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Tom & Mary Milano

Age: 73

Occupation:Retired Restauranteur

Number of Cruises: 21

Cruise Line: Royal Caribbean

Ship: Explorer of the Seas

Sailing Date: February 10th, 2001

Itinerary: Eastern Caribbean

This is a very long, comprehensive review. We suggest you print it so you can read it at your leisure. When you begin to wonder....when is it going to end....remember, we warned you.


No, we didn't make a mistake. We know it's a rule that the conclusion of anything comes at the end, not the beginning. Nevertheless, we are going to make an exception to that rule with our review of Royal Caribbean's ‘Explorer of the Seas.' Why? Because we want you to know, up-front, before you read another word, that the ‘Explorer of the Seas' is without a doubt, the most beautiful ship, with the most outstanding crew of any ship we have sailed on. We would book it again in a heart beat.


Our Valentine cruise aboard RC's ‘Explorer of the Seas' was our 21st cruise (Honeymoon), in a little less than five years. Unequivocally, it was the best we have ever experienced. Mary & I call our cruises ‘Honeymoons' because we feel that taking a cruise is the most romantic, intimate, exciting way to spend real quality time with the one you love. Our Valentine week cruise had all those elements and more. It was very special. Although it will be difficult, we are going to attempt to take you on the cruise with us, with certain limitations, and have you share some of our memorable moments.

As we state in all our reviews, please remember that our perspective might be very different from yours. What we like, you may dislike. What we think chic, you might see in a different light. What we think is an excellent meal may not be to your liking. You can find out if we have similar likes and dislikes by reading our opening remarks on our home page. Remember we are expressing our opinion. You may not agree with what we say, but that's okay, because it's just our opinion.

You will find our review different from what you normally read. Not only do we share our cruise experience but we also share some of our thoughts and things we do that have made our sixties and seventies the best years of our life. If sentimentality and romance are not your cup of tea, you might as well not read any further. Those aspects are an important part of our life and we include them in our cruise reviews. We do so with the hope that we can inspire and encourage others to make the most of their remaining years. To live each day as if it were the last day of their life and to do what they can do, while they're still able to do it. Mary suggested I reveal her age hoping that it might help the older generation reading this review, to realize that aging is an activity of the mind, an attitude. One's age is not a matter of how many years they have lived but by what they have allowed their mind to dwell on, for those years. We love and agree with what Lou Buscaglia wrote, "Love is the long-sought Fountain of Youth. As long as we love, we remain young. Less than a century is not long to live, but it is long enough to learn that love is what it's all about." [I will tell you Mary's numerical age after you have had a chance to see some pictures I took of her during the cruise]

We received a great deal of e-mail regarding Wimpy's marriage maintenance we wrote about in our Splendour review. We thought you would be interested in knowing if Wimpy retained his new persona or if he reverted to his Macho Man traits of the past. Read on and we will tell you how Wimpy made the most of Valentine week by doing some special acts of marriage maintenance that completely obliterated Macho Man. [ ]


If we make a suggestion we think would be important for you to remember, we will print that suggestion in CAPITAL LETTERS at the end of that subject. We also suggest you print the review you like, of the ship your going to cruise on, and take it with you.


We like to give the suggested tip for the week, to our Cabin attendant, Waiter and Assistant waiter the first day of our cruise. Before we leave, we make out [3 x 5] envelopes with a note that reads...This is a down payment on your services, Thank you, Tom & Mary Milano. On our 20 cruises we have never had service that was poor enough to warrant us tipping less than the suggested amount. By tipping the suggested amount on the first night, we are telling our servers that we are the type people that are appreciative of good service and they can expect an additional stipend at the end of the cruise. [At the end of the cruise we usually give an additional $20 to the waiter, $10 to the assistant and $10 or $20 to the cabin attendant]. It's a small price to pay to insure having your servers give you their very best.

Magic of the $2 Bill:

We take with us $20--$30 in $2 bills. I call these our magic potion. I take a $2 bill and keep folding it until I have a small square, with the large imprint of the $2 covering the surface. I use the $2 a lot in the beginning of the cruise. I find it's important what you say when you give it, otherwise it doesn't have much significance. When I give it to a server, I say to them, give me your hand. When they give me their hand, I take it and with my other hand I show them the folded $2 bill; then I say to them, I want you to know this is a magic $2 bill and I can promise you that during this coming week something very special is going to happen to you, something that will make you very, very happy. Well, first of all very few of the servers have ever seen a $2 bill and that alone gets their rapt attention. Then you can see in their quizzical expression that their thinking; it's crazy but who knows, it might work. Who among us doesn't have some form of a lucky piece. A lucky coin, a rabbits foot, a religious medal. All we can tell you is, we have had the most amazing things happen as a result of giving out these two dollar bills, not the least which is the exceptional service we have received from a wide variety of servers.

Diet & Exercise:

We diet and exercise before a cruise. Mary & I walk a mile a day and I lift weights four days a week. Our goal is to lose the 4 lbs. we anticipate gaining on a seven-day cruise. Because we cruise so often, five to six times a year, we would both look like the Goodyear Blimp if we didn't diet & exercise. We would have to buy a new wardrobe every three months. Eating all those fattening foods, those no- no's that taste so good, is a big part of our enjoyment of a cruise. By losing the anticipated weight gain before we step aboard the ship, we eat whatever our heart desires without the slightest feeling of guilt.


During the weeks preceding our cruise, we do all the things we wrote about in our article "How We Heighten Our Cruise Experience" [ ] Guys, make sure you read about fashion week. Before we are ever at sea, Mary & I experience the same feeling of romance and intimacy as we do when we're in our cabin getting ready for formal night. Do like Mikie...try might like it..

We read our check list of things to do in our article, "Things We Do Before, During and After Our Cruise.".[ ]

Add Aqua socks and a Wizard Scented Oil Plug-In to our list of things to bring.

Bows On Luggage:

Tie colorful bows on your luggage, especially if it's black. Makes them much easier to spot when you disembark..


We drove from our home in New Smyrna Beach to the Port of Miami. We set the tone and the mood for our cruise by listening to CD's of romantic Latin music for the entire four-hour drive. Our favorites are Pedro Vargas, Los Panchos Trios and Julio Iglesias.

We arrived at the RCCL terminal at 12:15, left our luggage with the porter and I parked our car in the garage across from the terminal. (Ten dollars a day) We got in the check in line at 12:30 and had a twenty minute wait. Our documents were checked and we boarded the ship at 12:55. Passengers who arrived just 15 minutes later had a full half hour wait.






Atrium Cabins are a first with RC and the latest innovation in the cruise industry. I think the best way to explain the layout of the Atrium cabins is to first describe THE PROMENADE DECK, the focal point of the vessel. Most of the new ships other than the ‘Voyager' and the ‘Explorer' have what they call Centrums. A Centrum is a large circular open area, usually with a mobile sculpture hanging in the center, that runs vertically, some as high as 10 or 12 decks. The Promenade deck of the ‘Explorer' runs diagonally and is 450 ft long & 40 ft wide, with a 11-story Centrum on each end. If you stand at one end and look the length of the Promenade, it looks like a street in a very high-class district of a chic suburb. The street is paved with handsome tiles in a very interesting design. It has stores on both sides at street level, with three stories of apartments above the stores. These apartments have large bay windows, which are the back walls of the inside cabins on decks six, seven and eight. The bay windows have love seats beneath them and you can look out at the Promenade deck from inside your cabin. When you stroll the Promenade, you would never think you're on a ship, maybe a high class shopping maul, but never a ship. We will be telling you lot more about the Promenade deck and the stores....but in the meanwhile, come with us and see our cabin.

As you walk into our Atrium cabin, the first thing you see is the bay window with a love seat beneath it. On the adjoining wall is another love seat with a cocktail table between them. A very comfortable seating arrangement. It has a king size bed with two night tables. On the opposite wall is a large desk area with a mini bar underneath. A hair dryer is in the top drawer. The mini bar has a very nice feature. It has an empty shelf that you can keep your own items that need refrigeration. The closet and drawer space is... just adequate. It would have helped if they had drawers under the bay window love seat. There is plenty of room under the beds for your luggage. The bathroom is compact and efficient. RC got rid of the creepy-crawly shower curtain and replaced it with a sliding glass shower door. A decided improvement. The lighting was very good. One thing we especially liked was the reading lamps. The lamps had two switches, one for overall lighting, and another for turning on a pinpoint light for reading. They had a toggle that allowed you to point the light in any direction. Later I will explain how I used these pin point lights to showcase some things I gave Mary for Valentines day. We plugged in our Wizard-Scented Oil Plug-In we brought with us and in a matter of moments the room was filled with the sweet fragrance of fresh flowers. Wimpy inhaled deeply, rolled his eyes and smiled.


We first went to the Windjammer, RC's luncheon restaurant, and had a bite to eat. When we finished, we went to the Magellan dining room where the Maitre`di was seeing passengers that wanted to confirm or change their seating arrangements. We make it a point to check our table assignment as soon as possible and we advise you to do the same. It's important to check if the table assigned you is what you requested. If it isn't what you requested, the Maitre`di has a chance to make the necessary changes. We checked our table #379 in the Magellan dining room and it was what we had asked for, a table for two. We enquired about making reservations for the alternative restaurant and were told to go directly to the Portofino on the Port side of the Windjammer and see the Maitre`di. We planned on having a romantic dinner on Valentines Day and we wanted to make sure we had a reservation. We went directly to the Portofino, saw the Maitre`di and he told us there were no reservations available, they were sold out. I told him that we had been looking forward to celebrating Valentines day with them and how disappointed we were that we couldn't get a reservation. I asked the Maitre`di to take my name in case he had a cancellation. The Maitre`di was Italian and when he saw that my name was Milano, he gave me a big smile and said, "Your name is Milano? I come from Milano, that's my birthplace." He reached out to shake my hand and said, "Mr. Milano, I will see what I can do for you." I happened to have a $5 in my hand when we shook hands and needless to say, we had a phone message that afternoon, telling us we had a reservation.




After checking with the Maitre`di, we make a quick, preliminary tour of the ship. We checked out the main areas. What we saw was absolutely breathtaking. Some new ships we have cruised with this past year have shown signs of cutting back on the materials they use in building their product. Not so with RC's ‘Explorer.' Everything about this ship spells class in capital letters. After finishing our quick tour we headed back to our cabin.

It was now 3:30 and there in front of our cabin door was our luggage. This was the first time our luggage was delivered this early and all four pieces at the same time. Mary had a big smile on her face. She was delighted. It means a lot to Mary to get everything unpacked and put in its proper place. She's from the old school that believes there is a place for everything and everything in its place and that's the way she keeps our cabin. I always find new places to put things. Maybe that's the reason I can never find anything. I ask Mary and she finds it in a matter of minutes. My Lady has a formula for finding things that are misplaced. She says if you have misplaced something, just take a moment and pray to St. Anthony and it's sure to turn up. Taking Mary's advice, I have become very good friends with St. Anthony.

As we were unpacking, our cabin attendant came and introduced herself as Ester Allen, from Nicaragua. After she told us what she would do and what we should do, when she was leaving I stepped outside with her. I handed her the envelope I had prepared and told her it was a down payment on her services. I asked her how many cabins she had and she said ten. I asked if on disembarkation day she wouldn't mind doing our cabin last so we could stay in our room until our color was called. She said as long as she could come in the cabin and make the bed, it wasn't a problem. We don't know about you, but for us, disembarkation day is the worst day of the cruise. We are now able to have a leisurely breakfast in the main dining room, then return to our cabin and watch Television until our color is called. Being able to do this has made a world of difference to us. It's a nice relaxed ending to a busy week of cruising; you should try it.....we will take you for a walk along the Promenade deck on our way to dinner.




x2.jpg (29520 bytes) We decided to check out the stores on the Promenade deck on our way to dinner. There are four elevators on each side of the 11 story Centrums that are at the ends of the 450 ft. Promenade deck. Two on each side are outside elevators with clear glass which gives you a view of everything that is happening on this busy thoroughfare. The elevators are ultra modern and when there scooting from floor to floor, you feel like your traveling in a space ship. In a cutout in the carpet, is a removable section with the day of the week printed on it. Each day it's changed. [It's a signature feature on all RC's new ships.] We took the elevator to Deck we walk from the elevator you see,

A magnificent 11 story Centrum with lighted floating stairways connecting the upper and lower x3.jpg (8095 bytes) decks. In the open area of the Centrum hangs one of the most beautiful sculptures we have seen, Jonathan & Evelyn Clowes, ‘Canticle to a Blue Planet.' [See picture] On either side of this breathtaking Centrum are the Champagne Bar and the Guests Relations desks. As we walk the Promenade deck, we pass the following stores; Tommy Hilfiger, a general store, Logo Souvenirs, Weekend Warrior [A sports Bar], Crown & Kettle Pub, [An Irish style pub, very popular], A Games Room, A motorcycle and sidecar [See picture of Mary ], Sprinkles Ice Cream Stand [Ice Cream & Yogurt 24 hrs a day], Toppings Cart [A stand with every conceivable topping for ice cream], Jewelry, Cafe Promenade [This is a very popular venue, both on the Explorer & the Voyager. It's a 24 hour deli type restaurant that serves 3 or 4 different type sandwiches, Pizza, and excellent cakes & pastries. This appears to be a replacement for midnight buffets and it works. You can sit inside or sit at a sidewalk table] [See picture] Perfume Shop, Island Clothing....We are now at the forward Centrum. On the other side of the Centrum is the Mahar x4.jpg (13370 bytes) aja's Lounge. Two huge stone elephants are guarding the entrance. Adorning the walls of the stairwells on either side, is the art work of celebrity's such as Anthony Quinn, Tony Bennet and photographer Annie Leiberwicz. The ‘Explorer' is a virtual floating art gallery. The total art collection is valued at $11 million dollars. A little later, we will tell you more about the Maharaja's Lounge......It's now time for dinner. Come with us and we will describe the dining rooms and tell you about the food and service.

[Below is a series of thumbnail pictures of my Mary taken at different times during our cruise. Just put your cursor on a picture and press and it will enlarge into a full size print.]

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x11.jpg (29390 bytes) The ‘Explorer' has a three-tier dining room that is reminiscent of the opulent dining rooms of the grand old ocean liners of the past. The ‘Explorer' dining room is one of the most beautiful you will see. [This picture does not do it justice.] As you enter you see four very large gold, fluted columns that extend from floor to ceiling. The visual effect of these columns is stunning. Because of the sensational effect they create, the designers didn't feel the need to grace the center with the usual chandelier. Instead they created a gorgeous gold star burst, with long slivers of gold, running across the ceiling, pointing toward the columns. The gold star burst is set against a deep blue background. A striking effect. The entire back wall of the three-tiers is done in colorful tile murals. It is a very creative effort. Looks like a collage done with tiles. We never tired of looking at them. This type of wall treatment was in stark contrast to the formal look of the room, but it worked very well. On the second tier, at the back of the room, is a baby grand piano and band area. This is where a musical group played soft dinner music and on occasion strolled from table to table, playing requests. The over all appearance of the dining rooms is one of opulence and old world charm, it's a delightful setting. The dining rooms are located on the 3rd, 4th and 5th decks. Our dining room, the Magellan was on deck 3, the DaGama on 4 and the Columbus on 5. We think the seating is equally good in all of the dining rooms.


The food was the best we have had on any RC ship. However, the highlight of our cruise was the sincere friendly, exceptional service we received from the ‘Explorer' crew. This was our 21st cruise and we have never been catered too and pampered as we were by the crew of the ‘Explorer.' We are not amateurs in the restaurant business. We owned and operated an award winning restaurant with 72 in help, just outside New York City. We know what it takes to run a high performance dining room. Mary & I were amazed that this crew could perform like they did after being together for just a few short months. Our hats off to Hotel Director Shakir Hussain and his staff, they did a magnificent job of training. An interesting point we learned is that the Executive Chef is a young lady, Helga Finnsdottir, from Iceland. She is the first female executive chef in the RC fleet and has done an outstanding job of upgrading the entire kitchen operation. Another first for RC is having Antoinette "Toni" Clark as Food & Beverage Mgr. Toni is from County Kerry, in Ireland. Our compliments to both of them, the food and the service were lets meet our servers and have dinner.

[Service is a major factor of our enjoyment of a cruise. Please be patient with us as we take a few minutes to tell you about some exceptional service we received.]


Being the owners of very successful restaurant, it was an important part of our business to greet our customers and make them feel comfortable. We were constantly meeting people, and we like people, but when we're on a cruise...we want to be alone! We like to set the tone of our day at breakfast and we find it very difficult to do when we're meeting new people. It's the same litany of questions. Where you from? How many children do you have? What do you do? Are you enjoying your cruise?...and on and on and on. Now don't get the wrong idea. We're not anti social, but when it comes to breakfast, we want to be alone....especially during Valentines week.! We told our tale of woe to the Maitre`dis' on duty and they accommodated us throughout the cruise. Some days when they didn't have a table for two, they gave us a table of four and once a table six, for just the two of us. They literally couldn't do enough for us. They made us feel very special. We are so intent with telling you about the attitude and service of the dining room staff, we almost forgot to tell you about the food. Breakfast in the main dining room was the best we have experienced. In short....IT WAS GREAT!


x12.jpg (8564 bytes) Our waiter Hassan, a nice looking young man from Turkey, seated us. When he handed us menus', I held out the envelope I had prepared and told him this is a down payment on your services. He looked surprised and pleased and thanked us. I told him being he serves the same menu week after week, he knows what we shouldn't order. I told him when we ordered an item he didn't think we would enjoy, to suggest we try something else. I also told him, being the kitchen features a pasta dish each evening, to also bring us a plate of pasta when he brings our dinner entree. We had him place the plate of pasta in the middle of the table so it was convenient for both of us. For the readers information, we do this in case we don't care much for the entree, we at least know we're going to enjoy the Pasta. When it came time to order, Hassan suggested we try the chicken. We weren't very happy with his suggestion. Chicken would be the last thing we would think of ordering. Mary often says we eat so much chicken when we're home, we are about to cackle. But, I did ask his advice and reluctantly we ordered the chicken. What a pleasant surprise! It was without a doubt the best chicken dish we have ever had. Hassan won our confidence and he was so pleased that we liked the item he had suggested. We were both happy.

The assistant waiter was Martin from Haiti. He was a dead ringer for the movie star Danzel Washington. Of course, from that moment on I called him Danzel. He feigned embarrassment but he loved it. Every time we called him Danzel, he broke out into a big smile. We gave Danzel his tip envelope on the second evening. The wine steward, a very attractive young lady with a beautiful smile, came to our table and introduced herself as Marianna, from Romania. The first night of a cruise I order Mary a bottle of Chardonnay and it usually takes her through the week. As the week progressed we became very friendly with Marianna. Within moments of Marianna's visit, the bar steward came to our table. He had an infectious smile. He introduced himself as Garreth, from Nicaragua. I told him I usually had a bottle of Odouls with my dinner and sometimes a second. From that moment on, not only did he have a bottle on the table when we were seated, but he had an extra in the ice bucket in case I wanted a refill. We always had a laugh when he came to the table. It was a pleasure to have him serve us.

Our Maitre`di was Chris from England. Top notch Maitre`di's exude an air of confidence without appearing arrogant. Chris had it all. He was a charmer and it didn't take very long to realize he was a real pro. He did something for us that is still hard for us to believe. When we told him we were having diner at the Portofino for Valentines day, he said it was too bad because they were serving Rack of Lamb that night. I said I would really be disappointed because that was my favorite dish. He said I won't promise you but I will try to have the chef save two portions and serve it to you Thursday. I looked at him in amazement and said, can you do that? He said I can try. Just to make conversation, I asked him what they were serving Thursday and he said Lobster Tails. When I told him it was Mary's favorite dish, he rolled his eyes. He said he didn't know if he could do it, but he would try and have the chef make the Lamb for us Friday night. I asked him if that was possible. He said he would try and see if he could have it done. On Friday the last night of the cruise, much to our surprise, Hassan came to our able with two orders of Rack of Lamb done to absolute perfection, with mint jelly and all the trimmings. I couldn't believe that Chris could get the chef of kitchen serving over 3,300 people to cook a special order for us. I still have no idea how he did it. If Chris or any of the crew knew, we were contributing editors for Tom Ogg's Cruise Review page, that might explain why they would want to give us special treatment. But the fact is, no one knew. This extra special effort to please us shows the extent this crew would go to please one of their guests. This was just one of the many highlights of our dining experience.


We cruised aboard the Voyager Valentines week 2000 and were very disappointed with the food. [We hear from good authority that it is much improved.] We were apprehensive about the ‘Explorer' kitchen but to our delight the food on the ‘Explorer' was not only good, it was exceptional. RC's menus are still limited but they have made giant steps as far as the quality of their food, its garnish and its presentation. The chicken, Filet Mignon, Rack of Lamb, Lobster Tail, most Soups and the Chocolate and Grand Marnier Souffles were excellent. For people who do not know about souffles, souffles are a very difficult dessert to prepare and serve. If you're not extremely careful, it will collapse on you and forget it, you might as well start over. Both souffles served to Mary were perfect, just waiting for Hassan to ladle the cool Zabaglione sauce into their centers. Souffles are Mary's favorite and she said they were very good. We think you will have a better dining experience if you ask the waiters recommendation. He knows what items on the menu have been a hit with his customers. Your waiter wants to please you, ask for his lets walk up one flight to deck 4, to the Promenade deck. We will walk the full length of the Promenade deck forward to the Palace theater.




x13.jpg (13271 bytes) The Palace showroom is a magnificent room that seats 1,350 people. It's a huge, it's enormous and it's beautiful. There is not a bad seat in the house. The first thing that catches your eye as you enter, is the stage curtain. They are the focal point of all the showrooms on RC's newer ships. The idea for this curtain was taken from a painting by Gustav Klimt. It depicts a woman's choir of 30 women dressed in bright red dresses. These brilliantly colored figures are set against a red & blue flecked background, with gold leaves cascading down from the surrounding trees. It's very creative and very artistic. The decor of the room is exquisite. RC have solved the problem of what to do with our drinks? They have drink holders on their other ships but most of the glasses didn't fit into the holder. They now have tapered glasses for all drinks and they fit very nicely into the drink holders in the right arm rest. Drink servers were everywhere. We never had a problem getting a decent seat. The cast did something very nice at the end of the farewell show. They lined the sides of the entrance to the Palace and the entire stairway to deck four. As the passengers passed them as they left the showroom, the performers thanked them and wished them a safe trip home. A nice touch....lets give you an idea of the shows and the performers.


Very likeable. Very hard worker. Did a good job. He was all over the ship and also had a daily interview show. I don't think many of us realize what a stressful job cruise directors have. They can never let down for a moment. Most of us expect them to be at their best every minute of the day.

FAST FORWARD: Full Production Show:

This was the show presented for the first formal night.

It was a fast moving tribute to the hottest dance movies. Saturday Night Fever, Dirty Dancing, Flashdance and etc.. A very good dance group with exciting choreography. The set looked like a much larger version of Hollywood Squares. It was not our kind of music but we appreciated their effort.

HISTORY REPEATING --Full production Show:

This show was presented on the second formal night.

This was the first performance for this show and they did an excellent job. The set design was outstanding. They made four or five set changes that mesmerized the audience. No one could figure how they managed it. Fast paced production with four featured singers. People seemed to enjoy it but again it wasn't our kind of music. When we see these type shows we get the feeling we're dinosaurs. We're from a another world. A period that produced those marvelous melodic songs from the Broadway Musicals; when ballroom dancing was the Harvest Moon Ball type, not what they show on PBS. Remember! We will have to look for a nostalgia cruise.


He was good..not great...but good.

EL GAUCHO: --Spanish Dancer, Comedian, Pianist, Twirler of Wooden Balls, Whips and etc.

When we read in the ship's bulletin that El Gaucho was the performer we almost didn't go to the show. We have seen similar acts and never enjoyed them. We had nothing better to do so we went and are we glad that we did. He put on a sensational show. He wasn't on stage five minutes when he had the audience in the palm of his hand. He did a very funny bit with a doctor he brought on stage. He had the audience in stitches. If you get a chance to see him, make sure you make the show, he's terrific.

ICE SHOW--Explore a New World:

Second ice show at sea. The first was the ‘Voyager.' A very entertaining show. Check ships Compass for announcement when tickets are available. Best seats are in the center section facing the length of the ice. They allow passengers to skate at different times each day; they supply the skates. No charge. It's a riot watching the first timers trying to get around the ice. It reminded us of one of the old Buster Keaton movies, arms and feet going in all directions, then a big fall. We know it's not nice to laugh at people but we bet if you watch these first timers skating, you'll need a box of Kleenex in your lap.

GLENN SMITH: Pianist, Singer. Raconteur.

We saw Glen Smith on our Splendour cruise this past November and he was sensational. He flew in from Canada on the spur of the moment to fill in for someone. He had a severe cold and it effected his performance. He wasn't nearly as good as we remember him to be but that's understandable..

KYM & LES:--Acrobatic Adagio Dancers.

A very talented, artistic performance that left the audience spellbound. The strength and flexibility they displayed was unbelievable. They performed twice and both shows produced standing ovations. During the last show they performed hanging from supports that were affixed to the ceiling. Much of their act was both of them swinging out over the first five rows. It got a lot of ohs & ahs from the audience. Mary loved them and we look forward to seeing them again.

The entertainment in general was very good. We find RC does a very good job in this come with us to the Captains Party..


The Captains party on the ‘Explorer' is very different from what you have normally experienced. The reason it is different is because the Captains party is held on the Promenade deck of the ‘Explorer.' On the first formal night, guests in evening attire stroll along the Promenade deck, some with a glass of champagne in their hand. Some want to see what other couples are wearing, some are just looking to be seen. Waiters are everywhere, carrying trays of champagne and hors d'oeuvres. We pass couples that are dancing to the full show band that is on one side of the street. Others are watching the Krooz comics entertain. There are literally people everywhere and everyone is in a party mood and having a wonderful time. Try to visualize a cocktail party going full blast in an area that is one and a half times the length of a football field. This was one giant cocktail party.

In the center of the Promenade deck was an overhead walk that reached across to both walls. The captain, Johnny Faevelen, gave his speech from there and then introduced his staff. When he finished, he went to the Maharajas Lounge to meet those who wanted to have a picture taken with him. We wanted to say hello because he was also the captain when we sailed on the Voyager last year. He is very personable and you can tell he enjoys it when he is introduced like Ed McMahon introduced Johnny Carson. You know...the Heeeeeeeeeers Johnny! That's the way he was introduced throughout the cruise and that's the way he introduced himself when he made an announcement over the P.A. system. He's becoming a show business ham. The Promenade deck is the hub for all sorts of entertainment. There is a welcome aboard parade the first night and two other parades during the week. They are well worthwhile seeing. They gave us the feeling we were at a Mardi Gras celebration. In the parade there were clowns, stilt walkers, Krooz comics, dancers, members of the show in various costumes, a couple of singing groups and much more. The party goers also filled the Maharajas Lounge. A three-piece combo supplied the music. We are going to tell you about the music in our final comments.....before you're totally bored to death, let me tell you Mary's numerical age and what I thought was a nice way for Wimpy to win favor with Mary during Valentines week.


Mary's Age:

You now have seen a number of pictures of my Mary and I think you will agree with me, she looks beautiful. Well, my little Irish lady will be seventy-eight years young on her next birthday. I think the way she looks, speaks for what her attitude on aging has done for her. Just the other day we were driving to the maul and I was kidding Mary about her age. I told her the only reason she married me was because I was a younger man and I would be able to take care of her when she got old. She said, "I never think about my age. I just don't give it a thought." That's my Mary. She keeps it simple, but it sure works. By the way, this young man who is writing this, will soon be seventy-five. I'm just a kid....I want to tell you what Wimpy did for Mary for Valentines Day. [A picture of us on formal night...Doesn't she look terrific.]

Having spoiled Mary by having a rose placed on her pillow every night during our Splendour cruise, I was hard pressed to think of something to do for Valentines week. Mary & I no longer spend a lot of money on gifts for each other. We find that the quality time we have together on a cruise is gift enough for all occasions. But Mary does like thoughtful gifts and thoughtful words. I gave it a lot of thought and decided I would write some short notes of endearment, and give her a note every day of Valentines week. But how would I deliver them? That was the question. I finally got the idea of finding seven different very small attractive boxes that I could conceal my little notes. I looked all over without a lot of success but finally I came across the type boxes I was looking for. I found two small heart shaped porcelain boxes. I filled one with candy kisses and one with chocolate hearts and my notes. I found a very beautiful small wooden bowl with a wicker cover. I filled it with potpourri saturated with Hyacinth oil, Mary's favorite scent, and a note. I also found two attractive china & metal heart-shaped boxes. I cut out a picture of the two of us and pasted it in the inside cover of one. Then with the other, I cut out a picture myself and pasted it on the inside cover. I wrote appropriate notes for both. I was lucky to find a tiny music box. It was on a pedestal and had two love birds on the cover. It had just enough room inside for two chocolate hearts and a note. The one I was most proud of, was a porcelain heart-shaped box that I gave to Mary the last night of our cruise. On the inside cover was a picture of a boy who has become a special friend of Mary's. I placed a note inside that read, ‘Your Love Knows No Bounds.' Mary was speechless......I know a lot of you men have tuned me out by now, but that's okay, ....I'm sure the ladies are still with me and would like to hear what was Wimpy s next move.

Mary had no idea I was going to do this. She didn't have a clue. I kept the gifts in a drawer in my night table. I gave her one present each day of the cruise but at different times each day. And every day she was genuinely surprised. When I gave her a gift at night, I waited till she took her shower. Then I placed the gift on her pillow and toggled the pinpoint spot so the light would shine on the gift. Then I turned out all other lighting and waited for Mary to come out and see what Wimpy had done. Sometimes in the morning, when I was alone for a few minutes, I would do the same thing and then again, sometimes in the afternoon. She was absolutely totally and completely surprised. Between the Scented Oil Plug-In and the Hyacinth Potpourri we felt like our cabin was the garden of Eden. But on second thought, I think it was.

On Valentine Day morning we read our Valentine notes to each other. I wouldn't dare reveal what Mary wrote, but I'll tell you how she signed it. She wrote, "You are my house guest forever and your room is in my heart." Now, isn't that a beautiful poetic way of saying I love you? But then again, it doesn't surprise me, that's my lady Mary. Talk about special moments. Old Wimpy was teary eyed. It was the nicest Valentine we have ever had and it will become another of our many treasured memories. Wimpy never stopped smiling for the entire week....I have no doubt that we have told you much more than you wanted to know....enough about romance...we're going to take you on a tour of the remaining venues. We will try to hurry ...but remember this is a very big ship. (In fact, it is the biggest in the world.)

Windjammer & Island Grill:

The Windjammer and the Island Grill are two very attractive lunch areas. Both rooms have two separate buffet lines and it seems to work very well. They seemed to have a good selection and it never seemed crowded. We didn't eat here during the entire cruise. We ate lunch at Johnny rockets the first day and we enjoyed it so much we ate there most every day.

Johnny Rockets: 1950's style dinner.

This became one of our favorite spots. When we sailed on the ‘Voyager' last February they charged for everything. RC has changed their policy. The only charge is for Malts & Shakes. You can sit inside the diner or at tables along the rail. When you step inside, your stepping back in time to the 40 and 50's. The decor is Red Naugerhyde booths, with juke box selectors at every table and a Formica counter with stools. A page out of the past. Besides Hamburgers, they serve great french fries and onion rings. But the piece de resistance, is the Malts & Shakes. They are out of this world. I had a Malt and Mary had a Shake most every day of the cruise. Many days with pie ala mode. [Now you understand why we diet and exercise.] I have always loved malts. When I was eight or nine, we lived in Brooklyn. My mother used to give me a quarter and an egg and send me to the candy store that had a soda fountain. I would ask Mr. Cohen to make me a malt with the egg in it. My mother said it would make me strong. I think it might have helped. If you stop at Johnny Rockets, make sure you ask for Ray Louie. He is the supervisor of this operation and does an outstanding job. Tell him the man with the $2 bills said hello. Johnny Rockets is open from 11:30 till 1:00 and for the youth program 6 pm-7 pm.

Adventure Land: Children's Heaven.

To the rear of Johnny Rockets is Adventure land. It is without a doubt the most comprehensive children's area we have seen. It's obvious Royal Caribbean has spent a ton of money to see to it that the children stay occupied. Beside the in-line roller skating, the rock climbing wall, the ice-skating rink, RC has every conceivable electronic game and every up to date gadget that might interest a youngster. They also have a kid's slide that ends one deck lower. Beside all of this, they also have a separate disco and bar for the young people. Other activities include special dinners for the kids with their counselors and slumber parties. If you have your kids with you on the ‘Explorer' you will feel more like you're on a ‘Honeymoon' rather than a family vacation. You might never see them except for dinner.

The Viking Crown is no longer the disco. This area now encompasses four rooms. A card room, a party room, a magnificent chapel on the upper level and Dizzy's Club. We attended Catholic mass in the Chapel and found it very inspirational. It's a beautiful room with an altar with two magnificent bouquets on either side and an overhead ceiling of stained glass. When the sun comes streaming through the large stained glass panels, the room is bathed in all the colors of the rainbow. You know you are in a Holy place. During the cruise, seventeen couples took their wedding vows in this chapel. Down a flight of steps and you approach the entrance to Dizzy's Place. Take notice of the art deco rug that decorates the floor in the elevator bay. It's one of a kind. As you look up, you see a life-sized bronze statue of Dizzy Gillespie. You are now 14 decks above the sea and the views are spectacular. We tried to spend time in this room but we found the music much too loud. We are going to give you a more complete account of music at the end of our review.

There are thirty-five bars on this ship. We are only going to tell you about the Schooner, the Chambers, the Aquarium and the Portofino restaurant. The Schooner is a bar that is between the Casino and the Showroom. It is very well appointed but nothing like the Schooner Lounge aboard the ‘Enchantment,' with its glass wall facing the ocean. It appears to be a haven for the Casino crowd. A piano player plays and sings requests. We tried it one evening and had the same problem we had with all the music venues that we will tell you about at the end of our review. The Chambers is the disco. It is very dim when you first walk in but after a few moments your eyes adjust and you see that it looks like a room in a medieval castle. There are light fixtures on the wall simulating torches. Their electric but you would swear that there are flames coming out of the sockets. Very ingenious. You soon realize you are walking on a balcony that encompasses the entire room. We look over the balcony rail and we see couples dancing below us. The designers did an excellent job of decorating but we were told that very few people frequent this room. The Aquarium bar on deck four, features glass walls of tropical fish. This is a beautiful area but for some reason the water was very murky and there wasn't many fish. The Aquarium was a spectacular display on the ‘Voyager' but I think the maintenance men on the ‘Explorer' are having a problem filtering the water properly. I'm sure it will be resolved in the near future.


The Portofino is Royal Caribbean's alternative restaurant and is located on the port side of the Windjammer. They have a cover charge of $20. The decor is pleasant and what you would expect in a class Italian restaurant. The menu offered a nice selection of entrees and the least expensive glass of wine is $9.75. Mary & I, enjoyed a romantic dinner. It was a little difficult to judge the service because it was Valentines day and they were over booked. The Maitre'di was Giovanni Mautone, a very personable young man. Being former restaurant people, we had a very interesting conversation with Giovanni. He has a lot of good ideas and we're sure the room will prosper with him in charge.


The casino is so constructed that you have to walk through it to go forward or aft. We have never liked to gamble but it was fun to walk through the Casino on the way to the show. At the Schooner bar entrance, you walk over a section of glass flooring with a display underneath that we have seen on many RC ships, but we never tire of it. On the sides of the step down to the casino, are two life size models of Las Vegas showgirls. In the center of the Casino is a life size statue of Elvis. There are of flashing lights and neon tubing everywhere. It's loud, noisy and gaudy, but how else would you expect a Casino to that your ears are clearing from all the noise, we're going to put on our swimsuits and take you to the pool areas.


x16.jpg (28257 bytes) Main Pool: This is one of the best pool area's you will ever see. It has two saltwater swimming pools next to each other, four Jacuzzis and a bandstand in a strategic location. It is huge. [See picture] On sea days this is the place to be. Cruise director Dan Whitney is the host for the "Belly Flop" contest, the "Sexy Legs Contest" and the ever popular horse racing. We rarely went to the main pool area because we love the atmosphere of the Solarium.

The Solarium:

The Solarium pool area on the ‘Explorer' is done in a Spanish motif. At one end of a rectangle pool are two bronze statues of bull fighters with a statue of a defiant bull in the center. On the other end are statues of two stallions. Part of the decor, is a series of very colorfully painted vases. Over all, It is a very pleasing effect. It's quiet and serene. We have seen children break the rules on every one of our cruises and never a word from an attendant. We couldn't believe it when a pool attendant actually told two 12-year-old boys they weren't allowed to swim in the Solarium pool. The rule was you had to be sixteen and older. We couldn't believe our eyes. We made it a point to commend her for what she did and we expressed our thanks. Everything was great except the pool temperature. We live in Florida, and any water under 80-82 degrees is too cold for us. We like warm water and we found the ideal spot for us.....the Spa Pool.

Spa & Spa Pool:

The Spa is enormous. I have never seen so much gym equipment in all my life. Clear glass walls surrounded the entire area. And the equipment facing the Ocean, which made it an idyllic place to work out. We work out when we're home, but when we cruise we save our energy for better things. The Spa Thermo pool is circular and is approximately 25 ft across. It is three & ½ ft deep and has jets and underwater benches. The water temperature is kept at 95-100 degrees. and is absolutely delightful. Most days we would go to the Spa pool about 10:45 and after being refreshed we went to Johnny Rockets for a lunch of, pie ala-mode and a Malted. Is that a great morning?....we are finally going to tell you of our ports of call.


St. Juan: We had a condominium in Puerto Rico in the late 60's and spent quite a bit of time there. We never cared for the downtown area. San Juan is a ship's day for us. This was the only day we spent time at the main pool.

St. Thomas: The last time we went to St. Thomas, we continued on to Caneel Bay, on St. Johns. We had such a good time, we thought we would try another of their beaches. I read about a beach called ‘Honeymoon Cay.' We took the ferry from Red Hook to St. Johns and when we got there we inquired about ‘Honeymoon Cay.' We were told it required a quarter mile walk from the main road. We passed on that. Instead, we took a taxi to Trunk Bay. We didn't stay very long. We looked around and saw that it didn't compare to Caneel, so we took a taxi and went to Caneel Bay. When we stepped onto the beach we felt we were in a tropical paradise. It was heavenly. We had a couple of hours at the beach and then we enjoyed a glorious buffet lunch at the outdoor restaurant. From now on, if St. Thomas is on our itinerary, Caneel we come...that's the place for us. If you're interested in going to Caneel Bay, you can read directions on how to get there, in our Splendour on to Nassau.

Nassau: After having seen Atlantis, which is spectacular, Nassau is a nothing stop for us. Being beach people, we decided to try ‘Hilton's British Colony Hotel' and Beach. It is just three or four blocks from the pier. Hilton sells a day pass for $12 per person to use their facilities. It's not expansive but it's a very nice beach. From where we were sitting on the beach, you can see the cruise ships docked at the pier. While we were there, we watched Celebrity's Mercury come in to port and stop and turn around right in front of us. The pilot then backed her into her berth. It was interesting and exciting, a great sight to see. We had a sandwiches & soft drinks served to us on the beach. When we were ready to leave, we walked back to the ship. It was nice, but I think we will try and find a better beach. I think we might try Brandon's beach the next time Nassau is on our itinerary....we'll let you know what it's like....I know you're not going to believe this, but I think we've finished.


I'm sorry our review has been so lengthy, but we sacrificed brevity, to give you as comprehensive a report as we could. We said it in our opening paragraph and we will say it again. Royal Caribbean's "Explorer of the Seas" in our opinion, is the most beautiful ship, with the most outstanding crew of any of the ships we have sailed on. Royal Caribbean, in introducing this new class of vessels, has leap frogged the industry. It's like Royal Caribbean is driving an automatic transmission and everyone else is driving a stick shift.

Our opinion of the music aboard the ‘Explorer':

We have saved our comments about the music till last. It is the only real negative we experienced but it's an area that in our opinion, needs immediate attention. As anyone knows that has read our reviews, we enjoying dancing. I'm talking about dancing to soft, melodic music that has a pleasant beat. In our opinion, whoever is booking and assigning musicians on the Royal Caribbean ships should take stock of what he's doing. The music is terrible. We couldn't find one venue that featured or played what is called cocktail music. It wasn't the type of music, as much as it was the combination of instruments of the groups, that made it sound so bad. One combo that played in the Maharaja Lounge, was composed of drums, key board, bass guitar, clarinet and believe it or not, a trombone. It was laughable. The night of the Captains cocktail party, in the Maharaja Lounge, the combo consisted of a key board, bass guitar and drums. The drummer was the leader and you didn't have to be told. He beat on those drums like he was mad at them. The group was dreadful. On occasion this same combo played at the beautiful Champagne bar, a very serene setting. Guess who was featured? It was the drummer. Can you imagine a drummer being featured in a three piece combo. It was so disturbing we had to get up and leave. There isn't a drummer that has played in a lounge, anywhere in the world that hasn't used brushes at some time. That is, everywhere except the ‘Explorer.' In the Schooner bar they featured a piano player who sang requests. We went there one night anticipating having a romantic interlude. I ordered a drink for Mary and we settled back to listen to the music. When the piano player began to sing, we couldn't believe it. I'm sure they heard him in the nearby Casino, he was that loud. We left our drinks on the table and never returned. Royal Caribbean ships have a beautiful romantic atmosphere, possibly the best of any cruise line. To select the caliber of combo's they do, to play in these magnificent venues is criminal. The music is so obviously bad that I can't imagine why management doesn't do something about it. Folks, excuse me for my tirade, but I had to get that off my chest, it really troubles me. ....but we remind you, its only our opinion...let's finish with,


If you've had enough of us that's understandable, but if you're one of those who would enjoy more of the sentimentality and romance we write about, read on.

The importance of a smile: One morning at breakfast, our waiter Chayardi, from the Philippines, greeted us with the biggest smile we have ever seen. I asked him how he could be so bright and cheerful so early in the morning. He smiled at us and told us it was a custom in his country that you smile when you greet anyone. If you didn't, it is taken as a sign that you're mad at them. It reminded me of an article I read. There is an old story about a ragged little newsboy and a beautiful actress on a bitter winter's night. "Are you cold?" she asked him. And he said, "I was until you smiled at me." A smile is a mystery; nobody knows its biological cause, only its emotional effect. For the person who smiles feels better himself. His smile is not only light to another's spirit, its curve swings inevitably back to light his own. Smile today! Smile at a child, smile at a neighbor, smile at a clerk, smile at a stranger on the street. Smile at the person who looks cross...for it is said nobody needs a smile so much as the person who has none to give; it may change the world.

Our cabin stewardess, Ester Allen: Ester is a beautiful spirit. She has three children and is highly educated. For eight years she taught school in Nicaragua. Her salary was $100 a month, $1,200 a year.

She went to work for RC three years ago and has improved the living conditions of her family. She said our cabin smelled so good she wanted to lie down and take a nap. She was a sweetheart.

Wimpy tells Mary, "Much effort part of gift." Mary was amazed at how much effort I put into surprising her. Whenever she mentioned it, I answered, ‘Much effort part of gift.' I got that line from the following article. There's an old story about an African boy who walked many miles to find a special seashell to give to his missionary teacher. Presenting it to her, he explained. "Long walk, part of gift." That's what wives seem to appreciate. They know the earrings pinch, the sweater doesn't fit, the perfume that sits on the shelf are all part of a long, long walk. The long walk is as important as he gift. I think most wives feel that way.

When are you going to die? In fifty years, twenty, ten, five, today? Last time I checked, no one had told me. The truth is, none of us has any idea how long we have to live. We postpone the things that, deep down, we know we want to do, telling the people we love how much we care, spending time alone, visiting a good friend, taking that beautiful hike, running a marathon, writing a heartfelt letter, going fishing with your daughter, learning to meditate, becoming a better listener, and on and on. We come up with elaborate and sophisticated rationales to justify our actions, and end up spending most of our time and energy doing things that aren't all that important. .

I suggest you live each day as if it were your last on this earth. I suggest this not as a prescription to be reckless or to abandon your responsibilities, but to remind you of how precious life really is. A friend of mine once said, "Life is too important to take too seriously." I know he was right. Live each day as if it were your last day on earth.

The ‘Explorer is a wonderful and well appointed ship for the physically impaired:

Marianna, our wine steward and her boyfriend: As we have told you, we became very friendly with Mariiana. She was a delight to talk to and she told us a lot about herself and her country. The last night of the cruise she brought her boy friend Merrick, who was the wine steward in the Portofino, to our table and introduced him to us. They have been keeping company for seven years and expect to tie the knot in the near future. When we left the dining room the last evening of the cruise, she hugged us and kissed us on both cheeks. A nice memory.

Meeting with Friends of Bill W: Enjoyed a meeting with fellow alcoholics at the Friends of Bill W. meeting. Met a nice young man that has made a dramatic change in his life and is now counseling fellow alcoholics. We had lunch with him at Johnny Rockets. [Mary & I had pie ala mode and malts.]

A very poignant story: Few sights evoke as much attention, and awe, as that of a large flock of Canadian geese winging their way in their V-formation to the north or south. They speak of the changing seasons, and also of the value of teamwork.

What many don't know is that when a goose gets sick, or perhaps is wounded by a shot, it never falls from formation by itself. Two other geese also fall out of formation with it and follow the ailing goose down to the ground. One of them is very often the mate of the wounded bird, since geese mate for life and are extremely loyal to their mates. Once on the ground, the healthy birds help protect him and care for him as much as possible, even to the point of throwing themselves between the weakened bird and possible predators. They stay with him until he is either able to fly, or until he is dead. Then, and only then, do they launch out on their own. In most cases, they wait for another group of geese to fly overhead and they join them, adding to safety and flying efficiency of their numbers. Wouldn't it be wonderful if all marriage partners would do the same.

A GOOD THOUGHT: Work like you don't need the money, Love like you've never been hurt, Dance like nobody's watching. [sent to us by a dear friend, Pat Cromwell.]

"Such Love." Our favorite, on love and devotion: My wife Muriel, has Alzheimer's Disease. She has started talking only in phrases and single words. But she can say one sentence: "I love you." She not only says it, she acts it. At first, the board of the seminary where I work arranged for a companion to stay in our home so I could go to the office. During those two years, as soon as I left for the office, Muriel

Muriel still feeds herself, but leaves all other functions to me. Yet she is contented and often bubbles with laughter. What more could I ask? I have a home full of love and laughter; many couples with their wits about them don't have that! When Muriel reaches out to me in the night hours or smiles contentedly and lovingly as she awakes, I thank the Lord for his grace to us and ask him to let me keep her. Muriel is the joy of my life. Daily I discern new manifestations of the kind of person she is, the wife I love and will always love....and we think we know what love is?.

PICTURE OF THE PROMENADE DECK : If you want to see the best published picture of the Promenade Deck on the Voyager, you will see it on page 8 of the Royal Caribbean Brochure, "CARIBBEAN--BAHAMAS--BERMUDA, 2001-2002. Get the brochure from your travel agent.

Again, we would like to thank Tom & Joannie Ogg for allowing us be part of their team. Tom is a veteran of thirty-five years in the cruise business and we're happy to see him posting his reviews on a separate page on his site. Also, don't fail to read the twice monthly column, ‘Cruising & Beyond' by that international known cruise industry writer, Raoul Fiebig, His column appears exclusively on the Cruise Reviews page and if you request, he will send it to you by e-mail.

We are excited about our up coming cruises. Celebrity's new Millennium this March 25th. (The last cruise before they go into dry dock.) Our second cruise on the ‘Voyager' May 13th, our anniversary. (Wimpy's running out of ideas.) October 11th, 10 days aboard the Ocean Princess and a 10 day cruise aboard Celebrity's Summit this November 23rd. If anyone is booked on one of these cruises, please let us know. We would like to meet you and say hello.

We had such a wonderful time we can't stop talking about it. The wonders of cruising. Here we are, seventy-five and seventy-eight, retired for twenty-eight years, and at this age we're having the time of our life. I wish we had money enough to tell those who haven't cruised, try your first cruise and if you don't think it's the greatest, we'll pay for it. But being we can't do that, you'll have to take our word for it. After trying every type vacation during the twenty-eight years we have been retired, in our opinion, there is no vacation on earth like taking a cruise. We welcome any questions or comments you might have, especially those from first time cruisers.

May your next cruise be your best.
Our warmest regards,

Tom & Mary Milano

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