Saturday, May 26, 2012

Cruise Vacation Review

Ship: Royal Caribbean International - Explorer of the Seas

Itinerary: Nine nights - Bermuda, St Maarten, St. Thomas/St John, San Juan
Departing from: Port Liberty - Bayone, NJ - April 12, 2012

Cabin: Royal Family Suite

The planning process was painful, using the RCI web site offered many challenges. Purchased amenities confirmations did not line up with what was actually purchased. The cruise planner did not always reflect actual packages and upgrades purchased. System only allows for four passengers per reservation, so the fifth is on a "linked" separate reservation, this proved difficult when planning. Due to the poor design of the web site many calls were required to RCL customer service to finally assure all packages were in place and we were ready for our cruise.

Parking at the Sea Port was $175.00 for the nine days, kind of expensive considering.

Suite Upgrade - Overall I found this a worthwhile investment in the trip. Separate boarding area to speed up the boarding process, along with Gold Level Seating at the shows, special area on the pool deck, breakfast and lunch in Portofino's, a roomy two bedroom suite with table and four lounge chairs on a generous size deck looking out the back of the ship. And of course early departure arrangements. You pay extra for a suite but they do make it a good value if you can afford paying a little extra.

Our Cabin Steward - This guy did not get it! I have read so many reviews with people stating how much the steward did, and how engaged their steward was. Ours did just the minimum, and was not very engaged in his job at all. On the first day I asked for covers for the lounge chairs on the deck (they were kind of dirty from the ships exhaust) he said he would get us some, the next day he showed up with them and just tossed them on a chair in the cabin. (You would have expected him to put them on the lounge chairs). He never (except once after I complained) wiped down the table and chairs on the deck from the soot. He never replaced the soap or shower gel or shampoo, again until I asked. I had pre paid the gratuity, but wish there was some way I could have held back 10% from this guy, he was clearly not ready for the job he had.

Dining - I did not expect this to be a gourmet dining experience, but I must say this is one area where RCI has it down to a science. All meals from breakfast lunch to dinner and snacks in-between were excellent. The wait staff were superb, engaged, and you could tell wanted to provide a first class experience for the guests. Steaks were done to order, sea food was fresh tasting, and vegetables cooked just perfect, and deserts were fresh and tasty. I would give them an A+ for food service overall. A must try is Portofino's and Johnny Rockets, a small up charge but well worth it.

Bar Service - Overall good job. The Platinum wine package worked well after a few days, but took some time for the staff to catch on that we had this package. Stayed away from the drink pushers by the pool, and always ordered fresh from the bar. All bartenders and staff were helpful and friendly. Drinks were for the most part well made with an adequate amount of liquor.

Getting on and off the ship - I don't know how they do it! At each port of call it was easy on and easy off, with little waiting. I would have thought with 3000 people getting on and off there would be long lines, but not so. We almost had no lines at all, at any port... Very good job by all staff in this area.

They say you either love cruising or hate it. Well I would say I don't hate it. We had good weather, and mild seas, so no problem there. I might try again, maybe Alaska, or Western Caribbean. Would I use RCI again? Maybe but given some of the issues we had and with nothing to compare it to, I might try NCL, or Celebrity next time.