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Royal Caribbean InternationalExplorer the Seas Review7-Day Eastern CaribbeanTom Ogg

Age: Baby Boomer

Occupation:Self Employed

Number of Cruises: Lots

Cruise Line: Royal Caribbean

Ship: Explorer of the Seas

Sailing Date: April 30th, 2006

Itinerary: NOT FOUND

Royal Caribbean International
Explorer of the Seas Cruise Review
7-Day Eastern Caribbean

Tom Ogg

The setup:
I was the seminar leader and group escort for a group of 39 travel professionals on an Eastern Caribbean sailing of the Explorer of the Seas. I purchased a ticket on Continental Airlines flying from San Diego through Houston, Texas to Miami, Florida and had a flawless flight arriving right on schedule. My luggage even made it too. I grabbed a taxi to the Embassy Suites at Miami Airport and slept great. After a quick breakfast I grabbed a taxi to the Port of Miami arriving about 11:30. After checking my luggage, I breezed through check-in and waited in the Chairman's Room with the other Diamond members for pre-boarding. I believe I was the seventh passenger to actually board the ship and I was up in the Windjammer by 12:15 pm.

The Explorer of the Seas Docked in St. Thomas

Summary in Advance
This review is more of a pictorial of the Explorer of the Seas than a thorough review of the cruise itself. I did it this way so you can see the diversity of activities the ship offers and get a feel for the ship itself. You could actually sail on the Explorer of the Seas and never get off the ship (as I almost did on this cruise) and have the best cruise of your life. The Explorer of the Seas (and the other Voyager class vessels) truly have no competition and are unique onto themselves. They are destination enough to warrant taking the cruise. Any ports that you might visit are just an added bonus to the experience. If you are comparison-shopping for a cruise, here is how to tell if you should pick this ship. The Explorer of the Seas is, without question, the best choice if you fit any of the following profiles.

Families or Family Reunions: Do yourself a favor and don’t even think about another ship. There is such an assorted amount of activities and entertainment on the Explorer of the Seas, that there is lots to do for everyone. I saw families bonding everywhere. I only regret that the Voyager class ships didn’t exist when our son was younger. I just don't think there could be a better choice for family reunions.

Honeymooners and Destination Weddings: There were 50 some honeymoon couples on this cruise and they were all ecstatic. Royal Caribbean has many amenities for honeymooners that make this an excellent choice. The ship is large and diverse enough to satisfy anyone’s tastes, but it also offers a level of privacy that honeymooners sometimes do not get on smaller ships. For small destination weddings, the Voyager class ships cannot be beat.

Business Meetings: For the same reason this is the best choice for family reunions, it would be the best choice for meetings. There are so many team-building opportunities on the Explorer that it is almost unbelievable. The Conference Center is state of the art (as good as you would find in any hotel or resort) and the idea that many of the usually variable costs are controlled, makes the Explorer of the Seas an incredible meeting venue.

Groups and Friends Traveling Together:  If you belong to a group of some sort or travel with other couples, the Explorer of the Seas offers enough different opportunities for activities and entertainment, that everyone will be pleased. Having the group come together for meetings and meals, shore excursions and cocktail parties while pursuing individual tastes, makes for a happy cruise.

About the only folks I wouldn’t recommend the Explorer of the Seas as the best choice would be those that prefer smaller, more intimate ships and singles traveling by themselves. Because of the number of passengers, number of entertainment venues and overall size of the ship, it would much more difficult to make a connection with other singles. However, Royal Caribbean does an excellent job of offering single's events, so it just might be my observation rather than a matter of fact.

One thing is guaranteed. You will be in awe of this ship and remember your cruise for a good long time.

The The Explorer of the Seas is one of five of Royal Caribbean’s Voyager class ships. At 142,000 gross tons, she is massive. She is also well evolved, as every detail in her construction and décor is simply beautiful. The attention to detail (in the flooring, walls, ceilings, wall coverings and art work) is simply awe-inspiring. Everywhere you look you are treated to visually stimulating design. For this reason I have included a good number of pictures so you can begin the visual experience with this review before you get on the ship.

Cabin 6504, All the Way Forward

Cabin 6504:
I was located in cabin 6504 that was all the way forward and the porthole looked directly forward. I had a very comfortable queen sized bed with excellent bedding. There were two nightstands with individual reading lights that were quite effective. There was a large sitting area and coffee table. Across from the sitting area was a large desk area with 2 110v outlets (American) and 1 110v outlets (European). This proved to be an excellent feature. There is a television with a substantial amount of programming, a safe and ample storage for clothing items and miscellaneous items.

There was a refrigerator directly under the television, but unlike other Voyager class ships, the shelves were not removable. This made it impossible to cool a bottle of wine. A closet lines the cabin entrance way and offers a good amount of storage for hanging clothes, as well as shoe and miscellaneous storage in the shelves on the left hand side. 

The Shower in Cabin 6504

The bathroom was well-designed and offered ample storage for toiletries and other items. The shower offered excellent temperature and water flow controls and I very much liked the curved sliding door that allowed you to completely enclose yourself while showering. There was no shower curtain interfering with your shower. I don’t understand why every cruise line doesn’t adopt this feature, as it makes showering so much more enjoyable.

Exploring the Explorer of the Seas
The best way to explore the Explorer is to start at the very top and work our way to the bottom, so that is how I will conduct the visual tour. So, if you will join me for a ride up the aft elevator to deck 14 and then walk up the stairwell to deck 15, this is where we will begin.  
The Intimate Skylight Chapel Deck 15
Up the stairway from the Viking Crown Lounge, one finds the intimate Skylight Chapel. It gets its name from the stained glass skylight that resides over the pulpit. This is a gorgeous chapel and would be a great place for a small wedding or vow renewal.  
Tizzy's in the Viking Crown Lounge Deck 14
The main venue here is Tizzy's in Royal Caribbean's signature Viking Crown Lounge and it offers music, dancing and a good number of places to hang out and enjoy a cocktail.  We met here one night for a computer session and it was not at all crowded and proved to be an excellent place for an impromptu meeting that could easily accommodate all of us. The Diamond Member's meeting also took place here and I believe that everyone was impressed with the event, as it was enhanced by the Viking Crown Lounge location. The view of the pool area forward of Tizzy's is something not to be missed.  
The 19th Hole To the rear on the starboard side behind Tizzy's lies another wonderful bar, the 19th Hole.
The Card Room On the port side of the Viking Crown Lounge is the card room. I never saw it busy at all.
The Miniature Golf Course Deck 13
When I hear someone say ”I don’t know, I think I might get bored on a cruise” I think of the Explorers deck 13, as to why everyone would love this deck. First let’s go all the way aft to the golf course. The Explorer offers a wonderful miniature golf course). You can simply grab a putter and a golf ball and play all you want. It is expansive and a downright fun course.  
The Explorer's Inline Skating Track   On the port side of the golf course is the inline skating track where one can race around the Le Mans type track, as much as they would like. Directly in front of the miniature golf course is the golf simulator. While I didn’t get a chance to use it, those that did really enjoyed it.

The Explorer's Skate Shop

There is no need to bring your own skates as the Explorer has a fully stocked skate shop.

The Basket Ball Court and Royal Caribbean's Signature Rock Wall Standing in front of the golf simulator you can hear the cheers from those climbing the rock wall that towers above you, but also the cheers from those playing basketball on the full basketball court (it is heavily used).
The Explorer of the Sea's Basketball Court   Surrounding the area is a number of ping pong tables. I noticed a good number of families that were using them and having the time of their lives.

Just One of the Many Table Tennis Areas

This entire area of the ship is dedicated to sports and activities that you normally would not find on any other ship.   
One of the Shuffle Board Courts   Moving down the aft stairwell to deck 12, we enter the first deck that traverses the entire ship.
Deck 12
Johnny Rockets Main Entrance   Johnny Rockets is a favorite with the teens and offers a full selection of burgers, fries, onion rings and malts. It has implemented a $3.95 cover charge per person for dining at Johnny Rockets.  
Johnny Rockets Interior, Look Familiar? There are both typical indoor and outdoor dining options. The entire structure on the aft section of the ship contains the various kid’s clubs.
Adventure Ocean Kid's Club The Adventure Ocean kid's club is made up of several rooms specifically designed for various age groups. Each of the five age groups enjoy clubs that are planned and staffed for the kid's enjoyment.
Adventure Ocean's Video Zone

This video arcade had a ton of video games. There are several other rooms that make up the Adventure Ocean complex. There is a really cool disco that teens can relate to. It is only used by certain age groups at a time, so you don't have to worry about your young teen hanging around with older teens.

The Adventure Ocean Water Slides and Pools

The Adventure Ocean Tyke's Slide and Pool

Altogether, there is over 22,000 square feet dedicated to the Adventure Ocean Youth Program.

The Explorer's Walking and/or Jogging Track

Between the aft building and the forward building on deck 12 is a large area for sunbathing and a jogging/walking track that is heavily used.

The Sky Bar

The Sky Bar resides in the center of the jogging track and is a great place for a refreshment out of doors. Looking over the pool area, it is also a great place to watch the pool games and other pool-side activities.

The Entrance to the ShipShape Spa

The Explorer's “ShipShape Day Spa” resides in the forward section

The ShipShape Spa Beauty Salon

 The ShipShape Spa offers a full beauty salon and complete spa services.

Deck 11
Deck 11 is the first ship-length deck on the Explorer and is also full of leisure opportunities. If we move down to deck 11 from deck 12 and go all the way forward, we are on top of the bridge and there is a very outstanding area where you can watch what is going on in the bridge area. Known as “Bridge Overlook”, it is well worth a visit if you are interested in the operations of the ship. 

The Stairway Leading to the Fitness Center
(From the ShipShape Spa, deck 12)

By taking the stairwell down from deck 12 in the ShipShapre Spa, we can access the fitness center.

ShipShape Fitness Center The ship’s “ShipShape Fitness Center” resides on deck 11 and offers an excellent collection of free weights and Cybex machines.

The Free Weight Area

If you like working with free weights rather than machines, you will find enough weight and benches to keep you happy.

Explorer of the Seas Cardiovascular Machines

There is also an excellent collection of cardio machines with excellent views of the ocean.

The Aerobics Room of the ShipShape Fitness Center The Explorer of the Seas had a very good aerobics program and the classes were heavily attended.
The ShipShape Fitness Center Don't miss the large Jacuzzi at the entrance to the Fitness Center if you want a little peace and quiet.
Solarium Jacuzzis and Pool Heading aft, one enters the Solarium. This is truly an excellent area, as the pool was open to the sunlight the entire trip while the surrounding lounge chairs were covered and offered protection from the sun.  
The Solarium Bar   There are two large (I mean LARGE) Jacuzzis in the Solarium area and an active bar as well.

The Explorer of the Sea's Pool Area

The pool area just doesn’t seem large enough for a ship this size, yet it was never so crowded that I couldn’t find a lounge chair. The Explorer has an interesting towel policy, as you are issued two beach/pool towels in your cabin at the beginning of the cruise, but are charged $20 if you lose one. While I am sure the ship is trying to control costs from laundering and replacing towels, the result is that very few folks leave them on deck chairs when they depart. For this reason, it always seemed easy to locate an available lounge. There are 4 Jacuzzis (2 are huge) that are heavily used by everyone.

The Entrance to the Windjammer Cafe

Aft of the pool area is one of the main dining venues on the Explorer of the Seas, the Windjammer Cafe. One enters the area through the main entrance to the Windjammer Cafe, but will be presented with the entrance to the alternative restaurant on board the Explorer, the Portofino Restaurant on the starboard side of the entrance to the Windjammer.

Portofino Restaurant

Portofino's Elegant Dining Area

The Portofino Restaurant requires a reservation and there is a nominal $20.00 service fee associated with dining in the intimate and luxurious surroundings.

The Windjammer Cafe

The Windjammer Café is Royal Caribbean’s signature buffet. This is the main buffet area of the Navigator. The Windjammer is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner and offers numerous selections. It is a major buffet with lots of different areas so you will want to explore it before settling into a line to start picking your dishes for your meal. The salad bar is good and there is always healthy choices offered at each meal. In the aft section of the Windjammer buffet is an omelet station that then becomes a pasta station for lunch. There are always waiters on hand if you want a cocktail or glass of wine.

Deck 10
Deck 10 is entirely made up of passenger cabins.   Deck 9
With the exception of the Concierge Club, deck 9 is made up of passenger cabins. The Concierge Club actually wears two different hats.
The Concierge Club By day, it is where folks staying in suites at the Concierge level can make reservations for various things and use the concierge to help make their cruise more enjoyable. In the morning and the evening, it turns into a lounge where breakfast or cocktails and other beverages, along with hot appetizers are served to those in the concierge level suites, as well as Diamond loyalty members.  
Royal Caribbean On-Line Deck 8
With the exception of “Royal Caribbean Online”, the Explorer of the Sea’s Internet Café, the balance of deck 8 is made up of passenger cabins. Royal Caribbean has made great strides in improving their Internet Cafe services and operating speed. What was once a major negative for Royal Caribbean, their Internet access is a huge positive and reason to select Royal Caribbean should you need to have reasonably price fast access while on a cruise. The Explorer of the Seas offers “in cabin” Internet access for a flat fee. The price is $100 for the cruise and you are able to go on-line 24 hours a day with unlimited access. It is truly a great deal and a reason to select the Voyager class ships of Royal Caribbean if you are a heavy user. However, they only have a limited number of sets of equipment to make it happen. If you want to get access, visit the Guest Relations Desk as soon as you board to sign up for the service.

I opted for a prepaid package of 150 minutes for $50.00. This brought the per-minute price for access down to $.33 per minute and I could use both the desktop sets in the Internet Cafe offered by Royal Caribbean or wi-fi access at one of the many hot spots on the ship. Connection speeds varied somewhat but were always acceptable to downright fast. I would give the overall Internet access service on the Explorer an 8 or a 9 based on the value proposition that was offered. It is now far superior to other mass-market lines. Congratulations Royal Caribbean!

The Explorer of the Seas Library Deck 7
With the exception of the library, deck 7 is made up of all passenger cabins. The library offers a good selection of books, but is smaller than one would expect on a ship of this size.   Deck 6
The Loyalty Ambassador's Office Once again, deck 6 features primarily passenger cabins. However, here is where you will find the Loyalty Ambassador and the ability to sign up for Royal Caribbean’s Crown & Anchor Society. I would highly recommend that you do sign up, as the benefits are excellent. The Explorer of the Sea’s Business Service Center is located adjacent to the Loyalty Ambassador’s office as well.
The Royal Promenade   Deck 5
Oh boy! This is the deck that you will remember from this cruise (well, I am sure you will remember everything about this cruise). When you first see the Royal Promenade, it is simply breathtaking. It is difficult to believe that you are on a ship.

Three Stories of Wonderful Restaurants

Starting with the Columbus Dining Room at the very aft end of the ship. You realize that this is something special. The three-story dining room complex carries a different name for each restaurant on every deck to make it easier for folks to remember where their restaurant is. The dining room is simply breath-taking and while large, because of the way it is partitioned into small areas, is quite intimate.

The Champagne Bar

Moving forward past the elevator banks, you enter the main part of the Royal Promenade. On your left is the popular Champagne Bar.

The Lounge Area of the Champagne Bar

This was one of my favorites, as they also have an excellent wine list to go with the Champagne that they serve. The bar is broken into small and intimate areas for casual conversation.  

Guest Relations Desk

On the right and in front of the Champagne Bar, is the Centrum and on the starboard side you will find Guest Relations and the Tour Desk.

The Explorations Tour Desk

The Tour Desk was always busy and while I did not personally use their services, those that did felt the staff was professional and courteous.

The Crown and Kettle Pub

There are several shops and bars along the Royal Promenade and they are is the center of much activity. On of my favorites was the Crown and Kettle Pub. It was fun and intimate and always popular, best of all it was one of the wi-fi hot spots on the Explorer of the Seas.

The Cafe Promenade

On the Starboard side of the Explorer forward yet (under the bridge), is the Café Promenade. This is a great spot. There is coffee and tea set up all day and a bakery serving freshly baked coffee cakes, and such in the morning, and then the offerings turn to fresh cookies and sandwiches  during the day. Several other dessert treats are offered during the evening.

The Cafe Promenade

There is no charge for the bakery goods. Fresh sandwiches are made right next to the bakery and are available all day long. The adjoining bar features specialty coffee drinks, as well as a full assortment of cocktails, beer and wine. A Ben and Jerry’s ice cream outlet is right next to the Café Promenade.

The Beautiful Entrance to the Maharajas Lounge

Leaving the Royal Promenade, you enter the Maharajas Lounge. This is one of the main entertainment venues and is always active.

The Maharajas Lounge

The Crown and Anchor Club met here for the members that have sailed on Royal Caribbean before.

The Bar in Maharajas Lounge

The bar in Maharajas Lounge was a great place to take in the action.

The Connoisseur Club

The Connoisseur Cigar Club resides just outside of the entrance to the Maharajas Lounge and has that “club” feeling for those that want to enjoy a glass of brandy and their favorite cigar.

The Palace Theater

Deck 4
Heading down the forward stairwell we arrive at the upper entrance to the Palace Theater. This is the main showroom on the Explorer and it is beautiful indeed. You can enter the theater from three different decks, but I found this was the best way to enter the showroom. Just aft of the Palace Theater is the Schooner Bar.
The Schooner Bar The Schooner Bar is the signature bar for the Royal Caribbean fleet and this particular one is superb. We met here on a number of evenings and had a great time. There is always a pianist/singer here entertaining everyone and the mood is fun and jovial with sing-a-longs after dinner.

The Chamber's Entrance from Deck 4 On the port side, one sees a weird doorway entitled “The Chamber”. I didn’t explore it until later in the cruise, but you should walk into it the second you see it, as it leads you into the ship’s 2-story disco area, which is surreal.  
The Casino Royale Entrance Moving aft, we enter the Casino Royale. This is a major casino that offers much gaming opportunities and I heard a number of people say that the slots were somewhat loose. The entry way is wonderful, as you walk across plate glass enclosing many treasures.

The Stairway From Deck 5 into the Casino Royal

Another way to enter the Casino Royal is to descend the stairway from the Royal Promenade's center. It is clearly marked and you won't miss it.

The Casino Royal Slots

There are a ton of slot machines and other games that were always quite busy. Many folks actually walked off the ship with a positive cash flow from gambling.

The Casino Royal Gaming Tables

The tables were also quite busy every time I walked through the casino.

Aquarium Bar

If you like tropical fish and aquariums, you will love the Aquarium Bar. There is music here every night and enjoying the fish as they make their way around the aquariums is fun to watch.  Aft of the Aquarium Bar is the second level of the dinning room, the Da Gama Dining Room.

Deck 3  
The lower level of the restaurant, the Magellan Dining Room resides on deck 3 aft.
The Photo Gallery In order to get to the other parts of deck three, one must move up to deck 4 and move forward to the Centrum and then descend back down to deck 3 where they will find the Photo Gallery. You can imagine, with 3,500 people on board, how many photographs must be taken on each cruise. Finding them requires some time and energy, but they have them organized in a way that makes their presentation logical.

Studio B Ice Arena

The entrance to Studio B resides just forward of the Photo Gallery and what an impressive feature on a ship. I would definitely give the Ice Shows presented on the Explorer of the Seas a "Don't Miss" rating. Even if you think you don't like ice skating, don't miss this show! It is so much more than ice skating it is unbelievable. Everyone that sees the show thinks it is one of the most memorable experiences of the cruise.

The Chamber

In order to move forward on the ship, you will need to go up to deck 4 and go forward to the forward Centrum and then descend back down to deck 3. If your destination is the ship’s disco, the Chamber, you can enter it on the upper floor through the tunneled entrance (pictured above). Once back down to deck 3, you will see the main entrance to the Chamber. This is a really excellent disco. There is a great sound system, plenty of seats and great service.  Forward, you will find the forward entrance to the Palace Theater.

Deck 2
Deck 2 is primarily all passenger cabins with the exception of the the Conference Center. We held our meetings in one of the break-out rooms of the Conference center 

Entrance to the Conference Center

The Conference Center is awesome. It has several break-out rooms (I counted 5) that are excellent for groups of 3 to 40.

One of the Conference Center's Break-Out Rooms

They also can be combined into two large rooms that could house a very good sized meeting.

The Conference Center's Screening Room

They offer all of the techno stuff one could possibly want for presentations and they are set up for professional level meetings.

The Cruise
Sunday, April 30th, 2006; Miami, Florida, Casual
As mentioned above, I was on the ship quite early and after enjoying a quick lunch made my way to the Royal Promenade to work on my computer while I was awaiting 2 pm when the decks to the cabins were to open. I ran into some of our group members and had a ton of fun catching up on their recent experiences before making my way to my cabin on deck 6. I spent the afternoon working and finalizing the group's cocktail party, seminars and dining tables. Before I knew it, it was time for our "Welcome Aboard" cocktail party. We met in the Chamber on deck 4 and while it wasn't the best venue for socializing (there were only small sitting areas partitioned off making socializing difficult) everyone had a great time. I jumped from alcove to alcove and met most of the group members before it was time to head for dinner. I always enjoy the first cocktail party because you can meet the people before they start bonding and they are on their most conservative behavior. It is such a rewarding process to experience. Dinner unfolded as a wonderful event. It was a very compatible group and everyone soon fell into conversation and laughter. I had an excellent dinner and thoroughly enjoyed the company.

Monday, May 1st, 2006; Day at Sea, Formal
We had our first seminar this morning in the Conference Center and everyone was there. After introductions, the group agreed to experience a new seminar that I had been working on so I began (with much trepidation, I must admit) and the group was receptive to the content even though it was quite controversial. We finished the session and I was exhausted. A couple of the members and I moved on to the restaurant to enjoy the day's lunch and lingered until we were asked to leave to make room for the wine tasting that was going to take place where we were sitting. I rarely take lunch in the restaurant, but this was an exceptional experience. I so enjoyed it that I made a mental note to do it more often. I found myself working again in the afternoon until it was time to get ready for the evening's formal events. We had agreed to meet in the Schooner Bar to build websites and most of the group appeared. The gal that took on the challenge took right to it and she spent the next hour showing the other group members how to do it. We missed the gala Welcome Aboard Reception altogether. At 8:30 we moved into the dining room and experienced another wonderful dining experience. I must say, in my opinion, Royal Caribbean's food is improving quite a bit. It has always been enjoyable, but the current menu, presentation and overall quality is excellent. We lingered until we were the last ones to leave the restaurant. While I went to bed, the balance of the group went to the Late Night Adult Comedy Show and thought that the comedian, Eric Lyden was terrific. I was sorry to have missed his performance.

Tuesday, May 2nd, 2006; San Juan, Puerto Rico; Casual
We were due to arrive in San Juan at 2pm for a five hour stay departing at 7:30pm so I made the decision to simply treat the entire day as a work day. It proved to be a good choice, as it was drizzling and downright raining at moments. I enjoyed breakfast in the Windjammer, lunch there too and then work work until I got tired in the afternoon and then take a Jacuzzi in the Solarium. There was virtually no one on the ship and I found it delightful. I worked until it was time to get ready for the evening, so I dressed and made my way to the Concierge Lounge on deck 10. Being able to use the Concierge Lounge as a Diamond Member (10 completed cruises on Royal Caribbean) is one of the main benefits. There is an open bar from 5pm until 9pm and one can serve themselves wine, beer or mixed drinks and there are also a good amount of hot and cold appetizers. It is a great way to start the evening. There were also a good number of the members in our group that were also Diamond members, which made it that much more enjoyable. We made our way to the restaurant and I enjoyed being able to jump from table to table, getting to know everyone. This is one of the main advantages of traveling in a group. Dinner was excellent and we lingered again until the late seating show was about to start. I normally do not go to the shows, but the table that I was sitting with insisted that I go. I am so glad that I did. The show featured the talented group that performed "A Salute to the Temptations". They were awesome. They had us standing, dancing, clapping and left with a standing ovation from the entire theater. They were so much fun that I ended up hitting the Schooner bar for a nightcap before turning in.

Wednesday, May 3rd, 2006; St. Maarten, Netherlands Antilles, casual
We were not due to arrive at St. Maarten until 8am and when I awoke, I noticed it was very cloudy and threatening rain. I had arranged to go to a restaurant on Orient beach that had been recommended as excellent, but when it started raining in earnest around 11am, I called off the luncheon. Those that went however had a great time and said it wasn't raining that hard on the other side of the island. I worked all day and then made my way to the Concierge Lounge to meet some of the other group members for an early cocktail. The Concierge had arranged for tickets to the Ice show for our group and at 7:30pm we made our way to Studio "B". I have to tell you; if you cruise on a Voyager class ship and do not attend the ice show, you are missing one of the main reasons to cruise on these ships. Even if you do not like ice skating, you will love this show, I guarantee it. After the Ice show, we made our way back to the Concierge Lounge until it was time to head for the restaurant and another great dinning experience.

Thursday, May 4th, 2006; St. Thomas, U.S.V.I., casual
Having been to St. Thomas a good number of times, I was more interested in getting some exercise than in seeing the sights. After breakfast and after most of the passengers had left on their tours, I debarked the ship for the first time on this cruise and walked into town from the Havensight Cruise Terminal. I was surprised at how many stores are now located in and around the port itself. It really isn't even necessary to go into town to shop, as there are numerous shops selling everything under the sun right at the Havensight Mall at the cruise terminal. I walked the mile or so into town and was reminded at just how commercial the Caribbean had become in places. After walking around town taking pictures for, I made my way back to the ship. It turned out that the weather was improving, so I spent the late afternoon enjoying the sunshine before we departed at 6pm. This is one of my main reasons for preferring late seating. After my nightly visit to the Concierge Lounge and an excellent dining experience with our group, I turned in early bushed from the exercise, sunshine and day's events.

Friday, May 5th, 2006; Day at Sea, formal
The morning started with our second seminar in the Conference Center and moved on to the Diamond member's party in the Viking Crown Lounge at 11:30. I always enjoy these events, as it gives everyone an opportunity to meet and mingle with the executive staff aboard the ship. This meeting was no different. There was much talk about the Freedom of the Seas at the meeting and the anticipation for the vessel is overwhelming. A small group of us lingered after the meeting talking about various topics and then I enjoyed lunch with one of our group members that was also in attendance at the meeting. All in all, it was a good day. The sun was out in force, but I ended up working instead of enjoying it. I had made so much progress on the work that I had brought with me I was dumbfounded. People always think I am nuts to be working on a cruise ship, but I am telling you that I can get more done on a one-week cruise than I can at home in a month. I had arranged for our group photo to be taken at 7:15pm, so was dressed and ready to go in the Schooner Bar at 7pm. Most of our group made it to the photo and it was taken right on time by an excellent photographer. After a cocktail at the Schooner Bar, we made our way back up to the Concierge Lounge for some chardonnay and appetizers before dinner. I was really getting used to the routine. Dinner was capped off by a birthday party for one of our group members. He was a retired nuclear submarine captain, so we felt it necessary to bestow such desirable gifts upon him as a kid's captain's hat, a grass skirt, a kid's telescope, a sailing ship in a bottle; that sort of thing. He was a great sport and enjoyed the party. Following dinner a group of us went to the Maharaja's lounge for the salsa dance contest, but missed most of it. We then made our way to the Chamber, the Explorer's Disco. I stopped going to the disco years ago, as I am happily married and many people don't understand that a married man can still have a wonderful time dancing and having fun, without any sexual overtones. Out of respect for my wife, I just gave up going. Since it was a festive birthday and there were a good number of our group members there, I felt safe to simply relax and have a good time. Big mistake. This lady (not a part of our group) attached herself to me (literally) and would not leave me alone. Finally one of the ladies in our group came to my rescue and shortly thereafter, I left for my cabin to turn in for the night. I seriously doubt  that I will ever set foot in a disco again.

Saturday, May 6th, 2006; Nassau, Bahamas; casual
We were due to arrive in Nassau at noon, so after my normal breakfast, work, lunch, work, Jacuzzi and then more work, I spent some time in the sunny day by the pool. Most folks got off the ship to visit Nassau, but I found the solitude welcoming and soothing. The day went by so quickly, I couldn't believe it. The ship had turned half of the conference area into a furniture manufacturing facility and the crew was busy reupholstering all of the chairs and sofas on the ship. At about 11:30am I got a knock on my door and it was now my turn. I had to vacate my cabin while the crew took my sofa and chair to reupholster them. I was duly impressed. So I spent the afternoon in the Solarium enjoying the solitude and it was a great day. I packed late in the day and then made my way to take care of the final details of the cruise. I was in the Concierge Lounge right on time and enjoyed the camaraderie that had evolved during the cruise. After dinner I enjoyed a cocktail with new made friends in the Schooner Bar before turning in for the evening.

Sunday, May 7th, 2006; Miami, Florida
We arrived right on time and I was all packed and ready to go. After breakfast, a shower and finishing packing, I made my way down to deck 4 and the debarkation line. Now, I should tell you my options. I am a Diamond member and I could have gone to deck 3, enjoyed a continental breakfast, coffee and priority disembarkation, but because I had a later flight, I left that option for those with earlier departure times. I stood in line for almost an hour and the line was moving at a snail's pace. I later found out that here was a bunch of international passengers and that the immigrations process was taking an especially long time since there were only two immigration agents processing U.S. citizens.

I was close to the point of checking off the ship when I saw a group of Diamond members being led to the front of the line. Since the line was not moving at all, the Loyalty Ambassador left them as she went back to deck three to help other Diamond members. I recognized the group as being from a college as they were also in the Chairman's Lounge waiting for priority embarkation at the same time I was there at the beginning of the cruise. There was about a ten minute period before the line started to move again and the Diamond members moved to join the line. At this point someone further back from me started shouting "the line is over there!" to the Diamond members. They obviously thought that the people were trying to butt into the line. It went from bad to worse.

A young man right behind me shouted obscenities at the women and that is when one of the women confronted the young man asking him to watch his language. I let the ladies in front of me and they checked off the ship and gathered on the gangway somewhat flustered. When I got into the terminal where the line was quite long, the three people that had been vocal were right behind me followed by the Diamond members (6 ladies and a gentleman). The young man that had used the profanity was now becoming vocal again and quite agitated. He was making statements that were downright hurtful and mean. I intervened to try and explain what had happened and that the people had every right to be in the line where they were, but the young man did not want to hear it.

He kept on insulting the people making racial statements.

One of the ladies sought out a security guard to complain about the young man's actions who came by to talk with him. When she left, he started again. About five minutes later, the security guard came back with an officer and detained the young man and his two traveling companions while the security guard interviewed the group of Diamond members who had also been pulled from the line. I couldn't help but come to their defense and explained exactly what had happened. The Diamond members were then expedited through immigration and customs while the young man was detained and I suspect went to jail. That is as it should have been.

Californians are oblivious to racism simply because of the wide diversity in our state. It mystifies me that there are still people who see differences between themselves and other people. How sad.

My flight home was uneventful and I was glad to be back in my home state.

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