Notes from a first-time cruiser: day two

From breakfast on the balcony at sunrise to sipping cocktails whilst watching a stunning sunset, here are my highlights of day two aboard Royal Caribbean’s Explorer of the Seas.

Day Two

So, day two is the day I plan to really get to know the Explorer, but also try to sink into that relaxing cruise mentality everyone who’s ever been on a cruise mentions. First things first though: breakfast. We order room service so I can experience that breakfast-on-the-balcony craving I had the previous day. Our brekky comes at 9am and we sit on our shaded deck feasting on scrambled eggs, French pastries and filtered coffee – all inclusive. Yep, room service doesn’t cost extra. Nice!

Sitting on our balcony overlooking the bluest water I’ve seen, we go through the Cruise Compass, which is delivered to our room daily. The Cruise Compass is an invaluable itinerary of all the functions, events, activities and specials taking place onboard each day. There is so much to do that we almost get lost in the array of activities available. From Texas Hold’em card competitions to water fitness and salsa dance classes, there seems to be no excuse whatsoever for being bored onboard. The only trick is fitting it all in.

With brekky out of the way, we take a walk around the mall, which has a ‘nothing over $10’ sale on. ‘Enthusiastic’ shoppers are checking out cheap sunglasses, watches, wraps and purses. We move downstairs to have a look at the art gallery and casino (they’re next to each other, don’t judge me!). The gallery is small but packed with quality pieces. The casino is larger than I initially expect, but not yet packed with punters. It has that old-school casino vibe, kind of cool, kind of corny, flashing lights aplenty.

We take a quick peek inside the ice rink, the theatre and the Star Room, and head to the photography studio to see if the portrait we had taken when we boarded is viewable. Unfortunately, it isn’t, but after some very helpful advice from the onboard photographer, I purchase a great little waterproof ‘tough’ camera for much less than I’d pay on dry land. Cruise tip number four (the first three are in part one): if you’re looking to upgrade your camera before you cruise, why not think about doing it on the ship. It’ll be much cheaper on board, assuming of course they have one you like.

The tummy starts a’rumbling, so we make our way to the Café Promenade for some yummy wraps and rolls and a glass of American-style lemonade. Once again, everyone seems so happy and the general vibe is so positive. Kids hanging out by themselves but not being nuisances, parents enjoying time to themselves and with each other, couples of all ages meandering through the mall and teens talking and tittering with other teens. Laid back. I’m starting to realise why they call it a cruise.

I take my camera out for a test drive, snapping shots of the ship’s retro-inspired interior, and stairways, which boast a rather impressive collection of celebrity portraits by world-famous photographers. We head up to the top deck to take some pics of the sky and sea, and we kick back with an afternoon beer to spend some more time in the sun. I’m hoping to have an hour or so of nothing time, just to unwind and take in the good vibes.

The deck is again abuzz, but nowhere near as busy, or as boozy, as the previous afternoon. We buy a beer and lay back for a bit, determined to take it easy for a while. After about 40 minutes though, I begin to get that ‘FOMO’ feeling (that means fear of missing out), so we finish our beer and seek out some entertainment.

What to do? What to do? Do we visit the full-blown ice show extravaganza? Or do we rouse up a round of minigolf? On our wanderings, we bump into our friends from the previous night and strike up an hour-long conversation whilst we watch cruisers moseying around the ship’s innards. That holiday resort kind of feeling kicks in and we decide to visit the much-hyped ice show.

It’s nice to walk into a room full of ice on a 30°C day, although we probably should have pre-empted the fact that we’d be freezing within 20 minutes. Suffice to say, it is quite the temperature drop, but the show is so enthralling we promise each other we’ll go back tomorrow more appropriately attired.

Back on the pool deck in this wonderful weather, we sip another beer and watch the frivolity in the pool area below. The reggae band Umoja 4 is playing quintessential cruise-ship tunes again, and people young and old join in to sing and dance along with the band. My eyes are drawn to one particular chap, who obviously partook in the salsa class earlier that day, and is now swinging his hips to the beat, then star jumps into the pool to the appreciative roar of the crowd. Buoyed by the attention, up again he jumps and dances like a groovy madman. The band spots him and calls him to the stage, where he joins them in a chorus and shows off his new-found salsa skills. After a failed attempt at a conga line, he spins away solo and is joined by an attractive, bikini-clad lass who proceeds to ‘twerk’ with him for a bit. The crowd goes wild, and ‘Swingin’ Sam’ (as I now don him) dances until he drops back into the pool to a round of high-fives from the lads. Classic. I’m so lucky I caught it on video. I knew I bought that camera for a reason.

With the afternoon flittering away, we try to figure out where to eat tonight. Do we try the Japanese fusion restaurant Azumi? Or do we grab a burger from Johnny Rockets? Or how about we book a table at the heralded Italian restaurant Giovanni’s Table? Oh, there’s always the Sapphire Dining Room, which, of course, is all inclusive. All the while we’re deciding, the pool area begins to empty of people, and the sun is setting in beautiful bands of mauve and blue and fiery orange. We decide that the opportunity to frolic in the pool whilst taking in that once-in-a-lifetime twilight is too good to pass up. So we run down to get our togs on, head back up and dive right in.

Refreshed from our dip, we sit with our legs in the water and sip on a beverage called a ‘Blah Blah’ – a special custom cocktail made by our cheerful bartender. Again, we slip into the salt water and are entertained by some excitable youths for a couple of hours. The water is warm and clear and we watch the sunset burn until it is black. What a magic night.

The only downside to our escapade in the pool is that we’ve missed out on dinner, so again, we order room service and take it on the balcony. Truly divine. We’re adamant that we want to check out a few of the bars tonight, maybe have a dance on the top deck at the huge poolside ‘sail away’ party being thrown, complete with live music by the band Top Notch, which is led by Cruise Director Graham Seymour and plays classic party favourites that can’t fail to please the punters. We wander up to a packed house and boogie on down for an hour or so under coloured party lights and the stars in the deep night sky.

Running out of fuel, we decide to call it a night. Once again, I walk into my room and plonk down into the waiting plushness of my queen bed. I flick through a few channels on the big flat screen TV, but find nothing that inspires me, so I hit the proverbial hay and am gently lulled to sleep by the sonorous sounds of the sea.

Leon and Lucy spent three days aboard the Explorer of the Seas courtesy of Royal Caribbean.

Written by Leon Della Bosca

Publisher of YourLifeChoices – Australia's most-trusted and longest-running retirement website. A trusted voice on Australia's retirement landscape, including retirement income and planning, government entitlements, lifestyle and news and information relevant to Australians over 50. Leon has worked in publishing for more than 25 years and is also a travel writer and editor, graphic designer and photographer.

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