12th Feb 2016

Cruising: notes from a first-time cruiser

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Leon Della Bosca

I was recently very lucky to be invited on a three-day sample cruise aboard the newly revitalised Royal Caribbean Explorer of the Seas, and I kept a diary of my voyage.

Day one

Explorer has been fitted out with new features such as a FlowRider wave machine, three new specialty restaurants, a 3D cinema, virtual balcony staterooms and a couple of new bars. This is in addition to the ice-skating rink, rock-climbing wall, mini-golf course, basketball court, indoor shopping mall and so many more features it would take a page to list. After her month-long makeover, the Explorer is making it’s maiden sailing out of Sydney, and boy am I excited to be on board.

My better half, Lucy, and I arrive at Darling Harbour (or Sydney Pier, as our cab driver duly informs us), to a truly awesome sight: I’d read in the media releases that this is the largest superliner to call Australia home, but, as my girlfriend will attest, my hanging jaw illustrates the fact that I never truly imagined how big this thing would be.



royal-caribbean-superliner-in-port-at-sydney-harbour 

The size of the ship distracts me from the length of the line of passengers awaiting to board. At this stage, all I’m thinking is how long is it going to take to get them on?

We are lucky that we have priority access, so we’re led through the doors and we line up on the second level, awaiting security screening and the signing-away of our lives. No, not really. We also have to sign a bunch of waivers telling the crew that we aren’t diseased in some way, shape or form, which we aren’t. We receive our Sea Pass card, which is linked to my credit card (dangerous, I’m thinking) and we are told it is to be used for all onboard purchases. Sea Pass in hand and declared disease free, we manage to get on board from cab to ship in around an hour. Not too shabby.

excited-couple-boarding-a-ship

Now I’m getting really excited. The ship is the size of a small village, or a large village, depending on your perception of village sizes, and our first mission is to see where we’ll be sleeping for the next three days.

We wander about with our bags and search for the information area. We find it, as have about 100 other passengers, it would seem. Luckily the ship is decked out with intelligent touch-screen monitors located throughout all levels, so, Lucy being the tech-savvy type, finds our stateroom on the screen and we follow the directions to our onboard lodgings.

young-lady-standing-in-a-cruise-ship-stateroom

The door opens to our perfectly sized, airy stateroom, complete with balcony, overlooking, at this stage, that marvel of Australian architecture, the Sydney Opera House. Immediately, I have visions of breakfast on the balcony looking out over cerulean blue seas and a sky of azure. I can get pretty poetic in my head when I’m excited.

view-of-the-sydney-opera-house-form-the-top-deck-of-a-cruise-ship

We meet our stateroom attendant, Loyal, who is lovely, and immediately lives up to his moniker, attending to our needs and asking if there’s anything he can do for us. “Would you like your bed separated, sir?” he asks, and “Do you need an extension cord?” I tell him his first-born will be fine, and that we are as well, and we thank him for his attentiveness. First impressions? This is going to be fun; great stateroom, splendid attendant, magnificent vessel. As I said earlier, I’m excited.

We unpack our bits and pieces and head out to explore the ship. I am drawn to a mass of sweaty passengers scrambling over what seem to be bedazzled lanyards. Intrigued, I head over to them and find, much to my surprise, that I am correct. Lanyards in pink or clear faux crystal. Lanyards in manly blue and black. I ask one of the peppy passengers what they are for, and I receive a look of incredulity. Obviously not a first-time cruiser, I think to myself. I walk away from the lanyard stand none the wiser.

We move along to a site reminiscent of a Boxing Day sale. People talking at the top of their voices, signing papers, handing over Sea Pass cards, paying for beverage packages. We manage to make our way through the throng and take a peak into the windows of the duty-free shops, which aren’t open until later because, technically, we’re in Australian waters and they can’t sell duty free until we’re on the open sea.

view-of-an-inside-street-mall-on-a-cruise-ship 

There are a nice selection of stores: a clothes store or two, a jewellery store, a high-end watch store, a trinket store, a bar, a café and more. We take a peek inside all and head for the top deck to get away from the shops and soak up some of the of spring sun.

panoramic-view-of-darling-harbour-sydney 

We hit the top deck and walk through the adults-only solarium, which is a roman-styled pool area, complete with wine bar, deck lounges and spa pools. Wandering through the solarium, we enter the pool deck, which, judging by the sounds of laughter and smooth Jamaican reggae, is the place to be. Royal Caribbean by name, distinctively Caribbean by nature.

view-fromabove-the-pool-deck-on-explorer-of-the-seas-cruise-ship 

As we’ll be docked in Sydney until 7pm, the top deck is now the perfect place to soak up some rays and survey the surrounding Sydney cityscape. Standing on the top deck, I am higher than the roof of the Opera House. As I said earlier, it’s a big ship. Determined to get into the swing of things, Lucy and I order a pint and proceed to the closest deck lounges, to lay back and take a long draught of cool beer. As I struggle to pull the cruise card from my wallet, I realise the value of the the lanyards. Cruise tip number one: bring along, or buy, a lanyard for your Sea Pass card, and you won’t need to keep your wallet or purse on your person.

Cruise tip number two: all prices on Royal Caribbean vessels are in US dollars, so unless you have a stash of American cash on you, and considering the fact that you’ll be charged US$6 for an onboard ATM transaction, although you have the option of ‘running a cash tab’, it may be best to use your Sea Pass card linked to your credit card for all your purchases.

Lucy and I sit down to work out whether or not the beverage package is a wise decision. Beverage packages start with the Royal Replenish package at US$22 for unlimited coffee, tea, bottled water, fresh juice and non-alcoholic cocktails. Or you could go for the top-of-the-line package, the Ultimate, which runs at US$67 per day. There are a few other options in between, ranging in price from US$42 to US$57 per day, as well as unlimited CocaCola for US$5.50–$8 per day. The catch is that you have to book it on the first day and you have to have it for the duration of your journey. We work out that we’d have to drink eight pints per day, or five cocktails, to make it worth our while, so we opt against the drinks package and take it one drink at a time.

The afternoon atmosphere on the top deck is electric; it’s a vessel in party mode. Cruisy sounds, happy faces, a few harmless, jovial drunkards sipping cocktails in either of the two pools, and my thoughts are along the lines of well there goes the quiet time reading a book by the pool. Everyone is happy and we both feed off the atmosphere to relax for a half hour.

couple-standing-on-the-pool-deck-of-the-explorer-of-the-seas-cruise-ship 

We meet our host Anna, PR Manager for Royal Caribbean, and the first thing she tells me is that the vibe we are currently experiencing is not typical of a normal cruise. Evidently, the shorter the cruise, the more booze consumed. “The longer cruises tend to have an older demographic,” she tells me. “It’s really not usually this boozy.”

Honestly, it didn’t bother me. I ask the opinion of an older couple sitting a few chairs away from me, and they told me they thought it was great. They were really enjoying the party mood. “Besides,” one of them said to me, “we’re not so old we can’t party too!”

We laugh and I take my leave. Lu and I head over to the day spa to see what they have to offer, and are met by two very attractive young ladies who are more than happy to lead us up the carpeted spiral stairs to a wonderful-smelling, tranquil environment. And looking at the day spa menu, there is no treatment missing. We’re talking cosmetic and spa facial treatments, teeth whitening, assorted massage therapies, slimming therapies, acupuncture, waxing – the list is almost endless. We opt for a couple’s manicure and book in a time for later in the afternoon.

Next stop: lanyard. Yep, I’ve been sucked in to the cruise ship lanyard culture, and after sifting about through my options, I go for the same bedazzled clear crystal number as Lucy. Why not, I’m here for a short time and a fun time. Immediately the sparkly lanyard draws the attention of other cruisers, getting giggles on the lift and a few laughs throughout the onboard mall. Everyone seems happy and ready for a good time – which is nice because it’s not like we can get off the ship if we don’t get along.

It’s 5.15pm and the entire ship’s crew and passengers are called to the outer decks for the emergency muster, which is the drill similar to what airline attendants do prior to a flight. We all line up in our muster groups and listen to the in-case-of-emergency directions. There are some laughs to alleviate the notion that we all hope this won’t ever be necessary, the captain addresses us all over the loudspeaker, and we depart knowing where our lifeboats are in the unlikely event of an accident at sea.

Most of the passengers seem to be heading back up to the top deck, but we go back to our room to get our clothes ready for a dinner we have on tonight at Chops Grille – Explorer’s specialty steakhouse, and one of four specialty restaurants they have onboard. I pull out a shirt, blazer and jeans and start looking for an iron. No iron. I call up Loyal, my stateroom attendant, and he tells me they have none onboard, but he’s happy to organise an ironing service for me. Within minutes he’s at my door, so I hand over my shirts and he informs me that they’ll be ready by 5pm the next day, which obviously doesn’t help me for my dinner tonight. This brings me to point number three: if you plan on visiting one of the specialty restaurants on your first night, or even the main dining area, shirts are a must. So make sure you have at least one ironed, or have one of those I-don’t-need-to-iron-my-shirt shirts.

Luckily I have one, so I go with that.

We head back up to the day spa for our manicure. I’ve never had a manicure before and I must say, it’s quite relaxing. The spa staff are great, we have a laugh as they tell us stories about their past cruises (beauty salons are a great place to get the ‘goss’ on cruise culture) and how much they love Sydney. I’m sure this is part of the ‘passenger interaction’ class that staff must undertake, but I don’t care. My nails look nice and Lu’s do too and now it’s off to Chops Grille for a steak and some seafood.

After a few mishaps, the most notable being that one of Lu’s nails didn’t quite dry in the ‘recommended’ time and looked a bit like melted plastic, we arrive at our table to meet our group. I meet a fellow named Tim, who does some work with Meat and Livestock Australia, so I grill him (pardon the pun) on which steak I should order. He recommends the oh-my-god-how-can-you-eat-that-all-in-one-sitting ribeye (which he orders). I’m not in the mood for a food coma tonight, so I go for the Filet Mignon, partly so I can say “filet mignon” to our waiter.

barbecued-scallops-with-bearnaise-sauce-from-chops-grille 

Tim and I strike up a conversation, we drink a nice red and our entrées come out. The scallops are simply divine, and I eagerly await my steak. When it comes, it does not disappoint – quite possibly in the top two steaks I’ve ever eaten and, if you’ll pardon the pretence, I’ve eaten in some nice establishments. Tim agrees, and he’s somewhat of an expert. His ribeye is one of the finest he’s had, although I have no idea how he managed to get it all down. Moral of this story is: the food onboard does not disappoint and it’s well worth spending the extra US$25–30 to eat at least once in the specialty restaurants.

filet-mignon-from-chops-grille-restaurant 

We all finish our meals and talk some more. I am introduced to Tim’s wife, Louisa, with whom Lucy has been chatting all night, and we all go downstairs to the Schooner bar for an after-dinner drink. It’s funny, at the top of the ship, which is where the restaurant is located, I could barely feel the rocking motion. Yet down on the fourth deck, which is supposedly where it’s less ‘tilty’, I can feel the motion. After the man on the piano finishes singing, believe it or not, Piano Man, we head to the Tavern Bar to watch some karaoke. It’s a great laugh spying on slightly (or more) inebriated people singing pop songs, and we’re just in time to hear that old favourite Livin’ on a Prayer. There are not enough microphones to serve the singing masses, as the whole crowd joins in, and the night ends in a cacophonous chorus of classic rock.

With the first night over, it’s time for bed. So we say our goodbyes and head back to deck eight where our room is situated. I walk in, and plop face down on my ultra-comfy queen-sized bed, and the next thing I see is daylight eight hours later … 

Related articles:
Notes from a first-time cruiser: day two
Notes from a first-time cruiser: day three





COMMENTS

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Rosret
13th Feb 2016
7:02am
Thank you for your article. Everyone who goes on a cruise says how great it is. I just have a few questions? Did you get sea sick? Did you find that quiet place in the end? Are the swimming pools so full that they feel like the local public pool?
These aren't criticisms - rather questions.
peedee
13th Feb 2016
9:52am
From our experience on several cruises both overseas and local we have never had trouble finding a quiet place.
There are generally so many lounges and libraries and other nooks and crannies that this is not a problem.
If you are going to cruise get a balcony cabin. It is well worth the cost and can also be used as quiet retreat.
Sea sickness ? how long is a piece of string. My wife who used to suffer from chronic motion sickness has only felt mildly unwell once although she did take precautionary tablets as we were warned the seas would be rough this particular night. The ships are as a rule very smooth riding. As for the pools do the sums, 2000 people and about 4 small pools. Yep they feel like the local pool only more crowded on a hot day.
We particularly like cruising on voyages that have several interesting destinations with good day excursions as this allows you to visit interesting places with a known standard of accommodation each night and you are not constantly packing and unpacking. Watch out though as the incidental costs such as day tours and overpriced drinks have a habit of building up quickly.
Not for everyone is cruising but it suits us on some occasions.
The beauty of it is you can make it what you want whether that be a recluse on your balcony or an all night party goer and "gastronomer"
Anonymous
13th Feb 2016
11:01am
All the above answers are correct if your worried about sea sickness do a short cruise first perhaps one week.
I personally don"t have sea sickness problems but the best prevention seems to be these wrist bands a lot of people swear by them and they seem to work.
We recently travel on the Explorer of the seas around the Mediterranean in September and found it quite stable except for one day when the waves where about 25 feet it was a rough day.
I found a lot less people around and almost had the bar at night to myself so you need to be prepare that but I am sure you will enjoy it as I have on many trips over the years
Gra
13th Feb 2016
8:09pm
Rosret, my wife and I have only done two cruises and have not had any problems with seasickness on either cruise. I agree with peedee, get a balcony cabin the extra room is a godsend and depending on your mood it can give you a quiet space and some privacy or, if you want to stick your head over the rail, you can chat to fellow cruisers either above, below or to either side. The first was with Norwegian Cruise Lines on the "Pride of America" for a 7 night cruise around the Hawaiian Islands. I can't recommend this cruise highly enough, the ship was fantastic, not the biggest sailing the seas these days but big enough to allow plenty of space and enough to keep you busy while at sea or even just kicking back on board while the ship is docked. The cruise departs every Saturday evening from Honolulu and sails overnight to Maui where we had two days to take in some of the sights it had to offer. On the Monday night we sailed to Hilo on the east coast of Hawaii (or the big island as it is better known) and had Tuesday there. Tuesday night we sailed around the southern tip of Hawaii to Kona on the west coast and had another day there. Wednesday night we were on the move again heading up to the island of Kaua'i. We arrived there and docked at 7am on Thursday morning for another two days of sightseeing or just doing whatever we wanted. We left the port of Nawiliwili on Kaua'i's east coast late afternoon on the Friday and sailed around the island to view the magnificent Na Pali coastline on the west coast of Kaua'i and then on to Honolulu, arriving early Saturday morning. Even though there were 2,000 passengers and nearly 1,000 crew on board we never felt crowded anywhere on the ship, including the pools.
Our second cruise was a NYE on Celebrity Solstice to see 2016 in. There were people of all ages on board but again, like any cruise it can be as good or bad as you make it. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, again having a balcony cabin that gave us that quiet place if we wanted. Even with nearly 3,000 passengers and 1,500 crew on board again we didn't feel crowded. This is a massive ship some 16 decks high.
Both of our cruises have been booked through Cruiseabout in Gymea, NSW and I cannot speak highly enough about the faultness service they have provided. I thoroughly recommend them to organize any cruise you wish to take, perhaps a sampler cruise of about 3 days to start with, just to see how you handle it.
Fran
13th Feb 2016
9:38am
Rosret,
My first cruise was 43yrs ago, so I would like to give you my perspective.
There are so many ways to either avoid or minimise sea-sickness, a lot of people never experience it at all. I did for my first two, only for two days, have never had it since, even in rough weather. I wear a braclet I got from the chemist, that has a stud that presses on a certain part of your wrist. May be mind over matter (who cares as long as it does not appear)!
I manage to find many quiet places, to read or watch the waves roll by.....
If you chose a large ship with many small humans, yes the pools will be full.
Some ships nowdays have adults only pools (as long as the crew police this, I have seen this not happen)
My preference nowdays is a smaller ship (less glitz and glamour) with everything I could possibly want and a reasonable price, and its adults only!
I leave again on such a ship in three weeks, am just as excited as I was on my first cruise!
So much to see and do or not do, as you wish.
Put your toe in the water, it feels good!!!!
Pammy
13th Feb 2016
11:01am
The article does not mention that this cruise line charges $US4-5 to launder a shirt or blouse. The costs of spa treatments are at least double those you pay at home. $A12 bottle of wine is $US54 in the main restaurant. Although most choose to prepay gratuities (approximately $US420 for a 14-day cruise), there is definite encouragement to leave extra gratuities for cabin crew, with envelopes being left in cabins for this purpose. There is an 18% gratuity on each bar charge.
And remember, all of this is in US dollars. If you cashed $AU50 last week on the line's New Zealand cruise, you received $AU31. It's all too easy to forget the exchange rate and think things are considerably less expensive than they actually are.
trood
13th Feb 2016
12:16pm
Not been on a cruise but friends tell me the first thing you do is go to the purser and tell them not to put the gratuities on your on board account. You can give them yourself to the people who have actually looked after you. My friend said internet costs a fortune on board. I'd like to know what Leon was charged for only ironing his shirts as I presume they were clean to start with; another rip off as is the 18% gratuity for each bar charge. Nothing for nothing I guess.
Anonymous
13th Feb 2016
2:09pm
Princess and P&O dumped these gratuities long ago. You don't even have to tell them not to be included anymore. Formal dining room staff are so particularly helpful, cheery, and courteous - even to me, and that's saying something - that it seems shameful not to tip them. An envelope with $30-$50 after the first or second day's evening meal will absolutely guarantee you of unsurpassed service (and a clear conscience) for the remainder of the cruise. Bon voyage.
Gra
13th Feb 2016
4:39pm
The wife and I did an 8 night New Years Eve cruise on Celebrity Solstice to see 2016 in and couldn't fault it. Gratuities were taken care of in our fare and thoughts we had of tipping our two cabin stewards, two waiters and the Sommelier for their fantastic service went out the window when we were informed that their accepting any tip would result in their dismissal. We still got unsurpassed service and had a clear conscience knowing we hadn't been the cause of someone losing their job.
The benefit of buying a drinks package means you aren't hit with any gratuity fee at bars or coffee lounges. Again, these were bonuses included in our fare but we upgraded to the Premium package at a cost of $94.40 for the 8 days - less than $12 a day and it was well worth it. Just a matter of handing over the cruise card to the waiter and all is taken care of. No bar tab to sign and no gratuity to pay.
buby
13th Feb 2016
11:16am
i'D LOVE TO take a cruise, but because i have a low immune system i wouldn't go, to afraid, all that bacteria would kill me :(
jam
16th Feb 2016
10:15am
Hi bubby, I don't see why it should. The cruise ships know bacteria better than you do let me tell you. I'm judging by Caribbian. There's even warnings in public loos to open the door with hand paper and dispose of it before walking out.
They dont want bugs onboard anymore than you do. The touchpad this article speaks of would be a haven of bugs so I would touch it with a tissue only.
Get an outside cabin and go, enjoy your cruise. Its just a wonderful experience.
Blossom
26th Sep 2016
3:19pm
They also have several hand sanitation spots on each level

13th Feb 2016
11:17am
For the great majority of the people who frequent this site, unless you are in your second late teen or early twenty years and love long, boozy, noisy nights I wouldn't recommend one of these. I have been there and done that a few years ago and NOT a lot of fun for an oldster. What made it even worse was having our quarters on the deck right below the swimming pool and could hear the he foot thumps of people running and jumping all night. If your like more sedate, sophisticated, quieter, and relaxed cruising go on a 7+ night getaway on one of the "close to death" all-inclusive package deals for "mature" passengers.
Bonny
13th Feb 2016
6:54pm
Last cruise I went on would have suited most people on this site to a tee. I felt like a youngster with most of the people on it. Lifts were full of people on gophers and wheelie walkers so I just took the stairs instead. Place became very quiet after about 9 or 10 at night with only the staff grooving the night away.
Anonymous
13th Feb 2016
8:01pm
Yes, Bonny, a lot of the cruises are like boarding a floating aged care facility. In July we're going on a cruise with our doctor and his family, as they have never been on one. When discussing our plans he mentioned that it is not uncommon for the ship's morgue to have a guest or three per cruise. I would guess natural attrition would not be unusual onboard given the age of a lot of the passengers, including us. If He wants you you are going - on plane, boat, in car, or train - so enjoy while you can. It's later than you think.
jam
16th Feb 2016
10:23am
Agree Fast Eddie. I'd not fancy these noisy short cruises.
Btw, On our trip we heard 8 people 'departed' before the end. One gentleman who looked like he had, was still being supported around the place. :)
As you say. Enjoy life. God decides when you should go.
fish head
13th Feb 2016
12:17pm
Agree with Fast Eddie. Choose your cabin with care. Drunken boozers can make your sleep (or lack of it) a misery. During the day there is always a quiet corner to be found to escape to but at night it is very hard to escape the juvenile behaviour of supposed adults who carry on like pork chops.
buby
14th Feb 2016
10:31am
THAT WOULD be a bit hard, i'm sure you could not choose your cabin, how would you know in advance, if your neighbors were boozers or not!!!
jam
16th Feb 2016
10:36am
You can check where the dance floors are or "noisy" areas of the ship.
cranky
13th Feb 2016
1:27pm
We are avid self confessed addicted 'old" cruisers....and simply love it..mixing with young or old we always manage to have the time of our lives and recommend for everyone to try it at least once in their lifetime...
But then I was born with the sea in my veins and a happy disposition...and we have collected many wonderful cruise buddies along the way...
missmarple
13th Feb 2016
2:24pm
I myself have been on 3 cruises last one was June 2014 when I took my 93yr old mother ( her 1st cruise) and she absolutely loved it we only went for 7 days as I thought any longer might not suit her but guess who was wrong big time, yours truly, mother would go on another tomorrow, so would I but my health has failed me since then and I don't think I could make it, but I love reading about others travels, and dream
Rosret
14th Feb 2016
11:32am
Thanks everyone! Most helpful. I have been on a few ocean liners 50 odd years ago as a child. Ships were very different then. My very young sisters knicked all the tooth brushes from everyone's cabin because they thought they were free and all the cabins looked so inviting. Dad tried to return them and offered the moth eaten selection of tooth brushes to the first cabin nearest ours and got a very rude response - every one else's tooth brushes were binned! - So if you lose a toothbrush - it wasn't me!
jam
16th Feb 2016
10:32am
That's funny to read. I suspect security is a bit tighter since then.
Mike Butler
14th Feb 2016
7:35pm
Buyer beware! The author of this article appears to have boarded the ship as a guest of the cruise line, and therefore anything said about his experiences should be viewed through the prism of that fact! My wife and I have now cruised with Princess cruises for between 80 and 90 nights in the last few years. Lesson Number one is this: Stick to the one cruise line and you will get much better value than spraying your money over multiple cruise lines. We now receive dedicated check-in on departure away from the amazing queues that other have to endure, and once on board we receive an amazing number of free minutes of wireless Internet access. Once you are a "highly regarded" passenger, you have a much better chance of receiving a free upgrade of your cabin accommodation. In 2015, we were upgraded on Princess from a balcony cabin to a mini-suite on a 14 night cruise around the Baltic Sea.
Secondly, if you are cruising out of Australia, ask the cruise line or your travel agent what currency is the currency for charges on board! If they say anything other than Australian Dollars, run a mile! Cruise lines that truly have a commitment to the Australian market use Australian Dollars for all charges on board.
My business partner is presently on a cruise to the normal places in the Pacific e.g. Vila, Noumea etc. Sadly he is on a ship that will remain nameless, but all charges are in US Dollars. The cheapest bottle of Sauvignon Blanc that he can buy on the ship is between 30 and 40 dollars Australian! Bloody outrageous!
Thirdly, if you cruise with P & O out of Brisbane or Sydney, expect to be surrounded by hundreds of children! If you want to have a children free cruise (or at least minimal children) go with a more upmarket product like Princess. I am not denigrating P & O because they do have plenty of staff whose job it is to keep the kids occupied, but that does not keep them out of the buffets at mealtime, so be warned.
We love cruising as it is a wonderfully economical holiday. Just do your homework!
Radish
15th Feb 2016
10:18am
My worry is that the ship is too big...too many people. Friends travelled on Explorer...yes they enjoyed it but would not go again on that particular ship preferring a smaller one like Rhapsody of the Seas or Radiance of the Seas who have less passengers and not so big. They have travelled a number of times on these ships and also Azamara Quest which they adored.

Depends also on whether you need all the extras on a big ship when you are a senior...younger people would.

I always advise people to take a lanyard and also a highlighter pen to mark up any activities that take your eye in the daily activity sheet you receive each day.
wheels
3rd Sep 2016
10:32am
We love the design of RCL ships and are Platinum (also Princess) Our last ship earlier this year was this one and two weeks before, her sister Voyager. Explorer is notably and consistently better.
But I'm starting to get rattled. Off Voyager I came down with a flu that was diagnosed as Swine Flu after we got off. My son and his boss didn't thank me either. Then, during Explorer my wife got severe joint pains and after a painful cruise end, had it diagnosed as PMU (Polymyalitis Rheumatica), after three weeks of tests and is still on steroids. It is a likely reaction to bacteria that causes that problem and high blood markers. One year or more if she is lucky and is cutting the tablets as they've got severe side effects if kept up.
Blossom
13th May 2017
8:51pm
I recently did a 13 day cruise on the Explorer of the Seas.
At the entrance at the shops there is hand sanitisaton containers that you use before and after visiting a shop, incuding the small cafes on the Promenade section. At the entrance/exit of the Dining Rooms there is staff welcoming you and checking you use the hand sanitisation, even squeezing some on one hand out of a hand held container if you prefer, and the same when leaving the dining rooms. There was plenty of free entertainment day & night. There was also a volley ball court not mentioned in the article, free soft service icecream during the day - near the pools. If you opt for a Mocktail be aware they they actually use Fruit Puree, not juice which has a lot more fibre in it than juice. You might not want to drink too many in one day. They are delicious.
Blossom
13th May 2017
8:55pm
It actually has about 3000 people on it when full. I'm not sure whether that number is just passengers or whether it also includes the crew.


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