This was our second cruise, and we had a wonderful time!
Day 1 - Saturday. Arrived at pier around 11AM via cruise connections bus from Ft. Myers. Our baggage was immediately taken by the porter to be transfered to the ship. We went inside the terminal, and people were already checking in. The lines were not that long, and the check in process was pretty quick. Once we had our sea pass, we were ushered to a waiting area, as there was nobody boarding yet. We waited for about 1 hour in there, and then the line started moving onto the ship. First impressions were awesome, she is a huge vessel! Very clean, everyone seemed happy to be there! We were able to go to our room right away... 7th floor (7574) with a balcony, it was sweet. Seemed so much bigger than the Monarch room, the bathroom was huge! We headed to the Island Grill for a late lunch, then it was off to explore the ship. We were late seating for dinner, and our waiter Ciprian and assistant waiter Christopher were amazing. Great service! We had our baggage by 6PM on Saturday night, plenty of time to unpack and change for dinner.
Day 2 - Sunday
Day at sea... weather was a little on the cool side, but finding deck chairs that were sort of sheltered from the wind made a lot of difference. Don't be afraid to just move some deck chairs out of the way - there are TOO MANY, and you end up squished like sardines if you don't move some away! They could get rid of even 1% of the chairs and it would make a huge difference... I don't think strangers, even on vacation, want to be that close together!
Day 3 - Monday
Labadee - this was a GREAT STOP!!! The island is so pretty, the water was warm. Lots of places to spread out, so it wasn't like 3000 people on one little beach. We really loved this port, and enjoyed walking around. The market is pretty cheesy... didn't really look at anything to buy here. We did not have our son with us, but it looked like there was a cool water park thing for kids. You can get the floating mats on shore, I think - same price... so if there are big lines to try and reserve one while you are on the ship, don't worry about it. Formal night for dinner, and the food was AWESOME. There are black and white photo's available too - you may have to look for the right station. It was on Deck 4 for our cruise, right outside the door to the DaGama dining room.
Day 4 - Ocho Rios
Hated this port. We only got off for about an hour. The locals were pushy and aggressive... actually touching our arms and stuff trying to get us to go down alleys that looked like nothing good could come of them. We had to forcibly extract ourselves from their hold, and then bee-line it for security. Once we were closer by the police, they left us alone. We just grabbed a few t-shirts and made a quick call home, then headed back to the boat. It was nice, as most people had gotten off, so we had the ship to ourselves. The Solarium pool for adults only (which was also subject to review, apparently) was the coolest spot to just kick back and relax. There were a few folks that tried to bring their babies in the pool/hot tub there, but passengers were more than happy to point out the rules of no under 16's allowed.
Day 5 - Grand Cayman
Nice port as well, although we were not able to get out to see the sting rays :-( Book that one early if you want to go... otherwise, look for a guy named George Busch - (really!) on the pier. Our friends ended up going with him on a private tour, ~$20 and they had the best time! He got them front and center in sting ray city, and they had just as good a time as those on the pricier RCI excursion.
Day 6 - Cozumel
This was our favourite place... the people were really nice, and the water is so beautiful! The weather was great, and we wandered around town for a hours. Do NOT be afraid to haggle with the vendors over price... it's fun to do and they expect it! I am glad that we waited to buy in Cozumel as the deals appeared to be the best there of all the stops. We got a great price on a 1ct. sappahire... 3rd anniversary present! If you want to call home, or check internet email etc. - there is a great place in Cozumel, I think it's called the Phone Connection - right near Maraf Jewellers. .10 a minute for internet access... and the people were really nice there. We went to Portofino for dinner this night, and it was well worth the $20 surcharge. The food was by far the best, not that the dining room is bad, cuz it's not... but you will know when you go. It was amazing there, and they even had a special anniversary cake for us. The cappuchino was to die for... the tiger prawns were the best I have ever had anywhere, as was the tirimisu!
Day 7 - At Sea
Another day at sea, we were able to get good deck chairs around the solarium pool around 10:30 AM as it was still pretty breezy. I think a lot of people thought it would be cold on deck. It did get really crowded after lunch.
The cruise was fantastic, and we can't wait to go again! The ice show - Planet Ice, is well worth waiting for tickets... make sure you see that. One the first and last night, the pair called Magestic will perform, and they are simply astounding... a combo of ballet and gymnastics... they do things that no body should really be able to do! The entertainments was good, I didn't really like the singer, but that was just based on musical taste. She had a wonderful voice and performed well. GO TO PORTOFINO, for sure!
There were a lot of kids on the ship this week (+800) as it was Thanksgiving... but we really only had a couple of times that we "noticed" them. For the most part, the activities, arcades, Ocean Adventure program kept them busy and out of the adults hair! The balcony cabin was great, it was nice to sleep with the door open and hear the water at night. There was plenty of storage in the room, lots of hangers. I wished we had brought a little travel alarm clock, as the only clock was on the phone, and you can't see it at night! There are blowdryers in the rooms, so you don't need your own.
I had read that some people were buying bottles of alcohol on board, and paying a surcharge to take it to their room. This was NOT available on Explorer. However, we did by two bottles in Cozumel, and just walked on with them, no questions asked. Nobody tried to take it away from us, so either they didn't care as it was close to the end of the trip, or it really is not a big deal. We are not sure.
Hope this helps, and have a great time if you are going on this ship!!!