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Zac Vega

Age: 29

Occupation:Graphic Artist

Number of Cruises: 2

Cruise Line: Royal Caribbean

Ship: Explorer of the Seas

Sailing Date: December 7th, 2002

Itinerary: Western Carribean

Brief:
The ship is huge! Every positive, and amazing thing you've heard about the Explorer of the seas is true. This review will benefit first-time cruisers more than cruise veterans.

The first thing you must do is relax, you are on vacation, have a good time. Don't get caught up in taking pictures, and videotaping every detail. You can't do everything, but you can experience more than you think.

Carry your cruise compass (ship's newsletter) with you in your pocket everyday, so that you don't miss any shows, or activities. The ship is a vacation in itself! There are many great bargains on board in the promenade. You can see most of the ship in an hour, despite what you've heard. Internet reviews make the Explorer sound bigger, and more confusing than she is. The ship is very well put together. The rooms, lounges, and atriums all interlock beautifully into eachother.

The Ship: Take lots of pictures, and if you have a camcorder take it everywhere. Remember you are allowed to walk anywhere on the ship, take advantage and explore, it may be a long time before you go on another cruise. The dining hall is gorgeous, and so is the theater. The chamber (the ship's nightclub)is cool, The ship isn't as confusing as other reviews make you believe, but it is more beautiful than you've heard.

Day 1
Embarkation:

Despite what you hear, RCI is very efficient, considering that 3000 people have to board this ship in about 5 hours. You may have to wait in a few line ups, but where do you have to go? relax, you are on vacation. Once aboard drop your stuff off and go eat at the windjammer/island grill. Then grab your compass and explore. This would also be a good time to book shore excursions if you haven't already. I booked online, before my cruise, which was convenient and hassle free (bring your on-line confirmation just in case). Watch the sail away on the top deck, it's beautiful.

Day 2:
At sea:

This is a good day, to take pictures of the ship, and videotape, and suntan. There is never a shortage of deck chairs.

Day 3
Ports:
Labadee:

Do take advantage of the vendors in Labadee, there are some gorgeous carvings you could purchase here. Just remember to low ball them, otherwise they will charge you 10 times what this stuff is worth.

Day 4
Ocho Rios:

Got off the ship without an excursion, and were swarmed by the locals hassling us from every direction. They were offering us everything from Jet ski's to drugs. They were fighting over us, and weren't even smiling. All they want is your money. Unless you have a shore excursion booked, travel in a pack, stay with your group, or stay onboard, we got off...then got right back on the ship.

Day 5
Grand Cayman:

Beautiful Beaches. We spent the whole day at 7 mile beach, it was gorgeous, turquiose water. Hot! Like a dream.

Day 6
Cozumel:
We spent the day at Playa Sol, unless you plan to drink all day, don't buy the ship excursion. Go there on your own and pay $8.00 to get in. The beach is crowded but beautiful, blue water, and hot. Use the tubes, they're fun and free with your admission. Also when shopping, you can probably get whatever you're buying for a third of the price they are asking you for.

Day 7
Remember not to pack anything sharp in your carry on. Put it all in your checked luggage, Pack early, it's a bummer to pack last minute.

Disembarkation:
If you have an early flight, like we did (11:00 am) to Toronto,Canada. Get early luggage tags (White, 7:00 a.m). It can take you up to two hours to get off the ship, clear customs, get your luggage, bus ride to the airport, and check in. Don't do this on the first day of your cruise, but do it early on second last day.

Complaints:
If you have a lot of complaints you are not on vacation. I don't complain much but if you must know, here it is:

1. After a couple of days the elevators start to smell funny.
2. There will be times when you will feel the ship moving slightly but nothing you will not get use to, not intense.

Tips:
1. Buy drink cards to spend less on drinks
2. Make sure you tip your cabin steward, and waitstaff, they really deserve the suggested minimum, and more.

Do's:
Watch the ice show. it's amazing.
Watch at least one sunset and sunrise.
Watch as many shows as you can in the palace theater.
Listen to the live calypso/reggae band Heatwave on the pooldeck.
Bring two formal outfits minimum.
Be prepared to buy some beautiful pictures, the ships photographers take of you, they're great.
Eat at Johhny Rockets the burgers and vanilla shakes are amazing.

Dont's:

Weird stuff:

1. It gets a little breezy on the top deck
2. the stalls in the bathroom are shaped funny.

Caution about Camera film:
Also an extra note on photo film and airport x-rays. There has been recent buzz about film being affected by new airport x-rays machines installed in airports since September 11. Some say it affects film, others say it's fine, you decide. but remember it's your cruise memories.

When I first cruised four years ago I had two rolls of 800 ISO film ruined (fogged) by the x-rays, but my 400 ISO film was fine. Remember, the damage is culmative, so every time you get on and off the ship you put your stuff through an x-ray, may cause damage!

Solution, a lead lined film bag. They are available for 400 and 800 film. Use one, I had no problem, and they are clearance items at Walmart. Some say that using a lead lined bag actually causes airport security to open your bag because they see a black blob on the screen, but I had no problem at all, they never asked once, not on the ship, or the airport.

You could have your film hand inspected, but I think that is a hassle for them, even though you are within your rights to ask, I actually think that makes them more suspicious, but that is my opinion. Also, who wants to argue with a airport security if they say no. Use your own judgement.

Have a great cruise!

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