Royal Caribbean - Explorer of the Seas Review
Western Caribbean - May 23, 2004
We chose Royal Caribbean - Explorer of the Seas because they had the Mexican
& Caribbean port stops that we wanted and were reasonably priced for a suite.
Our first sailing experience was with Holland America on the Volendam for the
Alaska Inside Passage. To say that Royal Caribbean was a disappointment would
be an understatement. As suite holders, we expected
the same preferential treatment (or at least something close) that we had received on HAL. This is clearly not RCI's target market.
The check-in procedure was a long, hot, line for each deck. After we stood in line for 45 minutes, we noticed a small sign indicating special check in for suites. Since we were next in our own line, we stayed where we were. So if you're in a suite, look for that special line.
The ship was nice and relatively clean. We couldn't get into our cabin until after 1:00 pm, so they had a luncheon service in the Windjammer Restaurant. Unfortunately, there were not enough tables for all the people and we had to wander for 15 minutes before we found a place to sit.
The suite was a good size, clean and comfortable with a large balcony. The
mattress was very thin and should have been replaced a least a year ago. We
received our luggage about 7:00 p.m. (which seemed a long time to me) and
we never saw our cabin steward the first day. After that, our steward was great.
On HAL, we were treated to a Captain's cocktail party, tour of the bridge and other special treatment for staying a suite. On this ship there was only the concierge service. He was in a room on deck 9. Unfortunately, he was only there about 4 hours a day, and every time we went to find out about something he was busy and there were others waiting. We never did speak with him. We also never saw or met the captain.
My biggest complaint about this ship was the elevators. They were extremely slow and not programmed well. A few times an empty one (they were glass) would pass by the floor! We always seemed to be waiting for one. The other problem was the lack of trash cans in public areas. Since there were so few, people would leave trash anywhere.
The entertainment was mediocre. They had a comedian who was so raunchy and tasteless, we walked out. The casino was good, if a bit crowded at times. We could never get near the golf course as it was always crowded with too many children. We thought we had picked a time before school let out so there wouldn't be that many. The rock wall was a bit beyond us. One very good thing was that there was a pool area for adults only. It was small but quiet.
The breakfast buffet was quite plentiful with lots of variety. But the only beverages were coffee, tea, orange juice or apple juice. The food was good, but not exceptional. Again, we had a lot of difficulty finding a table.
We never had lunch on the ship as we didn't get up until 10 or so. Afternoon snack was also full of variety with hot dogs, hamburgers, pizza, tacos, etc.
Dinner in the dining room was very nice. Our first night we sat at a table for 8 and there were only 4 of us. After that, 2 other couples joined us. The food was very good and the service average. We seemed to wait forever for the drink waiter to come so we could order drinks. Also, I didn't like paying $2.00 for a small glass of Sprite. My suggestion is that if you drink a lot of soda - bring your own.
Belize City - a very small and poor city that has not had very many cruise ships stop there yet. They try very hard and are very nice (and happy to see tourists). We took the zoo and river tour. It took about an hour on the bus to get to the zoo. The zoo was small and had only few animals, but was clean and well kept. Our bus broke down after the zoo and we had to wait an hour for another one. We were fed lunch (rice & beans, chopped carrots & a small piece of chicken) and then went on the river tour. By this time we were behind schedule and had to make it back to the dock pretty quickly so we didn't see much.
Costa Maya - again a small & poor city, but lovely and welcoming. We went snorkeling in the morning which was wonderful. The crew on the boat were really helpful and nice. Unfortunately, I slipped on the ladder getting back into the boat and fractured my little toe.
In the afternoon we went to the Mayan ruins. They were spectacular. Our guide was very knowledgeable and spoke very good English. I recommend this trip to everyone.
Cozumel - A much larger and more commercial city. It seemed
everywhere we went they tried to sell us something! My husband did Snuba in
the morning (I chickened out). Snuba is like Scuba except that the tanks are
on a raft above with a 20' hose to the diver. He enjoyed this very much. For
anyone who wants to try Scuba this is a good chance, as no certification is
We shopped in the afternoon.
Grand Cayman - the largest city of our stops. We took the Stingray City and Beach excursion. Stingray City was absolutely outstanding! Getting in the water with 100 Stingrays, holding and petting them was great (although a little scary at first). We were then bussed to a beach resort for a sumptuous lunch. The "sumptuous" lunch was hot dogs, hamburgers, lukewarm lemonade and warm salad on the beach, where our chairs sunk into the sand every time you moved. We either had to wait 2 1/2 hours to leave or pay $3.00 per person to take a shuttle. We chose the shuttle and still waited 45 minutes for it to leave as the driver wanted every single seat (including the fold-down ones) filled before he would depart. My recommendation, skip the "beach experience" and just do Stingray City.
The morning we docked in Miami, the electricity in our bathroom went out so we had to shower in mostly darkness. We had to be out of our cabin by 8:00 am and didn't get off the ship until 11:00. There was no special accommodation for suite passengers as on other lines. Again, there was no place to sit in the Windjammer so we sat on the deck.
We had purchased the transfer back to the airport. DON'T DO THIS. We sat on the bus for 40 minutes waiting for it to fill. Our bus driver didn't know where to drop us off, so he circled the airport. Finally he pulled over - 3 terminals over from where our airline was. He would not let anyone off the bus until he had unloaded all the luggage (we checked ours at the dock), so he could stand by the door to collect tips. Needless to say, he didn't get many. A cab would have been the same price and a lot faster.
Overall the cruise was pleasant, but nothing special. We were spoiled on HAL so Royal Caribbean was a disappointment. I will probably not sail with them again. But if you want an inexpensive, no frills cruise, this might suit you.