It has been several years since I’ve cruised out of Bayonne, New Jersey, and I have to tell you, I’d forgotten how easy it was! We left our home on Long Island at noon (which was actually 90 minutes later than I had wanted to depart, but tardiness is a flaw inherent to my husband’s side of the family). Tip: Get to the ship by noon. You may not have access to your stateroom, but go for lunch and then head up to the pool! Despite our initial delay, the ride to Cape Liberty was fast and uneventful. After pulling into the port area we followed the caravan of vehicles to the white tented area where we had our bags tagged and taken. It took only a few minutes more to park the car, and return to the check-in area in order to trade our set sail pass for our sea pass card. We hopped onto the waiting shuttle and before I knew it we were aboard Royal Caribbean’s Explorer of the Seas, ready to embark on a 5 night cruise to Bermuda.
Taking the stairs two at a time (because more stairs means more guilt free dessert) we detoured to deck five before even dropping off our carry on bag. We have never cruised on Explorer, but have sailed her sister ships a multiple of times. The ship layout is very familiar to us and we don’t need to waste time consulting deck plans. We knew where we wanted to go. The Explorer of the Seas is a Voyager class ship and the Promenade is the heart of this colossal vessel. It is always the first place we head…a family ritual of sorts. The vacation officially begins with that first slice of pizza from the Promenade Café. It’s actually more like a pie, but that’s the appetite of a teenage boy for you! Once that bit of business is taken care of everything else falls into place. I could write pages telling you about everything we did for five days, but I’ll spare you the details and just stick to a brief summary of what you might find useful in planning your own trip.
Dining: This was our second experience with “My Time Dining” and I love it! We were seated at Derek’s station each evening, and we found him to be both personable and efficient. Each night my son would order an entrée, but pass over the salad or appetizer. And each night Derek would bring him one anyway…just to try! Two of the four choices were successful. What a great way to get finicky eaters to sample something different! We decided this cruise was going to be “no fuss” and chose not to bring formal wear. Tip: “My Time Dining” is still in the dining room and you should conform to the suggested dress code of the evening. On the formal evening we ate dinner at the Windjammer Café (casual dress) although we could have gone to Portofino (smart casual dress) or Johnny Rockets (casual dress). All in all, we enjoyed all our meals regardless of where or when we ate.
Entertainment: The ice show, “Spirits of the Seasons” was one of the best I’ve seen. The music was a nice mix of slow and upbeat tunes. The costumes were colorful and the skaters, absolutely spectacular! Tip: Two small children (under 4) were selected from the front row to be glided around the ice on a sled. The girls that were picked looked like they were having a wonderful time and luckily their parents had cameras ready to capture the smiles! Get there early for your chance.
There were two shows that starred the Royal Caribbean Singers & Dancers. The music in “Fast Forward” was great, as was the set design. “Invitation to Dance” showcased the talented dancers and was my favorite of the two shows. It was choreographed by Louis Van Amstel…a name that should be recognizable to all the fans of “Dancing with the Stars.” Tip: Check your Cruise Compass for times when the dancers give swing lessons…they were very patient with those of us that have two left feet, it was loads of fun and it was free!
Something new, at least I’ve never seen it before, was “Club Twenty.” The Solarium was converted to a hip Miami style poolside nightclub for adults only. I wish I could give you a review, but I exhausted myself earlier at the “70s Disco Street Party, and anyway, my son would be the first to tell you I’m not as hip as I’d like to think I am!
The “Destination Dockyard” Street Festival was lots of fun. It’s held on Monday evenings from 8pm to 10pm pier side (near the clock tower). There’s family friendly entertainment (we saw a magician and a juggler), local bands, craft market, and more. It was a nice change, getting off the ship after dinner, seeing the show, and strolling around the dockyard. Tip: There are hair braiding booths set up here for those of you that are interested.
To be continued tomorrow with ship activities & Bermuda....