More of the same
Howard Huett | January 19, 2014 | Royal Caribbean International | Explorer of the Seas
Review of Explorer of the Seas – September 18th – October 2nd. 2015
I??m a regular on RCL and normally travel on my own in a GS grade suite.
I would very much agree with nearly all reviewers that embarkation could not get any smoother. The agents that run the service for RCL are first rate. I boarded at about 2.00pm and was in my cabin within 15 minutes. The usual extras were there including a new brand of coffee supplied I think by Starbucks. Plenty of fruit and some complimentary bottles of water. It was just as I expected.
There were a choice of restaurants on board. Giovanies, Izumi??s and Chops. I ate in Giovanies several times over the next two weeks and I couldn??t fault them. It??s when they greet you by name that you know that they pay attention to detail. With the restaurant manager insisting I try a new sweet as I was leaving one night. Chops was a total waste of money. Having paid $30 excess for dining there I was charged another $21 for a ??Surf and Turf? which included lobster. This wouldn??t have been too bad except that the lobster consisted of two bites of white meat plus a reasonable steak. But then to want to charge you $8 for a coffee was just too much. I cancelled my remaining reservations. Then they charged me a cancellation fee (or tried to). Just not good enough. I guess as a profit centre they were not earning the bucks. The food and service in the MDR was quite acceptable. But I still wish they had silver service. One day the Americans will learn that there are other types of potato than mash. I also noticed that the number of men wearing dinner jackets was on the wane.
The entertainment was better than average with several decent shows plus a tribute act. However the magician was hopeless and I missed the hypnotist. Plenty of room in the theatre and the reserved seating worked well. Worth additional mention was the ice show which was par excellence. In fact this was so popular that entry was staggered according to lifeboat stations. The parades in the main shopping area were well presented with an enthusiastic cruise director.
Moving onto the shops there was as usual plenty for sale and RCL have cut down the tables lining the centre of the prom. Cigars were overpriced and I could have bought cheaper in the UK tax paid. I do wish that RCL wouldn??t take us all as fools announcing all products were tax and duty free. This might have been so but what they didn??t say was that they had increased their mark up accordingly.
There seem to have been a considerable amount of complaints regarding seating. Although RCL have done away with one ??nite spot? increasing cabins accordingly (more revenue) and a new specialty restaurant (yet more revenue). There was difficulty in finding spare seats for two or more people, and the extra two hundred plus people has certainly not eased seat availability. In fact overall guest space has been reduced and revenue raising areas increased. Prices in the bars was as excessive as ever with a Pinot Grigio priced at $9. A lager was $7.
The ports chosen by the company were very acceptable other than Bilbao which is just a glorified port. I can thoroughly recommend The Azores which is administered by Portugal. A first rate island that deserves more visits. A two night stopover in Madeira was well worth the extra time. It gave cruisers the chance to explore the night life.
Wifi was a bone of contention. As part of my package I was allowed one full (24 hours) of free Wifi. I??m glad that I didn??t buy the package priced at some $20 per day.
The speed was so slow it hardly registered on my Nexus. My terminal came up with 0.27m per second. This so slow it took 5 minutes to download a lengthy email. Video was impossible. RCI really need to upgrade this service. Even the switchboard operator had the authority to credit dissatisfied guests. I could only get my copy of The Times on a couple of occasions. To put this into context I could catch up on the BBC iplayer whilst I was on the coach going home. No problems with a speed of 25mg per second.
Being in a suite plus being a Diamond member of the Crown and Anchor program, I could use the Concierge Lounge from 5.00pm to 8.30pm (with free drinks). as a lounge to meet with fellow guests. I guess that there was seating for about 50 people. Unfortunately for me was that Crown an Anchor members with the status of Diamond, Diamond Plus and Pinnacle were also allowed in. The aforesaid members have their own Diamond Lounge on another deck. This is quite large and could accommodate 150 people. I understand that there were 13 Pinnacle members on board. With greatest of respect to Diamond and grades above, clients in Suites have paid many thousands of pounds for their onboard status and quite rightly expect to be able gain a seat when in the lounge. My suggestion is that RCL only allow into the Concierge Lounge guests with suite status. The present situation only devalues the value of the lounge. It was also noticeable that the lounge concierge did not check any of the gold passes for entry with their guests (or children under 18) If the door opened with your card – then you and your party were allowed access regardless of their status.
As I had no children with me, I am not in a position to comment on their facilities. I would say though that there were less than a dozen children onboard. There were no zip wires, no bumper cars or air tunnels on this ship – although a wave rider had been added during the refit – not that I would have taken advantage anyway. Overall the ship fulfilled my expectations, but as always there is room for improvement. However, I??m back with P&O next year.
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