. the RCI singers and dancers were very professional, even if the shows seemed very dated to me... Dirty Dancing scene? but overall they were well done and enjoyable. The Ice Show .. Planet Ice is Excellent and a Must see if you are on the cruise. In fact we went to see it twice. Amazing what they can do on such a small rink... and with elaborate costumes and props. The music on the crusie was varied and strong ranging from jazz to disco, to island. The party band at the pool was good, but never really seemed to engage the crowd.


Well done. It's always a headache, but give RCI credit here... it was organized and ran well. We were off the ship and in our car by 945. (we were the 6th / purple tag of 12? that went off.)

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Hi there - Just read your thread and was glad to hear that all went well on your trip. My husb and I are sailing out on 9/17/06 on the Explorer to Bermuda...Kidless I might add...YAHOO!!!! I have a quick question for you. Our room was upgraded to an Oceanview on deck 2, right near the entertainment complex..are you able to tell me exactly what goes on in there. I'm hoping that there is no wee hours nightly entertainment. Thanks in advance.

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we were deck 8 forward (8540) and we were just about even with The Palace (the big multi-level theatre) and also within earshot of the Promenade, and we never had any noise issues. Youre room seems very similar to ours.


the room doors are pretty heavy duty metal and shield almost all noise.


I can't imagine you have problems with this.


As for the kids... enjoy yourselves. Sept is a great time to go... not quite as hot.

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Thanks for posting a review. We are going on this cruise Oct 1 with our daughters who are 6 and 4. I've never been on a ship this big before, so I am a little concerned about the crowding issues. It's always nice to read a balanced review. Glad everyone had a reasonably good time.

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with 3500 people you know there are going to be some crowds... it was the biggest hassle on the cruise, but not insurmountable. It is limited mostly to meals and the most popular things... all in all, it's a good family cruise... I would presume Oct 1 you would a LOT less kids since school will be in and the ship may be less crowded overall as well.

bon voyage

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I am hoping our sailing won't be as crowded. I picked this week since the kids have one day off already for Yom Kippur so they're only missing 4 days instead of 5--not sure that makes a huge difference, but every little bit helps. I'm sure I'm not the only one with this idea.

Now I have a couple of questions! :D

Did you buy your transportation passes on the ship or when you were in Bermuda? How much were the passes for the kids?

Once you docked, how long did it take you to get off the ship? I have my day planned (weather permitting) and would like to get on a ferry and going as quickly as possible. Any tips there?

Did you do room service at all? One of the best parts of cruising for us is having room service breakfast every morning on the balcony. Do you know if the menu for breakfast includes hot foods or is it continental only?

Thanks for any information. Really appreciate it. Looking forward to our cruise in just about 1 month!

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I am hoping our sailing won't be as crowded. I picked this week since the kids have one day off already for Yom Kippur so they're only missing 4 days instead of 5--not sure that makes a huge difference, but every little bit helps. I'm sure I'm not the only one with this idea.

Now I have a couple of questions! :D!


You would think it would not be as crowded. At least with Americans. Sometimes you get more Europeans and others (which is fine too). I would have to think that there would be les children at that point.

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the ship or when you were in Bermuda? How much were the passes for the kids?


You can buy them at the Service Desk (the same one where they sell shore excusions). When we were there they sold out of 1 day ones a bit quickly, but had plenty of 2 and 3 day ones.


Either way, they are available right ourside of the ship as well at a sales office. It's about 100 yards to the right as you get off the ship.


The prices are the same at either. The only advantage of buying on the ship is that you can charge to your room if that is an advantage to you.

off the boat is cash only (US$ or Bermudan $$)


One day adult = $12 One day child = $6

two day adult = $20 two day child = $10


bascially child is 1/2 of adult.

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Once you docked, how long did it take you to get off the ship? I have my day planned (weather permitting) and would like to get on a ferry and going as quickly as possible. Any tips there?


It was busy once we first docked about 8am since people were waiting to get off, but by 10 am it flowed pretty well. You have to get all the way down to deck 1 rear to get off which in and of itself is a walk.


The ferry is right across the walkway. It's a 1/4 mile walk around the harbor (not bad but maybe tough with little kids) or there is a shuttle bus that runs you over. We walked faster than the bus made it's trip one way because it takes so long to load.


We always walked because we had nice weather. The only issue with the shuttle bus is the possible wait. But it won't be overly long.

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Did you do room service at all? One of the best parts of cruising for us is having room service breakfast every morning on the balcony. Do you know if the menu for breakfast includes hot foods or is it continental only?

Thanks for any information. Really appreciate it. Looking forward to our cruise in just about 1 month!


we got room service a few times in the afternoon but never in the morning. We had late seating, so it was nice, about 530 or so, to get a cheese plate or a fruit plate to hold us over.


As for the breakfast, it is a limited menu, but included omelets and other hot things... coffee too... it probably has everything that you would want on it as an adult. We looked at it a few times, and the kids just didn't see anything that they wanted. They really liked the waffles and pancakes in the Windjammer. Also the cereal and milk bar.


As for making the order, you have to get a tag and write on it what you want and hang it on your door the night before (by 3am I think). On other cruises we've used the phone. No biggie here either way.


I fully agree that one of the simple pleasures of cruising is enjoying your omelette and cafe on the deck, in some totally casual (or not? :eek: :D ) level of dress, looking over some exotic port with no hurry at all... sound idyllic on a honeymoon or adults only gig, but not as realistic with the juniors is it....


If you have any other questions, let me know.


I posted links to pics from the cruis as well... Bermuda, the ship, etc... did you see them?

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makethegrade, thanks so much for all your answers.

I think we'll just buy our passes on the ship. That will be a timesaver for us.

I think we'll try getting off the ship around 9:00 so we can catch the 9:30 ferry. Hopefully the lines will be down somewhat by then. My girls don't mind walking so long as we don't hurry them.

Actually, my girls love doing room service on the balcony. They are always so disappointed on the last morning when we go to the dining room instead. We get cereal and scrambled eggs for them and they like that. I do know boys are different than girls--I have 2 teenage boys--and they're much more into the Windjammer for breakfast.

BTW, what cabin category did you have? Sorry to read about your issues with smoke. We've been lucky and have never had that problem, but I always bring a special "smoke eater" spray with me, just in case. I was surprised to read your comment about poor storage. That's always been a strong area for RC on the ships I've been on, even the Majesty which has tiny staterooms has great storage space. :confused:

No, I missed the link for your pictures, but thanks sharing all your experiences. We hope to try Celebrity one day, but without the kids. I think Celebrity is much more of an adult line even though they do offer a kids program. I'm waiting for the summer 2008 itineraries to be released. I'm thinking of doing Bermuda again on the Zenith that summer while the kids are at camp nana. :)

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I haven't been in a D on Explorer, but I do know we thought the D1 on Enchantment would be a bit small for 4. We thought three would be okay, but 4 would be pushing it. We have a junior suite so I'm sure space won't be as much of an issue for us. Of course, we got a really good deal and it's all what the budget can absorb. ;)

I'll take a look at the pics. Thanks for the link.

Edited to say: Great pictures. Thanks for the looksee!

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There the arguement... how much time do you spend in your room anyway?


We met some people on the EOS that had one of the 2500 sq ft penthouse type suites... cost them 9000 for the cruise... and they were hardly in it.


On the other side, we had a small 182 sq ft cabin and seemed to be in it a lot...


put another way... you could read these boards all night and find no one who'se main memories of the cruise was their cabin... unless maybe they are honeymooners! :D

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I find we do spend alot of time in our cabin, especially when we travel with the kids. They usually lay down for a rest before dinner. As I said, we usually do breakfast in the room. We turn in early and will sit on the balcony while the girls are asleep. Considering it was only $100 pp more to take the js over the D-1, I really thought it was worth it. Plus we get 2 cruise credits! :D I've never been able to justify a Grand Suite or higher, though. It's usually $500 more pp or more for that jump and that's just not worth it for me. We did the 4 night on the Enchantment and one of the people from our CC group was in the Royal Suite. I couldn't see that, especially for only 4 nights!

Anyway, thanks again for all the information and the pictures. Let me know if you think of anything else I should know. lol See ya around!

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One thing I wanted to add...


I forgot to put this in my review... the observation area where you can look into the bridge is really neat. They have a great view of everything that is igoing one, and detailed descriptions of all the sophisticated instruments. This is worth a look. it's on the 11th dack and assesible from the doors that lead to the front of the ship at the Solarium (on either side).

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It's neat, especially if you are into the engineering / science part (my boys are... my wife yawned... ) I know I took pics of it, but I dont think they came out.. you can't use a flash.


We went there for the sail away from the dockyard and watch all the engines being revved up and all that. interesting.

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