Ship Upon arriving at the Port of Miami and the first sight of this 140,000 ton beauty, you almost have to blink your eyes. You just can't imagine the sight of this HUGE ship, it just towers over all the other ships in port. Once you are dropped off you enter the terminal building and get in (what looks like a long line), but actually moves very quick. We were instructed while still on the bus what papers you need to have in hand and filled out prior to getting off the bus. I noticed everyone had their papers filled out and passports in hand, makes a big difference in speeding up this process. This only took about 15 minutes and then you board the ship, after the first of many pictures taken.
The only time you enter on deck 4 is for embarking and disembarking, the rest of the time you use deck 1. Once on board you can get your first glimpse of the Royal Promenade, which is like a mini mall, amazing. You can find almost anything on this promenade, drinks, gift shops, you name it, its there. Then one deck up from here you will find the explorations deck and guest relations, casino, picture gallery, very centralized. We spent a lot of time on decks 11 and 12, where the main pool and the solarium pool are located. Also on deck 11 is the Windjammer cafe, island grill and Portofino's. There seemed to be some kind of food you could find almost at any time, eating was not a problem. During the peak periods for lunch the windjammer had 4 similar buffets going, along with salad bars and drink stations. I never had to wait in any long lines considering there were around 3500 passengers on this sailing and another 1100-1200 crew members. I never felt that there were so many people, no one area was overcrowded. Although we did have a few "sea" days and yes there is still some minor problems with the deck chair saving problem. I did notice on our daily "cruise compass" there is a note about the reserving of chairs is not permitted, but guess some people failed to see that?? I always found a chair, may-be not right by the pool, but close enough for me. Close to the pool on deck 11 is the Sea trek dive shop, where you could sign up for scuba lessons, buy t-shirts, etc. On decks 13 and 14 is the where you will find all the sports activities, such as basketball court, dunes golf, the golf simulator, in line skating, volleyball and of course the well heard of rock climbing wall. I was considering trying that out, but we had 2 days with very high winds and went up and had a look at the "wall" and decided against it. The wall is scary just to look at, let alone climb up, no thanks. May-be some day. Considering we had waves up to 18 feet for 2 days, the ship did move, but nothing like you'd experience on a smaller ship. It was so bad for one day they had to tie all the deck chairs down, never had to deal with those kind of winds, in fact we were scheduled to do the America's cup regatta in Nassau and that was cancelled due to the high winds. The dinning room takes up space on deck 3, 4 and 5, absolutely stunning. The library is on deck 7 with computers to use on deck 6 and 8 above and below the library. You can also have unlimited access to the internet in your cabin if you brought along your laptop. It's a bit pricey on the ship, so I just visited a few internet cafe's on the ports, much cheaper and they are always located close to the dock. Every night there is a show in the "palace" which is located on decks 3 and 4 and another lounge "Maharajas" where there were other shows during the week. Deck 3 is the home of Studio B and Planet Ice show, which is not to be missed, something you just don't expect to see while on board a cruise ship. Its just amazing the things they can do on a small rink, they really make use of the limited space, very enjoyable show! Now I was not able to visit every bar, lounge, but all in all there are 35 different bars on board, believe it or not:-) Another area to check out is the "Chamber", which is the late night disco, very gothic, just wasn't up late enough to see it in full swing, hopefully next time.
Cabin We had a balcony cabin on deck 7, pretty much in the middle. The lay-out of the cabin was the nicest cabin I've had yet. You walk in and one side is the closet (plenty of space), other side is the bathroom, with the neatest shower, glass doors that swing around you and a movable shower head that's neat. You then have your desk, TV and a nice sized table and regular size couch, before hitting the bed. Now the bed is curved at the bottom, so it's easy to get around. On the other side of the bed are the doors to the balcony. Balcony was adequate, held the normal 2 chairs and small table. Ever since having our first balcony, having one now is mandatory J On the real windy days, it was difficult to really feel it in the cabin. Other parts of the ship it was more defined, but not a real problem for us, had heard it was unusual to have that kind of weather at this time of year. The rest of the days made up for this, always warm and sunny, except for a few showers we experienced in St. Thomas. They really improved on the cabins when they designed these ships, very roomy. We were able to totally up-pack everything and still have room, also the luggage was stored under the bed, very easily too I might add. I was a little worried that the hairdryer, which is in the top drawer on the desk would not be strong enough like most travel dryers, but this one did the trick and quickly too.
Service With as many passengers that cruise on these mega ships we felt the service was very good. At least our every need was taken care of in a short amount of time. The dinning room service was very good along with the food. We found the food to be very good, never had a bad meal, the choices were varied and never had a problem finding something that it my mood. The last night out they served prime rib that was excellent along with the filet. All the desserts were delicious and I tried to pass on a few, but for some reason, no matter how full I was, I just had to have a taste. It was well worth it, haven't stepped on the scale yet, but I can just imagine?? Our room attendant was the best ever, always there to straighten up and refresh anything that we needed, Hyatt did an amazing job and his pillow art and towel art were a great surprise every evening. The captain on Explorer was Johnny Faevelen, who is off on vacation now and will return to Adventures of the Seas. Every intro for the Captain was proceeded by the theme song from the Johnny Carson show, you know "Here's Johnny", very personable and loved to talk and joke during his announcements, more so than any other captain I've encountered, a real down to earth kind of guy. We also enjoyed cruise director Ken Rush, very funny man and was able to keep the crowd pleased, had me laughing all the time. Would of liked to see him out and about more, but I think he's just a very busy man, he also works on the TV station they have on board. Could be too that the ship is just so big, you miss him walking around, what ever the case is, he does an outstanding job. The service as a whole on board Explorer I'd rate between 8 and 9, it's right up there.
Entertainment This area is where the ship really shines. We saw almost all the major shows including the ice show, which is not to be missed, truly amazing considering the small space they have to work in and they make use of it all. The music, lights, etc are amazing and if you miss anything by where you are sitting there are some TV monitors which you can see everything as well. The singers were truly remarkable along with the dancers. There was one evening when the seas were very rough and they considered canceling the show, but they choose to go on with the show and I don't know how they managed it, but you'd never guess the ship was rocking and rolling right along with them, they were super. A very good variety of comedy, song and dance were seen nightly. Heard from some of our tablemates that there was some good jazz entertainers going on in one of the lounges. What ever your fancy may be in the way of entertainment, you could find it somewhere on the ship. Of course sometime during the week you will run into the Krooze Komics, loved seeing them. There were 2-3 major parades in the Promenade which are something else to catch, very enjoyable! I think the entertainment on board Explorer far exceeds most ships today, they really go all out in this area!
Ports of Call In all honesty we did this cruise for the ship, so the ports were second in our reasons for cruising on Explorer of the Seas. First port of call is Nassau, which we haven't visited for over 10 years and were looking forward to see how it has changed. Really did not see many changes other than Atlantis on Paradise Island, how can you miss that! Our plan was to do the America's cup regatta while there, but due to the high winds, we received a call first thing in the morning (after getting an early wake-up call) that it would be cancelled, truly a big disappointment for us. So after a quick breakfast, tried room service and that was the way to go that morning, we rushed down to the exploration desk and signed up for the harbor tour and the trip over to Atlantis. This resort is totally amazing, took the tour around the grounds and were in awe of the whole project. The aquarium was like nothing I've seen in a hotel/resort. It turned out to be a very enjoyable tour and the way to spend some time in Nassau. If ever in Nassau, its worth the time to go over there. We also had some time to go into town and do some shopping, not the best in the Caribbean and we knew we would be in St. Thomas soon, so just browsed around and then went back to the ship. Next port of call was St. Thomas and we took a taxi over to Meagan's bay in between some showers. The beach there is beautiful, but we preferred Trunk Bay over in St. Johns, but figured we should check this one out too. Meagan's bay is very beautiful and a nice beach day. After spending a few hours there, the storm clouds came back again, so we got a taxi back and did some shopping at the mall by the pier, picked up our t-shirts, cologne, booze, etc. Since we're cruised in and out of San Juan a few times, just stepped off the ship for a quick stop at an internet cafe and my better half tried out the casino at the Wyndham Hotel at the pier. We were set to sail away from there at 2:00 so it really didn't give enough time to do a whole lot, so it was back to the ship again. Our last and favorite stop was Labadee, the private beach stop. This was the next best thing to paradise, you could do all or nothing and they provided a BBQ on the beach which was great, hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken, ribs, salads, fruits and desserts. We had signed up earlier for the waverunner tour, which was great fun. I actually drove the first half and I've never done that before. They like the more experienced drivers in the front because they can go faster and we ended up in the 2nd spot and believe it or not I was able to keep up, can't say that for the rest of our group. Just took a minute to get the feel of it and our tour leader said I did "awesome", almost wanted to do it again, which my better half actually did, got on again for the last tour and enjoyed it all over again. It's a nice way to see more of the peninsula. The rest of the day you could rent water mats, which I spent the major portion of the day on, find a quiet hammock, parasail, banana boat rides, kayaks, and tons of lounge chairs, no fights in this spot:-) Couldn't believe when it was time to catch the ferry and head back, could of stayed there for a few, that's for sure. Our last day was a "sea" day which are always nice and a great way to end the cruise, spent most of the day on deck 11 at the pool and did some last minute shopping on board. We did run into some couples that were on their first cruise and I don't think they have any idea how a cruise on Explorer of the Seas can possible compete with any other cruise. Of course they all agreed that they would cruise again, just hope the next ones can match the experience you get cruising on this ship. Royal Caribbean sure has a winner in these class of ships, it's a tough act to follow, but I will give my best shot at checking their future ships out.