Number of Cruises: 1
Cruise Line: Royal Caribbean
Ship: Explorer of the Seas
Sailing Date: February 7th, 2004
Itinerary: Eastern Caribbean
We traveled on Explorer of the Seas, departing Miami on Saturday, February 7, 2004 on an Eastern Caribbean route returning to Miami on Saturday, February 14, 2004. Ports visited on this route include San Juan, St. Thomas, St. Maarten, and Nassau.
The cruise was booked through AAA; we in an Atrium Cabin (Cabin No. 8609) and paid approximately $800 per person including port charges.
We felt that the Atrium Cabin located on Deck 8 was a great value and extremely convenient to the Windjammer Café and pools on Deck 11 as well as the Promenade area on Deck 5, Casino on Deck 4, etc. (Our Cabin was located near stairwells, could always walk up or down easily rather than wait for the elevator). Note: The Atrium Cabin has a bay window that overlooks the Promenade Deck (Deck 5). Therefore, you feel like you have a window to the outside, however you hare looking out into the very center of the ship.
We flew from Pittsburgh to Miami on a 9:00 a.m. direct flight with US Airways, arriving in Miami the day of our departure at approximately 12:30 p.m.
We took a cab from the Miami Airport to the Miami Port; cab fare is $21.00 fixed rate plus tip. We spent about 40 minutes in the Miami Airport getting our luggage and about 20 minutes driving to the Port. We spent no more than one hour being processed by Royal Caribbean and were in our Stateroom by 2:30 p.m. Our luggage arrived in our Stateroom by 4:00 p.m. This allowed plenty of time to unpack prior to the muster drill and clean-up prior to dinner.
Before we go into details of our week; we will say that we thoroughly enjoyed all aspects of our cruise.
The following are some comments/highlights:
Food -- We ate most of our breakfasts and lunches in the Windjammer Café (buffet style) as well as a few meals at Johnny Rockets (a diner). All of our evening dinners, but one, were eaten in the Main Dining area (our dining room was the Magellen on Deck 3). We had the early/main seating (which was about 6:00 p.m.). We found this to be more convenient with respect to evening activities and we were not “stuffed” at bedtime. Also, there were two midnight buffets -- both of which were quite excellent. One was held on the pool deck with the other one being in the main dining room. The early seating allowed us some room to eat again at midnight.
We found the food on the Explorer of the Seas to be “average to above average” with several of the “special” dinners (lobster, prime rib, and the midnight buffets to be above average). The food at Johnny Rockets was good; we would recommend having lunch there. For “after hours” dining, there is food available 24/7 in the Promenade Café. Their menu includes deli sandwiches, cookies, other desserts, ice cream, coffee, etc.
We would recommend and would personally eat more of our breakfasts and lunches in the main dining room (rather than the Windjammer Café).
We did not “press” our servers for multiple entrees or seconds which may have been a mistake. We would encourage you to order additional entrees or appetizers should you desire. In talking to others, most persons at other tables did in fact get additional entrees, etc. and were encouraged to do so by their servers.
We did not have occasion to order room service. If we would have had a balcony cabin, we would have ordered coffee in the mornings, however, we usually went to the Windjammer Café in the mornings for our coffee and breakfast.
Pool Areas -- There are three pools on the Explorer of the Seas; two in the main pool area and a Solarium Pool. The pool are in the solarium area is a “quiet” area, good for reading and some quite time. The main pool area is a bundle of activity; frequently having a band playing, different contests such as “men’s sexy leg contest” or “bellyflop contest”, etc. Pool bars are available as well as constant servers moving through the crowd. The water temperature in all 3 pools was 71° or 72° and quite “cool”. Needless to say, not many people got or stayed in the pools. On the “at sea” days, chairs around the pool area were crowded. One needs to be patient and willing to move chairs around to get a good location. There are 4 or 5 hot tubs located outside and a very large hot tub located in the indoor exercise area.
Ports of Call / Excursions -- We had previously traveled to both Nassau and San Juan and were not overly impressed with either of these port stops. We did, however, enjoy St. Maarten and St. Thomas. St. Maarten seemed to be the best shopping area for jewelry.
We pre-booked one of Royal Caribbean’s excursions to Orient Bay at St. Maarten (French Side) but the waters were rough and this excursion was not as enjoyable as it could have been. In talking to other persons on the cruise, it seemed that no one was overly impressed with the excursions -- most felt there were over-priced for what they did. A few suggestions we would have for the next time would be to visit the beach in Philipsburg, St. Maarten (where the boat docks); at this location you can rent a beach chair and have a drink for about $5.00 per person plus you are in the downtown shopping area. This is a very nice beach that allows you to shop in the morning and go to the beach when you are done on your own time plus this will save you $76 for the Orient Bay excursion offered.
In Nassau, we spoke to several people who took a cab and/or water taxi to the Atlantis and utilized the Atlantis pool and beach facilities while “pretending” to be Atlantis guests with no problem. On a previous trip to Nassau, we took the water taxi ($3.00) to Paradise Island and went to the Atlantis. Beautiful place, huge casino, a lot of restaurants (expensive) -- a “must see” place. You can take a taxi back to the Port when you leave rather than walking back to the location to catch the water taxi.
In San Juan, we would recommend going on your own and touring the Fort, Cathedral, etc. by taking a taxi from the Port to the top of the hill where the Fort is and then walking from there downhill back toward town. You will be given a map of Old San Juan from Royal Caribbean. This would be an economical way to see Old San Juan.
Shows -- We attended all of the scheduled shows including the ice show and thoroughly enjoyed each of the different entertainers. Our Cruise Director, Gordon, was very energetic and was a great host. It would be best to attend the ice show (Studio B) during a time when there is no other show playing in the Palace Theatre. On our cruise, this was Thursday night. The early/main seating for dinner allows you to attend the 9:00 p.m. shows. (Shows for late seating were either at 10:45 p.m. or sometimes before dinner at 7:30 p.m.). There were also “game type” shows such as Love and Marriage (similar to Newlywed Game), Kareoke in one of the lounges, adult comedy, etc. each evening which began around 10:00 to 10:30 p.m. There were a lot of fun.
Casino -- Unfortunately, we spent maybe too much time in the casino and had relatively poor luck, particularly on the slot machines. This seemed to be everyone’s general opinion. They also had a single deck blackjack game with fairly adverse rules. The blackjack shoe games had Las Vegas style rules and there were several tables with $10 minimums. Other tables were more than $10. The Casino is fairly small, however, they have a good variety of various slot machines and table games. All of the blackjack dealers were very personable.
We also participated in Bingo which is played twice a day and has some fairly substantial cash prizes.
Debarkation -- We found the debarkation process to be fairly painless. (We read various cruise reviews and were expecting this to be a very long and trying process). We had the “orange” tag for our luggage which was the second level called. We were able to enjoy a nice breakfast at the Windjammer Café prior to our color tag being called. We began debarking at about 8:15 a.m. and were in the Miami Airport by 9:30 a.m. We again took a taxi to the airport ($21.00 fixed fare). Painless and very organized!
Miscellaneous Comments (Pros/Cons) -- We found all of the crew to be very pleasant as well as other passengers. We did not encounter any poor behavior or negative persons. As noted above, we felt that the Atrium Cabin was a good value -- plenty of storage space, closet space, 2 love seats, a desk, nice bathroom with shower. The cabin showed a little bit of wear after 3 years in service and the upholstery will be in need of replacement in the near future.
The boat had slightly more movement than we had expected, although no one seemed to become seasick. Movement was similar to that experienced on an airplane in light turbulence. (Movement was more prevalent in our Miami to San Juan voyage, which was our first stop).
There is an excellent review of the Explorer of the Seas’ Eastern Caribbean route in epinions.com/content_101991353988 written by Susan1118. This review is much more extensive than the review offered above and is extremely accurate on all points.
We did find calling home from the ports to be a challenge, if you need to stay in touch with the office or home on a full time basis the cost will be high.
If you would like to contact us regarding other specific items on our trip, feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.