Occupation:System Administrator/IT Tech
Number of Cruises: 2
Cruise Line: Royal Caribbean
Ship: Explorer of the Seas
Sailing Date: May 17th, 2003
Itinerary: Eastern Caribbean
This was the "Precious moments" cruise and over 1500 passengers, myself, my wife my parents, 2 aunts, an uncle, and my sister were on board her and in the precious moments group.
Boy explorer was a great ship, we really really had a great time. Other reviewers have done a good job at describing the ship, so I too won't get into that. What I will focus on, is what went right, and unfortunately what went wrong.
First Service from the Royal Caribbean crew we had daily contact with was great. Jorge our waiter was great, he is a real asset to RCCL, but this was his last cruise onboard the Explorer as he will be sent to a west coast ship.
Now employees we didn't have daily contact with, well that was another story. I never got my Cruise Critic party invitation or pin. On Sunday I asked in guest relations and two people didn't know anything about a cruise critic party, even though two others in my group were registered for it and got invitations. However precious moments activities got in the way of being able to attend.
Getting to the ship from the airport was an exercise in hurry up and wait. We had paid for transfers ahead of time. We were met near the gate by a Royal Caribbean rep, and told to go to baggage claim 10, then come back to number 8. Well there was about 2000 people or more in the baggage claim area so it was very very crowded. once everyone in my group got our luggage, we made it back to station 8, and were told to go to station 1 and wait for the bus. Well beside station one there is a narrow passageway where passengers arriving to get their bags are all coming in to the area.
Well the rep had us and everyone else going on the explorer wait in the passageway, so it was very crowded , and I can't count how many times I was run into or hit with a carry on bag. Mind you our flight got in at 10:15. By 2:00 we were still waiting in the airport as RCCL didn't have enough busses to get everyone to the ship.
Next time we will take others advice and come in the night before and stay overnight in a hotel and make our way to the ship on our own by 11:00am.
Now the major problem, and I'm not sure who dropped the ball, or even who to point fingers at, but it was a MAJOR MAJOR problem, that could either be caused by RCCL, Enesco or Indian River travel.
That was SEATING in the main dining room. Here is what happened:
My sea pass card had me assigned to table 323 in the magellen dining room, but my wife was assigned a table in the DE Gama dining room. Meanwhile the rest of my party was (the other 6 people) were assigned to table 4xx something. My dad and I went and talked with the head waiter shortly after getting on board, and assured us dinner would be "open" seating and to sit as a group. No problem.
Let me just make a point, weeks before the cruise we were asked by Indian River Travel our seating preferences, how many people traveling with us and the names of the people we needed to sit with.
What actually happened: People like us showed up as a group, sat at the table assigned to the rest of our party. Well what happened was people did the same thing as us to get their parties together, while some people tried to sit where their sea pass assigned them, so there were LOTS of people unhappy with seating. Head waiters assured us Sundays seating would be fixed.
Woke up to realize not only had my wife and I been assigned the same table (great) but my parents and the rest of the party had also been reassigned and broken up. Unacceptable!!!! Again the head waiter said sit together. Again not only us but many many people had been reassigned all showed up tried to sit either in their reassigned seats, and many found people already sitting at their tables and again people were angry.
Dean from Indian River travel talked with our group and others, got all of our names again (as well as other groups too) and we were assured by him and the head waiter that Monday night everything would be right. Nice try but NOT!!!. We got to our table now table 304 in magellen which we were all personally taken to by Dean found 2 people already sitting there. The people there had been reassigned 3 times and they were refusing to move. Finally dean had a word with them privately , and they reluctantly agreed to move once more. Once more my group was together again. Thank you Dean.
We were still together and had no more problems, but we heard from other people there were still problems.
In Fact we heard there were still seating problems un until Wednesday night due to the fact not everyone got the message about being errantly assigned. But my party had no more problems. Through it all, the table waiters were great even though frustrated with the situation since they didn't know who their customers were. Jorge, our waiter was very outgoing and did his best with a difficult situation.
In retrospect it seems Royal Caribbean didn't communicate to either Indian River or Enesco, or IR didn't communicate with RCCL before the cruise to discuss seating preferences. When people asked to be reassigned onboard it was handled, I assume such as a normal cruise when someone asks to be reassigned and the computer reassigned people, without regard to keeping groups together. I can understand this, Royal Caribbean can only do so much. IR and RCCL should have had pre cruise meetings to discuss seating when dealing with such a large group as the Precious moments cruisers.
Oh well enough about dinner seating. The only other thing, was the water seemed very rough and the ship was rocking pretty good, sometimes things would fall off the counters in our stateroom. Not sure if anything could have been done, but even people who had been on several cruises said it was rougher this time than usual. I didn't get sick, neither did my wife who this was her first cruise.
The food was all very good too. There was only a couple items in the main dining room that was less than excellent. Of course Portifino's was fabulous. Windjammer/Island Grill food was pretty good, better than some other reviewers have said I think.
Ok shore excursions:
We booked online about a month beforehand. The Baccardi rum tour was good in San Juan.
And the Sea world Explorer land/sea tour of St Martin was real good too. Although if I had it to do again I wouldn't scheduled a tour in St Martin and had more time to shop there.
In fact all the tours we took were very very good.
I realize that the seating problems were more than likely caused due to the fact of the large group we were traveling with, and chances are anyone else cruising the Explorer would not run into those problems, but for us it was a big hassle.
The week we spent on Explorer seemed too short now we are back home, but we are planning our next cruise.
View our cruise pictures at: http://www.picturetrail.com/ohiofroggy