This is actually my second cruise with Royal
Caribbean. Last year I sailed on VOYAGER OF THE SEAS resulting in a
vacation beyond my wildest dreams. I never thought I would enjoy a
cruise, but sailing with VOYAGER and ROYAL CARIBBEAN made me a
believer. I plan to do a cruise every single year.
Anyone who has never taken a cruise has no
idea what they are missing. Imagine boarding a floating city where you
unpack, travel to new ports and get pampered by the ship staff. While
most people quickly turn away from picking a cruise as a vacation due
to its price, I believe that you do get your money's worth.
Let me talk a little about my vacation on
EXPLORER OF THE SEAS. As I stated above, this was my second cruise and
I think that because of the great time I had on VOYAGER OF THE SEAS,
my expectations were very high. Unfortunately, I was a bit
disappointed with EXPLORER OF THE SEAS, especially in the food and
Guest Relations department. More on that in a moment.
Boarding the ship was relatively easy. We
arrived early and were on board shortly before noon. Had lunch at the
Windjammer which was very nice. The only aggravating part of the
entire journey involves the mandatory "muster drill" that
happens at 4:00pm. It took about 25 minutes to get through and if you
don't get lucky enough for a station inside the ship, you are going
sweat it out on the deck for a long time. It was a very uncomfortable
drill, especially because was hot and people were closely packed
Also, something new this year, because of the
events of 9/11 all crew members must attend a HOMELAND SECURITY check
that takes place in the dining room before the ship disembarks in St.
Thomas. This goes for EVERYONE, regardless if they are leaving the
ship or not. Fortunately, this went quite fast. Show your passport and
sea pass card to the agents and off you go.
Not very impressed with the ports of call. I
must admit that I didn't do any excursions at any of the ports, so my
opinions are based on an individual who just walked off the boat with
a group of friends and walked around.
SAN JUAN is a very poor city. The shopping
here is not as good as the other ports, and the only thing we found
somewhat interesting in walking distance was the fort and lighthouse
that stands beside an old cemetery.
ST. MAARTEN & ST. THOMAS are shopper's
paradises. Found some good deals on jewelry and cologne here. In
ST. THOMAS our group arranged a terrific catamaran trip that was the
most talked about event of the week.
NASSAU, BAHAMAS was a bit dry. Not much to do
there but shop. Some friends went to the Atlantis hotel, but it is
VERY pricey. Lunch for two cost just under $90 and a trip through the
aquarium is about $25. Most felt it was not worth the price.
Now let me talk about the ship...
My Cabin: Again this year I chose to
stay in a "C" cabin. These cabins are now also known as
"JS" cabins. If you can afford it, these are the best cabins
for the buck, especially suited for couples who want a roomy cabin
with a wide and relaxing balcony view. Trust me, passengers who bought
lower cabins were envious of the "C/JS" cabin that I had.
The room steward, Kenneth, was okay. I tipped him $30 right off the
bat, promising more to come. You would THINK that would garner more
knocks on the door asking if I needed anything, but unfortunately, I
never saw him much after that. The only "extra" I got out of
him was a bathrobe. Can you believe that the "C/JS" cabins
no longer come with bathrobes? There were two on THE VOYAGER OF THE
SEAS, but none here. The room was clean and was kept clean. Everything
seemed to work well.
Drink and Food: The first
disappointment was that there is no longer an alcohol card that can be
purchased for about $40. Guess Royal Caribbean was losing money and
discontinued this 12-drink card. They also greatly jacked-up the price
of their soda card which allows you unlimited refills the entire week.
That card used to cost about $20. It now costs over $40. They hand you
a cool Coca-Cola drinking mug, but the price of this card is certainly
I started my first night eating in the Dining
Room. For me, once is fine. There is something to say about being
served food, but the reality is that the food is extremely portioned
and that if you are a big eater like me, you'll find yourself asking
the server for seconds or thirds. I will say that service in the
dining room is very good. You'll be amazed how the servers learn your
name and eating habits after the first night. In fact, after being
absent from the dining room for 6 nights, I was shocked that my server
remembered my name.
On the VOYAGER OF THE SEAS I found myself
eating nightly in the Island Grill. This buffet basically serves the same fare as the dining room. The food at dinner
is pretty good. I ate 3-4 small steaks per night and helped myself to
all the dessert I wanted.
The BIG disappointment is the food in the
Windjammer. Breakfast will make you gag. Eggs are powdered, waffles rubbery, and the pancakes
hard as a rock. This is worse than
the cafeteria food I had in high school. If you read a lot of reviews
about ROYAL CARIBBEAN, then you hear bad remarks about their coffee.
Well, I'll also testify that their coffee (Seattle's Best) is just
horrible. It's overly bitter, not smooth. It can be difficult to
drink, but unfortunately, it's the only way to get your morning
Now, just completed my second cruise, I have
come to the realization that food aboard ROYAL CARIBBEAN is not
gourmet quality, even in the dining room. While the breakfast fare
is horrific, the lunch and dinner fare is just above acceptable. You
certainly get better food at a local restaurant. Speaking of which...
know where the best place to eat on the ship? JOHNNY ROCKETS up on
deck 11. From the moment you sit down you are treated to unlimited
piles of freshly prepared onion rings and french fries. The burgers
are VERY delicious, especially the DOUBLE burger which is very
difficult to fit in one's mouth. I also recommend the BBQ burger
topped with onion rings and BBQ sauce. You can eat all you want at no
charge except for the malts which cost under $5. Soda is also an extra
charge if you don't have a drink card. If you do have a drink card,
the sodas come in a very large glass.
Internet Access & Guest Relations:
The biggest battle I had on the ship concerned the Internet Access. I
got one of those "Cybercabin" phones that allows you dial-up
access from your room. The damn thing costs $100 for the week for
unlimited access. I suppose that's better than using the ship's DSL
speed access which costs 50 cents per minute. Well, the Internet
connection was spotty for the first 4 days. There were blackout
periods coming in and out of ports. Then, for the final 3 days, the
Internet went down completely due to satellite problems.
GUEST RELATIONS was absolutely horrible in
helping us. They denied there were any problems, yet myself and 3
other friends all were experiencing down time. We were promised the situation would be looked into and we would get callbacks from
tech support. The callbacks never happened. In fact, the problems
were never properly relayed to staff members. One guy at guest
relations got real snooty by telling me, "Didn't you read the
fine print? These things are not guaranteed to work." Hmmm.
Wonder if that policy applies to all their onboard services. I
will say that in the end, after doing some extensive complaining, they
refunded all 3 of us $50 each.
I would warn anyone who is contemplating
getting Cybercabin to realize that these things don't work very well.
The ships need to be outfitted for broadband access in every room with
limited availability. Of course, I could just shudder at the thought of
the prices they would charge.
Entertainment: I must say, Royal
Caribbean consistently has the best entertainment. The ICE SHOW is an
absolute "must see" event that will amaze you. We were also
very surprised with our celebrity entertainer, CHARO. Here is a woman
who was never promoted on The Tonight Show as an accomplished
musician. I was just blown away by her performance and have come away
with a renewed appreciation of her talents.
I also must highly commend our cruise
director, Gordon. This man was a treat to have aboard. He was very
cordial, quite funny, and the sort of person you would want as a
cruise director. On VOYAGER OF THE SEAS I never knew we had a Cruise
Director. On EXPLORER, Gordon made sure that he mingled with the
people onboard. Just a sensational individual who I would pick next
year's ship solely because he was onboard.
Final Thoughts: Cruising is still the
best value for the buck. Try spending a week going to different
destinations, packing and unpacking at strange hotels, and eating all
the food you can eat for the same price as a cruise ship. You can't.
ROYAL CARIBBEAN really does try to do
everything they can to make their guests feel pampered. The
entertainment is top-notch, and if you get Gordon as your cruise
director you'll be in for an extra treat. Just don't expect much from
the food. Try to stay away from the Windjammer at breakfast time, but
indulge in the Island Grill at dinner time, that is, unless you want
to be waited on.