Day One - Sept. 27th 2003
Took the first flight out of Houston in the early morning hours headed to Miami. Arrived on time at Miami International Airport. (under construction). Found RCCL rep's and arranged for ground transports to the Explorer of the Seas. Got to the Pier rather quickly considering that the Grand Prix of Miami was going on. Embarkation around 1pm went quicker than we could have hoped for considering Navigator of the Seas was also leaving the same day. Since the RCCL rep didn't look real hard for an upgrade for us, we stayed with our 10th level Balcony (rm. 1530) and were very pleased. The Rep. Wanted $600 to upgrade to a suite which was not much if any of a discount to us (considering we found out through some of the crew later that the ship was sailing with 600 empty spots, RCCL missed out on that one). Got to our room and met our Stateroom Attendant "Monica" from Trinidad/Tobago. She was a jewel the entire week. Just a note on stateroom attendants on E.O.S., they work their tails off and we've found several of them to be the nicest people on the ship. First order of business was checking dinner seating, We had sailed on E.O.S. the last two years and wanted our same Waiter "Gerald" but to our disappointment he was on vacation this week. Took pictures of the Navigator alongside as we left the Port of Miami to the sound of blowing horns from motorists along the Portside. At dinner the first night we met a nice couple from the Philippines and enjoyed the conversation and meal very much. Attended the welcome aboard show, my wife has seen the same shows three years in a row now and still wants to go back everytime we're onboard.
Day Two Sept. 28th 2003
At sea today headed for Labadee (Haiti), RCCL's private island. Mostly people watched and worked out in the great facilities they have on board in anticipation of future meals (discussed later in summary). We chose not to partake in the formal night festivities, which were on tap for the night. We chose to eat at the Windjammer on the 11th level. We dress up every day for work and when we're on vacation we get a little rebellious and don't go along with the whole program sometimes. After talking with others on board we might try Princess Cruise Lines with there "Freestyle Dining", Sounds great for people like us who don't always want to be on a schedule when we're on vacation "that's what we're vacationing from!"
Day Three Sept. 29th 2003
Took the early tender over to Labadee and picked out a shady spot on Hideaway Beach to do a little snorkeling and relaxing. Chose not to go on the waverunner tour this time, RCCL has raised the price to $100 it was $75 two years ago. Labadee is fun even if you just do nothing. The BBQ lunch is always great tasting. Back onboard at dinner we were shifted from our original table to another larger one (which we had originally requested, nice way to meet folks). Two couples from Toronto Canada were our tablemates now which suited my wife and I just fine, they were very friendly. Attended shows and Karaoke (Riot).
Day Four Sept. 30th 2003
First real Port of call Ocho Rios Jamaica. I was a little hesitant on going onshore here since I had read so much on web-sites about how much problems people have had with the natives. We booked the Dunns River Falls and Dolphin Cove Tour through the ship. All I can say is if you missed the falls because of listening to web-site madness then I feel for you. The Falls were great, not to be missed. We met two nice ladies on this tour and became great friends onboard (Thanks.Susan & Jackie). The tour of the Haitian Market was also not as bad as I had imagined. A firm "Thanks but no." always did the trick. If you're so thin-skinned that a comment back to you after a No bothers you then this may not be the place for you, but as I tell my wife "put your sunglasses on along with a New York attitude and it'll be OK! The Dolphin Cove side of the tour can be missed if you want, not that exciting. We spent an Hour plus there and never saw a Dolphin Show! On the trip back to town we decided to invite our new found friends for a drink and stopped at Jimmy Buffet's Margarittaville, It was great (not to miss) if you don't drink there's plenty of other things to do (eat/shop/waterslide). If you do partake the drinks are fantastic, the waiters friendly, attitude and high energy dancing are great and the Jamaican Rum is to die for.
Day Five Oct. 1st 2003
Port of call Grand Cayman, Booked a tour NOT through the ship (could have been a disaster) Point to remember Ship's time and G.C. Time are an hour apart. RCCL crew will not tell you unless you're persistent the difference because they assume you booked your tour through them and they don't want to confuse you with ship and local time (excuse me aren't we all adults here, I had to really get short with one of the Tour directors over this). Another Point to remember Tendering over to G.C. can take 30 - 40min. lots of people loading and unloading. Now we get to the good part of the morning, even though we were 20min. late to our tour meeting spot Billy of SOTO'S TOURS waited for us and took us to the boat launch (short drive). My wife and I both thought "these people are going to mad" having to wait for us. Nothing was further from the truth, Kerry Soto was so nice and told us not to worry about it. We found out later that if we hadn't shown up they might have had to cancel the tour. Soto's takes small groups 8 being the minimum so they can offer a more personalized service. It was great pulling up to the other ships with dozens of people on them (loaded) and here we have a guide for every 3 people onboard. The tour stopped at 3 spots to snorkel, most only go to Stingray City. They were the best and at $19 pp it was the best deal of the week. We also bought their video which we never do, it was great too (Only took a week to have mailed to me). Onboard it was another formal night so we proceeded up to Johnny Rockets for the best meal of the cruise. Nothing like a good hamburger and all the trimmings when you've been snorkeling all day.
DAY Six Oct 2nd 2003
Port of call Cozumel, Booked "Catch the Wave" snorkel tour through the ship (couldn't find a web-site tour I liked). Glad we took this tour, not much of a boat ride (short) but the snorkeling, food and open bar were great, trying the BOND (underwater bubble transport) next time looks like fun, would definitely use them again! Dropped us off downtown for some shopping and calling home! Places that looked like fun Carlos & Charlies (downtown) and Senor Frogs at the Pier, both Lively Places.
Day seven Oct. 3rd 2003
Day at Sea, Most of day at pool or Rock-Climbing. RCCL does have a variety of programs for your days at sea, never run out of things to do. Packing tonight, hitting the Casino one last time.
Day eight Oct. 4th 2003
Disembarkation was timely and the transports to the Miami Airport were better than I expected. Great trip all the way around!!!!
Crew - Very friendly and helpful Ship - Clean & looking good (3yrs old now, couldn't tell) Service - Good, especially cabins Entertainment - down a notch from previous two sailings Food - not any better or any different from the last two years, needs a change. Embarkation/Disembarkation - Much better, even with Grand Prix Race and Navigator on same day.