Explorer Of The Seas
     January 14th, 2010

Here we go again!! A 10 nighter this time, our longest ever. This cruise started on a rough note so I’ll start the day before the cruise. Got home a little early on Wednesday, the day before we drive to Bayonne, NJ and the Explorer of the Seas. Received a phone call at around 2 PM telling us not to go to the pier until 3 PM and before 7 PM. The Explorer was going to be late arriving into Bayonne from Freeport Bahamas where it was in dry dock for the previous several days. Well, who listens to what they are told? We went early anyway.

Day 1

Since the Explorer will be arriving into Bayonne late today, we take our time leaving the house (around 8:30) for the 3 hour drive to Cape Liberty. We’ve cruised several times from this port and find it extremely easy for us to cruise from there as we don’t have to travel (fly) a day early to catch the ship. I didn’t want to leave too late, because I figured those that followed the 3 PM recommendation in arriving would be caught up in terrible traffic at the port. We drove in around noon and found very light traffic. We unloaded our luggage to the porter and found a great parking spot very close to the terminal entry. We were checked in, but no sea pass cards, and seated (uncomfortable chairs) in the holding area (1000 + people) around 12:30 or so. Turns out that the people that heeded RCL’s 3 PM instructions waited in the cold welcome tent (30 degrees and standing) for several hours. Good thing we went early. Because of the delay and well over 100 diamond (+) members on this cruise, the priority boarding are was not opened.  We were given boarding pass #27. This would be used for the order in which we received our cards and board the ship.
They had the usual cookies, tea, and coffee. You could buy soda out of a machine if you needed one.
The ship eventually arrived at around 2:30 PM. Turns out the reason we weren’t given sea pass cards is because they were on the ship. At 3:15, they started calling numbers in order starting at 15. I don’t know why either. There were about 30 people per number and each number is taking up to 15 minutes. Thinking to myself, this isn’t good. The process eventually sped up. We were given our cards and were on the ship by 5:30 PM. Not a good day so far for us. Feel bad for those that had it worse than we did.
We got a great deal on a promenade cabin #7607 for this cruise. Unfortunately we found that it was an adjoining cabin and we had very inconsiderate neighbors next door. On top of that it was noisy from any band that was playing outside nearby and it was smaller than a regular inside. Never again!!!! Don’t get one unless you have a reason. Met our room attendant, Kendra. Met all our expectations throughout the cruise.
Dinner was all messed up from the delayed boarding, so it was open seating for all. We both had the prime rib . Both very good, in fact one of the best ones I’ve ever had anywhere. Melted in your mouth and it was a very good size. Has RCL changed it’s ways as far as meat? Hope so.
Muster drill is scheduled for 8 PM when everyone is expected to be aboard. We went (no life jacket required) and froze for the few minutes it took. Not fun. The ship left port shortly after 9 PM.
Later at 10:15 was the Welcome Aboard Show. Our cruise director Jimmy Rhodes didn’t strike either of us as a very good CD.  Got used to him by the end, but sure wouldn’t go on a specific cruise because he was there. Others loved him, so to each his own. The comedian was Eric Lyden, a contestant from Last Comic Standing. Thought he was very good. Can’t wait for his adult show. We’re beat so good night!

Day 2  At Sea

Our first sea day is pretty chilly out as expected. We head to breakfast in the Diamond section of the dining room on deck 3. Down the stairs and all the way left. Never saw more than 10 people in there the whole 10 days. It was great. Hot food delivered promptly by 2 or 3 different waiters over the course of the 10 days. Did I say it was great? French Toast is a big hit with us and it’s very good.
Went to the port and shopping talk at 11 AM. Just as I remember it the last time we went several years and cruises ago. A big joke for those that don’t know. Pushed their specialty stores and how great they are. Said absolutely nothing about what to see at the ports of call. Sold their special shopping book for $25. Heard from others over the years that there is little value in it.
Went to lunch in the windjammer. Wife likes Jade, but not today. Most was stone cold. Can’t remember what I had. Obviously forgettable whatever it was.
Got ready early for first seating on this formal night. We like to go to the diamond lounge set up on deck 14 in the Crown and Anchor lounge. Very sad that RCL has taken the real free drinks away on this class ship. On our Liberty cruise just a few months ago, we were treated first class in the dedicated Diamond lounge. Free drinks, almost anything you wanted. Great hot and cold food. Chocolate covered strawberries, special candies, cold shrimp, and more. On this ship, no food of any kind. Just nuts. YUCK!!!! Choices for free drinks were red or white wine, champagne, or soda. Was denied a White Zinfandel. Tried their white wine and didn’t care for it. Never went back. Really too bad.
Went down to the Champagne Bar and got a good glass of wine. Wife had a Kir Royale. Yum x 2.
Dinner for us was in the Columbus dining room on deck 5, table 260. Waiter Roberto served us. Table for 10 next to a window. Very nice. All alone until another couple comes in at 7:30. Um, dinner is at 6 o’clock PEOPLE! Said they forgot to set clocks forward 1 hr last night. Right, so they only intended to be 30 minutes late?  We had escargot, shrimp cocktail, beef filet, mushroom linguine with Grand Marnier Soufflés. All excellent. After dinner we went out to the promenade where there was free champagne for all. Walked the length and went into the Maharaja Lounge. Band was not the best at all. Didn’t stay long.
Show is at 9 for the first seating. Tonight is Judy Kolba. Saw her a couple other times and tonight was good too. Lot’s of energy singing and telling jokes for a full hour. Also worth mentioning,  the seats in the theater are new. Pretty comfortable.
Wife was tired, so she headed to bed and I looked over the casino. Seemed pretty dead, so I left.

Day 3  At Sea

Wife is up very early and off to the hot tub for some back pain relief. When she came back we headed to the Diamond dining area for breakfast. Met another couple who went on the Oasis inaugural. Sounds like we’re in for a treat when we cruise on her in October.
After breakfast we headed for the solarium . Up to 71 degrees already. Thought it would still be cooler on the second sea day, so I considered this a bonus. The lounges have new pads from the last cruise over a year ago. Much thicker than the old. We discovered that it was much nicer outside than in. Lots of sun and getting warmer. By noon, it was too hot for jeans. Stayed out until 3 or so when the sun went in and it cooled off.
We went to the welcome back party at 5:15 PM. Very crowded. Poor  food. After that we headed for dinner. Another couple with their 2 kids (under 10) were seated with us. The other couple from the previous night showed up very late again (only 40 minutes this time). We were about finished with our top sirloin and Vegetable Pad Thai. Both very good. For desert, chocolate cappuccino cake was just Ok.
Walked around a bit, then to the show at 9 PM. On most cruises, if you get to the show 30 minutes ahead, you can usually sit almost anywhere. On this cruise you had to be there about 40 - 45 minutes ahead if you wanted a prime seat. Still can’t get over the hundreds of people over the 10 nights that came 5 minutes before Showtime and thought they were going to sit right down front. Very funny.
Tonight’s show is “Vibrology”. Had to have seen this one 4 times or more. It’s a little different each time though. The singers and dancers are always different as well as many costumes. These singers and dancers are excellent on this cruise. A very strong group.
Didn’t have long to wait until after this show was over and the “Late Night Comedy” with Eric Lyden was to take place at 10:30 PM. Definitely the earliest late night comedy I’ve ever seen. He didn’t disappoint. Really funny.
Snacks in the Café Promenade and then to bed.

Day 4   San Juan

Not so nice out today. Very cloudy and a the ship is a little rocky. Ate breakfast and found not much to do all morning that interested us. The price of Bingo is ridiculous. Not doing that.
Eating lunch in the windjammer, it looks like the weather is improving. We dock in San Juan a little after 1. Amazing how fast we can get there if the captain is inclined. Heard him say we were going “full blast” all the way to make up for the embarkation inconvenience. Reason is we left almost 5 hours late and arrived 3 hours early. My thinking is that if we left on time, we could have been arriving in SJU at 9 AM. Not the scheduled 4 PM. What’s with that? We could have a whole day here. Not the silly 4 PM scheduled arrival.
Still not the greatest of weather, so we camped out on deck 11 and napped all day. Real energetic couple, aren’t we?
Dinner was an adventure tonight for sure. Not because of the food. It was fine. The couple with the 2 young kids were joined with their 2 older ones. Wow is all I can say. They were both late teens or so, I’d say. The daughter came dressed appropriately, but talked and played games on her iphone the entire time. The son on the other hand walks in with shorts on, a t-shirt and an open NY Yankees uniform top on. Then to highlight this attire, he accessorized with a Yankees cap with the visor flipped up. Never took it off. No one made effort at conversation. Changed our table.
After dinner, we got off the ship since there was little going on. Walked through old SJU as a festival was going on. Lots of partying by the locals. Fun until it started to rain on us. Headed back to the ship for some dry clothes.
Tonight’s show is at 10:30 for both seatings. Paul Dimuzio was the “action comedian”. Found out that means juggler in cruise talk. Nice kid, only 23 I think I heard. Dropped a lot of stuff though. 
Because of the rain, the “Dancing Under the Stars” was moved from outside to the Royal Promenade. This became the “Under the Ceiling” party. Band played and food was served in the Windjammer.

Day 5  St Thomas

Oh Boy, we’re here!!!! St Thomas is definitely one of our most favorite ports to visit. We’re up early. It’s a bit cloudy early, but getting better every minute. We head straight for Emerald Beach, a $7 pp taxi ride. It’s a great beach on the other side of town near the airport. It’s almost never crowded, and offers great scenery, facilities and a couple bar restaurants. We stayed from 9 AM till 3 PM.
Back to the ship for the wife’s favorite drink, a Love Connection. Sat out until 5 or so when we headed in to get ready for dinner. Because of our displeasure with the table on the previous nights, one of the head waiters Norbeil found us a table for 2 on deck 4. Good main entrees, but so so deserts.
The show tonight was Bobby Arvon. He is famous for singing the theme for Happy Days if such a thing would make him famous. He did impressions of  Tom Jones, Willy Nelson, and others. Didn’t impress us much at all. We’ve seen much better from others on previous cruises.
Karaoke Superstar was tonight. They have it 3 or so times on the cruise and the male and female winners of each night perform on the last day in the theater. This is one of the best sessions we’ve ever see. Many really excellent singers did their thing.  To the Café Promenade for a snack and then to bed.

Day 6  Antigua

Up early again and headed to the beach. We had picked out Turner Beach, but the taxi driver talked us out of that one and took us to Valley Church Beach. Cost was $8 PP for the 25 minute ride. It was a very nice long beach and had lots of shells. Someone I know likes to pick up the unique ones that she finds. Very sunny and very hot today. Lounges were $6 and umbrellas were $10. Got more crowded later in the day. Stayed from 9 AM till 2 PM. Although this beach was fine, we’ll probably try another if we come back someday.
Back to the ship for another Love Connection for the Missus. Stayed out for awhile on the top deck. A great weather day again.
Tonight we’re dining at Portofinos. We reserved after asking our waiter which night he thought would be the weakest menu. They usually know right away which night to go. For this reason I would never pre book the restaurant on line. We ordered the smoked duck for appetizer. Tasted exactly like ham, LOL. I had the Cesar salad and my wife had the soup. She didn’t realize that it was cold. Yuck! I had the tenderloin while the wife had the tiger shrimp with side of spaghetti. Both were excellent! For desert we had the tiramisu and desert sampler. Also served were chocolate covered strawberries and some small cookies. Excellent!
The show “Invitation To Dance” is new for us. It was choreographed by Louis Van Amstel of Dancing with the Stars. This turned out to be our favorite show by the singers and dancers. Instead of a Broadway show that sometimes makes little sense, this was a real dancing show. All singers and dancers were excellent! A good time.
After the show we went to the “Weakest Link”. Just like on TV, it was entertaining.

Day 7  Dominica

We had the usual breakfast in the diamond dining room section. Walked off the ship at 8:30 AM to a beautiful sunny and very warm day. We weren’t much interested in a tour, just the beach. We were almost attacked by taxi and tour operators wanting our business. They really didn’t want to do just a beach trip. Wound up going with another couple for a tour of the rainforest and to Mero Beach at the end. Cost for the day was $60 per couple.  It’s a very nice beach, good for walking. Had very black, soft sand. Price for chairs was $4 and not sure about umbrellas. We found a tree for shade. Necessary today because the sun is really warm. Stayed 2 ½ hrs while the driver waited. Time back to the ship was 35 minutes. Back on the ship around 3 and another Love Connection for my wife. We stayed out and napped for awhile. Another great day.
Dinner tonight for us started with onion soup and crab cake. Very good. For main course we had the rack of lamb and catch of the day. Lamb was delicious, but catch of the day was disappointing. Not much taste at all.
The show tonight featured David Morgan and Chucky. First thing David said is that he is not a ventriloquist. So he’s doing a ventriloquist show without being a ventriloquist. Some good lines, but was for the most part stupid.
Love and Marriage was at 10:30. Hope our CD Jimmy is up to it as the success depends very much on the cruise director. Show was pretty good. Oldest couple we both thought we’d seen do this on another cruise. They were very funny and of course they won. Must be professionals.

Day 8  At Sea

Wife is up early once again and off to the hot tub.  I was awake so I decided I’d surprise her and join her. Ate the usual breakfast in the diamond section. So much better than the windjammer or the regular dining room.
Afterwards we headed out on deck. We figured this somewhat breezy day would likely be our last nice one. Just a few clouds kept it from being too warm. We noticed that we were sitting in one of the calmest parts of the ship even though we were on deck 12 outside. Stayed until 4 PM. Had to go in to get ready for the ice show. It was as usual - Great!
The show tonight was “Horizon”, billed as Motown and more. Didn’t do much for either of us. Really dumb jokes among singers that weren’t particularly strong. At 10 PM, the 70’s tribute in the promenade by 2 of the Royal Caribbean singers as well as some dancers. Lasted almost and hour and was quite good.
At 11:15 PM is “The Quest”. It’s held in Studio B on the larger ships and is really popular. Definitely worth staying up late for.

Day 9  At Sea

Wife is off to the hot tub at 7 AM. Found it pretty nice out. No wind and 72 degrees. Ate breakfast at 8:30 as soon as the dining room opened. Up on deck soon after, but only for an hour when it started to rain. Down to 70 now. It’s all down hill now as we head north. Lunch in the windjammer, then walked around for awhile. On the promenade, they had food and ice sculptures plus food to eat. Very crowded. Good picture taking.
Tonight is the second formal night. Had the prime rib again. Excellent!!! But no shrimp cocktail or really good desert. Choices were
Poor. Sugar free, fat free, desert sampler, plain cheesecake, and tiny cream puff with fruit.
At 7:45 PM the Crown and Anchor Society had their diamond event in Maharajas Lounge. This is a very poor timing because half those attending have just eaten and have little interest in the food they had there. They used to have a lunch on the last sea day which would have been great on this cruise as it is not an outdoor day. Not much in the way of great food anyway. No shrimp, no strawberries, no question - answer session with the captain. Getting cheaper all the time, it seems.
The production show “Fast Forward” is tonight. We have to have seen this show 4 times or so. That’s ok. The singers and dancers are always different and because they were all so strong at what they do, this was a good one. Afterward was the “Battle of the Sexes”. Entertaining enough. After that was karaoke in the same lounge. Not so great tonight as on the previous nights. I guess all the good singers sang on the previous nights.
Off to bed for the wife. I took off for the casino. So far I’m ahead. Ship is starting to rock n roll pretty good now.

Day 10  At Sea

Ship is really rocking. We have 20 ft waves and very windy. Lots of people don’t even come out of their cabins in this weather. Fortunately we do not get sea sick so we are off to breakfast. After that we went up to the Viking Crown Lounge (Dizzys) and watched the front of the ship bounce up and down. Stayed for about an hour. We decided to get a head start and begin packing. Had lunch in the windjammer and then I headed off the the final satellite Texas Holdem Tournament. There are 5 of these satellite tournaments during the cruise with 10 players in each one. The top 2 in each go on to the final table on the last day. There, the winner gets a free cruise for 2 on the Oasis in December and a buy in with an estimated prize pool of $100,000. Unfortunately, I did not finish in the top 2 on my table. In fact I was the first one eliminated. Seems that when you go all in with a great looking flush in your hand, you always lose when an opposing player calls you and flips up 4 kings. Not my day. Never had that happen.
At 3 PM is the karaoke final. We were looking forward to this as we knew there were some strong singers in it. Good show, but the wrong one won, in my opinion. The first female singer sang a very difficult song and very well. She was the real winner.
Dinner tonight was very good. We had the shrimp cocktail and onion soup to start and the strip steak and pasta on the alternative menu. Chocolate desert and banana nut parfait for desert.
The usual last night “Cruise in Review” show took place. The comedian Tony Daro was pretty good. Wish we got to see his adult comedy.  We’re both pretty tired. Probable all the extra exercise we got trying to stay standing all day. It’s still rocking pretty good, but is getting better.

Day 11  Bayonne

We are to breakfast and down in the designated lounge by 8 or so. Our color is supposed to be called at 9:15, but there were delays for everyone and our color was not called until 10:30. Seems a large group had walk off with all their luggage and they go first. Their busses were actually pulled right up to the ship. Nice for them. Delay for everyone else.
We were in the terminal, luggage gathered, and in our car headed for Clifton Park by 11 AM.

Overall, this was a great cruise. The problems at the beginning were soon forgotten and outweighed by all the great things later in the cruise.

Don’t hesitate cruising out of Bayonne! You’ll hear complaints about traffic and the shuttle that you have to take from the terminal to the ship. Quite ridiculous because there is bad traffic in all terminals at busy times and the shuttle is only a couple minutes long. Much better than having to fly for 4 hours.

Any questions, feel free to email me at Joslinm1@hotmail.com