We just returned from a 9 day cruise on the Explorer of the Seas. The review follows.
Embarkation Ease of embarkation depends on the time one arrives. I was told later by some passengers that the lineup going to the dock at Port Liberty was a mob scene around noon time. We arrived at 1:30PM, drove straight to the baggage check in, parked the car ($16 a day), proceeded to the passenger check in and were on board in 15 minutes.
Stateroom We usually opt for an interior room and this one (7129) was on the small side but well designed. Despite a seeming lack of space, there was more than ample storage areas and a well designed, albeit small bathroom. The shower is particularly nice with a fully enclosed circular shower door.
Food All of our dinners were taken in the main dining room which proved to be a beautiful venue. We were seated at a table for eight (beside a window overlooking the ocean) with an extended family consisting of three generations. Our table waiter Eduardo and his assistant Yvonne provided excellent service. The food was generally good to very good, with the only exception being the fish dishes which were not to my liking. Up at the buffet in the Windjammer, the food was quite good although some dishes were overly salty. Some of the more interesting cuisine was found in the center specialty island during lunch with Pan Asian dishes and during the evening with a sushi buffet. One morning while selecting breakfast I found congee with all the fixings, something I got hooked on while in Thailand. One thing I found rather unusual was the fact that of all the cruise lines I have been on, this is the first one I have seen that had no hand sanitizing stations in the buffet area or the main dining room. There is only one specialty restaurant aboard, Portofino, but we didn't dine there.
Entertainment This was pretty much standard shipboard fare with a resident song and dance group and a decent 9 piece pit orchestra. Four other entertainers did one man shows, but there was one standout comedian, Max Docelli, who went on the first night and was a real hoot. The rest of the shipboard staff were always available and helpful including cruise director Mike Hunnerup.
Ports of Call The ports of call were Labadee, Haiti; Casa De Campo, Dominican Republic; St. Thomas and San Juan, Puerto Rico. Having been to all of them except Labadee, my only comment on the last three is that Puerto Rico is always worth the trip despite the peculiar fact that most cruise lines only port there for 6-7 hours. Hardly enough time to do the place justice. Although I had mixed feelings about going to Haiti, Labadee turned out to be one of the most beautiful places I've seen in Caribbean. It was vaguely reminiscent of Bora-Bora.
Disembarkation The ship had been sold out (3616 pax) due to spring break and it showed getting off the ship. Even at that, we cleared our room at 8AM and were off by 10:45. The ship started boarding passengers at 11:30.
All in all a very good cruise with one of the main advantages being that if you live within driving distance of Port Liberty, you can get to the ship with a minimum of hassle without having to deal with the madness of airline travel. Also, you have a choice of several itineraries going round trip out of Port Liberty. We'll probably do Canada next.