Explorer of the Seas Review

Public Areas

This is a busy ship with up to 3,800 passengers. However, the range of public areas and facilities was better than any other ship afloat at the time.

The ‘Royal Promenade’ is great, it an internal street at sea. The theatre was the best that I’ve ever seen on a ship at the time, with lots of hi-tech and moving scenery. In fact it the theatre is bigger and better than most of London’s theatres. The sight lines are excellent. Studio-B (the Ice Rink) is a true innovation offering skating and an Ice show. There are plenty of very nice themed bars to choose from, too.

Accomodation

This big ship of course has a full range of cabins to suit every wallet, although my ‘standard balcony’ was far from spacious, but is was adequate. Unfortunately I cruised on this ship one month pre-refit when the carpets looked tired and dirty; the bed mattresses were truly worn out. The ship should have been refitted long before I boarded it. These issues have of course been since resolved.

The shower had glass doors which were great. You did not get the shower curtain sticking to your back like superman’s cape! Soap and shampoo dispensers are provided on the wall reminding you that this is not a ‘premium’ cruise product.

Entertainment & Activities.

The production shows (singing and dancing by the on board entertainment-troupe) were the best that I have seen on any ship. The singers could actually sing – now there’s a novelty! The Ice dance Show which is held in Studio-B was also fantastic and it’s not just for kids. There are a number of performances which require tickets, but the tickets are free. The various guest acts were not so much to my liking as a Brit, but they were enjoyed by the mainly American guests on this Caribbean cruise.

RCI’s entertainment programme is firmly aimed at “Belly Floppers” and “Bingo” addicts. Something a little more high-brow, like some enrichment lectures, would be welcome by me, but I guess many of the clientele would not agree. RCI’s push all the on-board sales (Art, Inch of Gold, Bing etc.) far too hard. At times you can feel like a marketing guinea pig.

Food and service

The main dining room is cavernous, yet surprisingly attractive with probably one of the biggest chandeliers afloat. Noise levels can be quite high. The breakfast lunch, and evening buffets were very good, if not a little crowded. Tables were cleared quickly. The evening meals in the main dining rooms were often inconsistent, being mediocre to good, but rarely excellent. It was certainly not fine-dining by any means. However you are not paying five star and you do not get five star food.

The waiters were quite efficient but were far too theatrical for my liking as a Brit. They made too many speeches and even danced and did magic tricks. I like my waiters to be seen and not heard.

The Royal promenade

The ‘Royal Prom’ (Explorer of the Seas)

Many new ships have large vertical atriums as their centrepiece. However passengers can  only fully utilise such a space if they can fly. They are there simply to create a “wow” factor. In addition, atrium’s often have little in them apart from the purser’s desk, shore excursions desk and a bar on the ground level. I tend to only visit atriums, to visit the Purser desk, when I have a problem.

Voyager and her sisters have the “Royal Promenade” which is a unique space on-board a cruise ship, although a ferry did have a similar space. Essentially it is a four deck high street which runs along the middle of the ship. Lining the ‘street’ are cafes, shops and bars. It is the real focus of the ship and a place to go to get information, to be entertained or eat and drink. For good measure the Royal Prom has a tall atrium at each end, anyway.

The Royal Prom has decks above it, so there is no natural light, but the overhead lighting gives it a ‘dusk’ like feel. I can vouch for the fact that if you have a few drinks in the Royal Prom ‘Pub’ of an evening, when you come out of the Pub, back into the Royal Prom’ you can easily forget that you are on a ship and not in a street somewhere in the world.

Ports of call

In my opinion most Caribbean ports of call were only really of interest in you sunbath, love water-sports or like to ‘ shop til you drop’. Museums and historic sites are not generally an option. There is often more to do on-board the ship than on some of the islands.

Conclusion

Explorer of the Seas and the other five ‘Voyager’ class ships (Voyager, Explorer, Adventure, Mariner, and Navigator) were the first ships that I would truly label a ‘resort’, rather than just a big cruise ship. This ‘busy’ experience is aimed firmly at the mass-market, which includes many families.

However the ship is big enough to offer public spaces which cater for most people tastes, be it a small Library, a lively pool scene or rock wall etc. RCI’s day-time entertainment programme will please “Belly Floppers” and “Bingo” addicts, however  you will not find any cultural or enrichment activities. The Ice Show is excellent and the Production shows are some of the best afloat.

The inclusive food and service does not offer a ‘premium dining’ experience, but it is probably as good as you will get on such a big ship, given the fare paid. The Royal ‘Promenade’ is the real ‘heart’ of the ship offers an ambience that no other cruise ship has offered before. The ship handled the crowds very well, but you will never get lonely on one of these floating resorts.

Malcolm Oliver

Oasis of the Seas review: HERE

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