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Copyright © 1995-2003 
Linda Coffman

March 26, 2004
Western Caribbean

by Mary Staley

Royal Caribbean has raised the bar with its Voyager Class of ships and especially with Explorere of the Seas. This magnificent vessel is not just a ship, it's a destination in itself!

We left a cold and snowy Michigan behind on March 26th and flew from Saginaw to Miami. After spending the night in Miami, we took a shuttle to  the Port of Miami. It was a feast for the eyes when we pulled up to our  ship. It loomed large and beautiful before us. Check-in was a breeze, fast and methodical. As we took our customary boarding photograph, the excitement mounted.

It is not enough to say this ship is beautiful. It far surpasses any other ship and cruise line I've taken. The sheer beauty, layout and grandeur of  the ship is amazing. We decided to book a promenade stateroom. It was smaller than it looked in the photographs, but we loved being able to people watch from our perch high above the promenade. Speaking of the promenade, I cannot imagine cruising without one! It was the epicenter of the ship--fun, food & frivolity central! But I'm getting off track.

Our room was completely perfect for our needs. The longer we were on the ship, the larger the room seemed. The ship's designers thought of every storage possibility and for that I thank them! We took off for a quick trip around the ship, to the dining room to find our table, etc. We then donned our swimsuits and headed up the stairs to Deck 12, or HEAVEN. It was a sun-worshipers dream. It had a beautiful breeze and overlooked the pools and all the action. Our wonderfully witty waiter, Bling-Bling, kept the Mango Tango's coming.

Explorer of the Seas has one thing going for it over other cruise ships I've encountered and that is her staff. The staff is the heart and soul of this ship. James Andrews, our cruise director, could NOT have been more gracious, humorous, or infectious. His staff was at the ready to entertain the troops. We loved them. Our dining room team was superb. We had been placed at a table for 4. Somehow we were moved to a table for two, which was perfect. Our waiter, Rana, could not have lavished more attention on us. Alina, his assistant was bubbly, efficient and so sweet. They really did make our cruise, we always looked forward to dinner! I also want to mention, Jo-Jo our headwaiter. He was an important part of the team and very personable. The food was always top notch! Every recommendation given to us was perfect, even when we didn't particularly like the dish. We were never disappointed. Thanks, Rana!

Getting back to the promenade. This three story atrium was home to staterooms, shops, bars and also doubled as a stage for performing. At almost any time of the day or night you would see people shopping, strolling, enjoying a bite to eat, a drink or just relaxing. We loved to see the Explorer Singers & Dancers put on mini-shows at the promenade. Beyond the promenade was the Palace Theater. We saw professional quality Vegas-style reviews, games, and comedians so funny that we almost wet our pants! Kareoke at the Maharajas lounge was an absolute must. Thanks to the wonderful family from Kentucky and their rendition of She Bangs, She Bangs. The great thing about this ship was that you could find entertainment wherever you went. And the dancing! The Chamber disco was a two-story mecca for someone like myself who could dance 24 hours a day! And if dancing isn't your "thing" you could enjoy the gaming at Casino Royale. Needless to say, we were never bored.

We loved the destinations: Bahamas, Jamaica, Grand Cayman and Cozumel. However, this ship is the ultimate destination. How they can pack 3200 cruisers and 1200 staff aboard this vessel and never be crowded is a testament to its design! We would have been happy to just stay on the ship and never set foot on the gangway to disembark.

Since this getting a little wordy, let me just say that this was the most fabulous cruise, and yes! VACATION that we've ever taken. Royal Caribbean, you have a fan for life. I'm already planning my next cruise and it will be onboard the Explorer of the Seas.

Photo courtesy of Kvaerner Masa-Yards

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