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Michelle Danks

Age: 33

Occupation:Quality Assurance Rep

Number of Cruises: 1

Cruise Line: Royal Caribbean

Ship: Explorer of the Seas

Sailing Date: December 7th, 2002

Itinerary: Western Caribbean

We flew into Fort Lauderdale at 9:30 am and transferred to a bus that took us to the Royal Caribbean pier. As we approached, our bus driver pointed out our ship. That was the first time we realized just how huge it was. We stayed on the bus while they got the suitcases off. We identified our suitcases and the RC porter took them away. We proceeded into the building to check in. We waited in a lobby area for about 10 minutes before they allowed us through metal detectors to the actual check in. We stood in line for 5 minutes before we checked in and were given our SeaPass, which acts as both your room key and your money on the ship. They then told us to go into another room to wait. While in line, I called my cousin who lives in Miami so that she could pick us up and drive us around Miami for a couple hours. Others that were with us said that they waited in that room for over an hour before they actually let you get on the boat. When we returned to the boat at 2:30 pm, we walked right on to the boat. They took our picture in front of a sign with the boat name on it. I was disappointed because I thought that they would take a picture with the actual boat in the background. Little did I know that that would be done many times in the future.

The Ship

When we first got on the ship we initially felt disoriented because we could not figure out which end was which. This did not last long thanks to the wonderful ship maps that are posted by every set of elevators. What can you say about the ship except it is simply breathtaking. I knew that it would be beautiful but did not expect this. Take pictures. After we got on the ship, we immediately went in search of our cabin.

The Cabin

The cabin was larger than I expected. We had an inside cabin on the 7th floor. The decor was mediocre with melon and blue colors. This did not bother me because I did not plan on spending much time here. Every nook and cranny had storage space. We completely over packed and there was still room for every item that we had and then some. We were surprised to be greeted with a bottle of champagne on ice and a fruit plate waiting for us. The Cruise Compass was also waiting. This is the daily planner that lists every single thing going on at every moment of that day. We loved this. Take this with you every time you leave your room so that you will be sure to catch the going ons.

DAY ONE
Embarkation


At 4 pm we were required to do a muster drill for safety. We put our life jackets on and were supposed to go to a particular life boat depending on the number on our life jacket. This was confusing. We were guided there by the staff. I did not mind this and thought it would be helpful but don’t think that I could get back to that lifeboat if I had to. We ended up standing there in rows with a person just 1 ft away on all sides of you for 30 minutes while we waited for late comers to get in line. Kids were crying and it got to the point that people were not listening. After we got this out of the way, it was smooth sailing for the rest of the trip.

We went to the top deck to watch as we sailed off. After this was over, we had our first of what would be many colorful drinks in tall glasses. We sat in Dizzy’s Nightclub and watched the sunset as we sipped our drinks. Dizzy’s was one of our favorite places on the ships. You could listen to soft piano music while sitting in big comfy chairs and look out of their floor to ceiling windows. Heaven, pure heaven.

We went to the Welcome Aboard show and met Paul Rutter, the cruise director. He was really good. He was funny and seemed to be at every activity no matter what time of day. He will tell you all that is happening on the ship that evening and the next day. We had the last seating for dinner which happened to be at 9 pm on this evening. Dinner for the rest of the cruise was at 8:30. Eating that late was fine because we at so much during the day that we were not starving on any day.

Day Two
At Sea


We ate breakfast at the Windjammer Café. Other reviews complained at how bad the food was here. I did not think that it was bad. It was not great, but good. After breakfast we picked up tickets to see Planet Ice, the ice show. Before getting these, I had mapped out the other different shows that we wanted to see with their day/time. This was helpful because they give you 5 different ice shows to pick from. This was a tip given to us during the Welcome Aboard show the night before.

After breakfast we went to workout. Walking on the treadmill while looking out of the windows made me dizzy. I tried to keep looking away. I felt like I was going to fall so I just rode the stationary bike instead. The rest of the day was spent exploring the ship. Lounging in the sun while drinking the fruity concoctions and enjoying the hot tub. This is a good day to plan your excursions if you have not done so. We set ours up on-line before we left.

We missed the Captains’s Welcome Reception, which was disappointing. Instead we took a nap before getting ready for the first formal night. We don’t have many (if any at all) opportunities to get so dressed up and go to dinner. My husband complained about having to buy a suit to go on a cruise. He ate his words later when he admitted to feeling like royalty. The reason why was due to our excellent wait staff, Shankar and Hennery. There was never an empty glass. Shankar’s suggestions were always right on. They got along with each other well and it made for a wonderful dinner every night. After dinner every night we went to see the show of the evening. Don’t miss these. They are all great. There were some people that never went to any of the shows. We couldn’t believe it.

Day Three
Labadee


No excursions planned. We visited the open market. Big mistake. If you like the natives begging you to come and look at their goods, then you will enjoy this. We did not stay there long but instead walked along the ocean side of this beautiful little island. Haiti is only a hop, skip and jump away and is very beautiful backdrop for you pictures. We toured the various sites on the island before plopping down on beach chairs for an afternoon nap in the sun. The RC staff comes on the island and makes you lunch. It is cookout style food with a bunch of extras. Very nice to not have to go back to the ship for food/drink. The waiters walk the beach selling those yummy drinks that we all loved and you use your SeaPass to pay for them. The island is not crowded at all. No other cruise lines there since RC owns this island. We headed back to the ship at 2:30. After dinner and the evening show we went to the Country Western Dance Party where we learned how to line dance.

Day Four
Ocho Rios, Jamaica


We were able to walk right on the island from the ship. That was nice. We had an early excursion to Dunn’s River Falls and Dolphin Encounter. The falls were awesome and a must see. The encounter could be skipped unless you were getting in the water with the dolphins. We did not. We shopped. We ended up buying quite a bit of alcohol & Jamaican coffee. We walked away with 5 bottles of different rums and rum creams. Everywhere you turn they are offering free rum samples. Jamaica is not what I expected at all. It was very dirty and the people are so desperate to get you to buy something from them. What I thought would be my favorite port was my least favorite. We ate lunch back on the ship and relaxed before getting ready for the ice show. The ice show was very impressive. Go see it.

Day Five
Grand Cayman


We had an excursion on the Nautilus (glass bottom boat) and island tour. The Nautilus was great. Sunken ships, coral reef, lots of fish. A definite must see. The island tour was ok. We visited the rum cake factory and Pedro St. James which is the oldest estate on the island. Because we were waiting on 2 people that were late, we did not have much time at Pedro St. James. Had we not been rushed through this, I am sure it would have been great. We shopped downtown which was very enjoyable. The island was pretty and clean. We went back to the ship and had our second formal dinner night.

Day Six
Cozumel


We headed out with empty shopping bags for this port. Since I am somewhat fluent in Spanish, I intended on doing most of my shopping here. After shopping in the am we came back to the ship, ate, emptied our bags and went on our 2:30 pm snorkeling excursion. The snorkeling was nice but I didn’t see as much fish/coral reef as I had expected. The water was very clear and blue and it was still very enjoyable. After we finished here, we shopped some more and went back to the ship for some rest.

Day Seven
At Sea


We did much of the same thing this day as we did the previous at sea day. This evening’s headliner was comedian T.J. McCormack which we thought was awful. It does not take much to make me laugh and I was forcing myself to do so only a couple times during his routine. We went to the farewell show and then back to the room to pack.

Disembarkation

They give you color coded tags to put on your suit cases the night before. When your color is called you can leave the ship. We took this waiting time to walk around the ship and take pictures. This allowed us to have great pictures of the different areas without the crowds of people in them. After our color was called it took about 15 minutes to get through customs. We quickly found our bags and were off to the airport.

Extras

Cruise video – when they first advertised this I did not want to pay $29.99 for this. At the farewell show, they show you part of this and you can see how professional it is done.

Pictures – everyday somewhere on or off the ship, they are taking formal pictures. I suggest taking them. There is no obligation to buy them. We took them every opportunity that we could. We ended up coming home with 7 shots that were awesome. We didn’t purchase the other 20 that were so so.

TV – the tv in your room is very helpful. You can check the balance on your SeaPass acct, see what’s on the agenda for the week and see the actual video tapings of all the activities that happened on the ship. They also show a different first run movie everyday.

Restrooms – the women’s restrooms have free tampons and pads in them. How nice!

Kids – there were only 273 kids on our cruise. They were all well behaved and busy with the many activities that RC offers.

Food – excellent. The gala buffet was unbelievable. Impossible to pass a soft serve ice cream machine without getting a cone. They are every where. We bought the recipe book

Staff – went over and above every time. They were all wonderful.

Drinks – are delicious. We bought the recipe book to make these.

Ship Motion – we did feel it moving at times but we took our Bonine and were both fine.

Entertainment – go see the parades that are at the Royal Promenade, go to as many of the shows that you can. Go ice skating, roller blading, putt putt golfing, rock climbing. Do the things that you would normally not do. Why not, you are on vacation

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