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Tiffany Rafferty

Age: 18


Number of Cruises: 5

Cruise Line: Royal Caribbean

Ship: Explorer of the Seas

Sailing Date: July 11th, 2004

Itinerary: Eastern Caribbean

I shall begin with a brief overview of how we came to choosing Royal Caribbean cruises and to be more specific the Explorer of the Seas ship. My family and I were looking in the travel arrangements for a holiday that was different from our usual trip to Florida, and had the intention of going somewhere such as L.A but I came across the Royal Caribbean International brochure and the information and photos looked amazing. It was then that an employee at the travel agents came over and said that she had been on the ship and highly recommended it, her account sounded so amazing that we had to try it for ourselves and so we did.

The cruise we decided to go for was the Eastern Caribbean cruise which departed from the port of Miami and visited places such as ST. Maarten, ST. Thomas, Nassau in the Bahamas and San Juan in Puerto Rico

Embarkation –

The day before the ship was due to leave the port of Miami we arrived from England at Miami and were taken to the hotel Intercontinental where Royal Caribbean had placed us for that night. This hotel was stunning, a 32 story high building with a large foyer area with porters to carry all your luggage to your room. I have never stayed in such a beautiful hotel before and we were lucky enough to have a room over looking the harbour. The only disappointing things about the hotel were that all the snacks and beverages that were in the room had to be paid for and were very pricy but the room itself was wonderful. The next morning we woke up early due to jet lag but were able to see the ship pulling into the dock which was an added bonus and something you should try and watch if you are awake and staying in this hotel (it starts to come into view at about half past five in the morning onwards). As we were awake so early and wouldn’t be boarding the coach, that would take us to the ship, until 12 o’clock we went for a walk around a shopping area on the waterfront (about a 5-10 minute walk from our hotel). The shops were the same as the regular ones you get at most precincts with some lovely restaurants as well. When it was time to get on the coach they said it would be about a 10 minute journey to the ship so we thought we would arrive nice and early to have a look around and eat, sadly that was not the case as we were stuck on the coach for an hour and a half before we even left the hotel and this was due to problems with loading the cases and waiting for all the coaches to be ready and this was a great disappointment. When we finally got to the ship there was a short delay due to signing forms and getting boarding cards but then we were able to board and look around in our own time. Don’t be put off about all these delays as some members of my family booked differently to me and the rest of my family and so had to make their own way to the ship, they caught a taxi, which they tell me was quite cheap, and were
on the ship in no time.

Important advice –

If possible pack a larger bag or small suitcase with items such as a bathing suit, sunscreen, some clothes for the evening and anything else you may require that day as there are so many bags that need to be loaded onto the ship that it does take a while for them to arrive at your room.

We spent the rest of the afternoon and evening exploring some of the ship, having something to eat in the Windjammer Café and later on in the main dining room, we also went to watch the evening show which was very enjoyable, however after this we felt so tired that we had to go to bed which was a great disappointment.

Day at sea-

This day was spent fully exploring the ship and trying out some of the many activities that they had onboard, some of which included ice skating at Studio B, rock climbing, inline skating, miniature golf and some organised entertainment activities around the pool deck including the men’s belly flop competition which is very amusing. At this point I would like to thank my wonderful parents for volunteering myself into the men versus women pool games where I had to be part of a relay team and paddle across to the other side of the pool as fast as I could on a giant inflatable killer whale!

Studio B-

This is an ice rink where the planet ice show takes place on several occasions during the cruise (see the ships compass for details). It is also where you can learn to ice skate yourselves and you are provided with ice skates but be warned if you want to use this facility bring full length trousers/pants otherwise you will not be allowed to skate. This is something that is not mentioned in the brochure and I feel it should be as this meant that I had to either wear my evening meal trousers or miss out.

Tonight was the first formal night where there was a captain’s reception party and formal portraits being taken all over the ship. Although it suggests formal attire I found that people’s interpretations of the word formal were different and so there were many dress styles. I can not comment on tonight’s evening entertainment as I felt fairly ill and so retreated to bed fairly early.

San Juan, Puerto Rico –

Today was spent having half a day on board sailing and half the day stopping at port. My family did not choose to do a shore excursion today, instead opting for exploring the shops ourselves. San Juan is a beautiful place with some quaint little shops, selling mainly hand made items, as well as large jewellery shops. If you want something other than shopping I would advise you to take a taxi up to the fort where you can explore at your leisure.

Evening entertainment and dining –

Tonight we ate in the main dining room, as did we on all the nights. Before we went on the cruise I had heard some reports that the food wasn’t brilliant but I think otherwise. The food was really nice and had a wide selection for everyone to chose from and if you didn’t like what was on the main menu they had alternatives which were similar every night. The waiter at our table was very nice and extremely helpful and was happy to change a meal if we didn’t like it or didn’t want sauce on top of something.

The evening entertainment was amazing that night it was the first of two productions, this one was titled “History Repeating” and I don’t want to give it away but the set and costume changes were so fast and amazing that it left you wondering how did they do that so fast? I would also like to commend the dancers and singers as they appeared to work so hard and were going non-stop throughout the performance. My only advice is if you want a really good seat where you can see the whole thing clearly and fairly close up then arrive about 20 minutes early as you can get good seats plus they have entertainment from the cruise comics whilst you are waiting and this is a funny mini show.

ST. Maarten –

Again my family opted for exploring ourselves and so we spent half the day looking around some of the jewellery shops and novelty shops and then returned to the ship to eat at the Windjammer café. We spent the second half of the day on the beach although we left things a little too late and had to have a really quick shower as to not miss dinner- the only problem with being main seating. I really enjoyed visiting ST. Maartin as there was so many things that could be done both on and off the beach also you could take as many trips back and forth as you wanted as we used a water taxi. The water taxi is a really good idea as for $5 you get a band and have unlimited use of the water taxi (otherwise it is $3 each way!)

Entertainment –

Tonight there was no main show in the Palace theatre instead there was the second weekly showing of Planet Ice which is the most fantastic ice show I have seen in a long time. I am a great fan of ice shows and was amazed at how many stunts they did in such a small area and at the speed they picked up but say no more I don’t want to spoil things.

St Thomas –

This was the port I was most looking forward to visiting as it seamed so beautiful and with plenty of things to do. My family opted to go on a shore excursion where we got to board the Atlantis submarine which took you to the bottom of the ocean so that you could see coral and many different marine animals, it was truly fascinating and well worth doing. My only criticism of ST. Thomas was that there was so many excursions that I wanted to do but all of them seamed to be at this port and so I had to choose only one, which was a very tough decision. Tonight the entertainment was from a band called “Tribute” and paid homage to the Temptations. I didn’t really enjoy this as it was not my kind of music and I don’t know who the temptations are but it was alright.

Back at Sea –

Today we spent the day around the pool relaxing and didn’t do many of the activities going on through the day (partly because we fell asleep to the sound of the ocean!) but me and my sister did have a chance to go to the challenger arcade which is for the children and teenagers. We had fun having a mini tournament but parents beware as lots of money can be spent very easily here.
It was the second formal night tonight and another chance to have formal portraits taken, again the dinner was very nice and we were treated to a little show from all the waiters. This evening’s entertainment was “Fast Forward” which was the second production from the Royal Caribbean singers and dancers and didn’t disappoint as it was about all the movies such as Flashdance, Footloose and Saturday night fever. I really enjoyed this production as I knew all the songs and have all the videos my only problem was trying to stop myself from singing along!

Casino –

I went in the casino most nights and as the cruise progressed so did the money each night (being lost that is) I did have some winning streaks on the slot machines but then couldn’t stop there and lost it all again. This casino is huge with lots of different tables for blackjack and roulette but also lots of slot machines ranging in prices. If you visit the casino you must look at the entrance where you walk over a glass covering and beneath you are lots of gold bars and roulette chips and the centrepiece being a jewel encrusted roulette wheel complete with spinning light!

Nassau, Bahamas –

We opted for another shore excursion, this time to Pearl Island. On this shore excursion you got to snorkel around looking for pearls or conch shells and whichever one you found you got to keep. It was a very good excursion and I would do it again if I had the chance to.

Shopping on board (Royal promenade) –

I spent the last night looking in the shops seeing if there was anything I wanted to buy as a memento of the cruise and boy was there a lot of shops to choose from. The royal promenade is where the shops are and is set out as if you were in a shopping area in France with imitation cobbled pebbles and side cafes where you could go and eat ice cream and other things. The promenade runs the length of the ship and is full of entertainment including bars and even a parade on some nights. This royal promenade is fantastic and words do not do it justice you just have to see it to give it credit.

Farwell show –

The Farwell show was a variety show which included the royal Caribbean singers and dancers and comedians but also there was a fantastic surprise as all the crew from the ship got on stage and said goodbye it really finished off the holiday nicely.

Cruise Director –

Our cruise director was Clodagh O’Connor was amazing and added that extra special touch to the cruise, she was incredibly funny and very hardworking.

Disembarkation –

The night before you disembark your entire luggage needs to be put outside your room but I would advise you to keep all the essentials out and the mornings clothes and put them into a bag in the morning.

Depending upon the time of your flight home, or whatever arrangements you are doing when you leave the ship, you are given a coloured tag for you luggage.

When your tag colour is called you are free to leave the ship. Our colour was orange and we were meant to leave the ship at 10am however we were not called till 12pm 2 hours later and this really annoyed me as it meant that we had to sit around for ages waiting to be called when we could have been having a nice breakfast or doing something else. The immigration when you leave the ship also took a long time to complete so take something to do or read whilst waiting.

Overview –

We have now cruised on 3 different ships, all with different tour operators, and this is our favourite by far, we really didn’t want to leave. We loved the friendly atmosphere that the ship had and the great ports that there were. We also loved the fact that there was so many things our only regret was that we didn’t get to experience everything due to there being too much to see and do with not enough time in the day or that we missed evening entertainment due to jet lag.

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