Hits and Misses on Royal Caribbean Explorer of the Seas
Cruise ships vary greatly from one to another, and so of course do cruise ship passengers. Most people find some things they like and some they don’t on pretty much any ship. One person’s favorite thing might be the very thing someone else hates most so hits and misses on any given ship are definitely a matter of personal opinion. After cruising across the Pacific Ocean on Royal Caribbean Explorer of the Seas, these are the things that stood out most to me as what I did and did not like about the ship.
Wayfinder electronic display – near each elevator and stairway area a video screen provided all sorts of information with a touch. It had the daily activity schedule, the day’s menus, and deck plans of the ship. If you wanted to know how to get anywhere on board from where you currently were it could tell you that too, and even map out a route on the deck plans for you to follow. It’s hard to say if something this useful that requires touching by numerous people will survive on a ship post Covid-19 though. If they could make it voice-activated instead of a touch screen it would work, or of that’s not possible maybe accompany it with a hand sanitizer stand.
6am open time at the Gym – instead of opening at 8am like a lot of other lines, the gym on the Explorer opened at 6, which is great for people who want time to workout and shower before breakfast and still make it to morning events. It was necessary to be there right at opening time or before to get one of the more popular machines like treadmill or elliptical for an early morning workout though.
Royal Promenade – Rather than just a central atrium area open several decks high like on many ships, Explorer had an area called the Royal Promenade open several decks high running from the front stairway to the back stairway. This area was set up to look like a city street with shops along the sides and at one end a 24-hour café. Inside cabins with windows into the promenade gave the look of apartment buildings rising from the street. This feature is found on Royal Caribbean ships, but not usually on other lines.
Magnetic door sign – I’ve often wondered why cruise ships don’t have magnetic please clean my room/please do not disturb signs since the doors are always magnetic and the paper ones that hang on a doorknob tend to fall off or turn the wrong way. This ship had a magnet hanging on the inside of the door, which passengers could set on the outside of their door with either the clean or don’t disturb side out, which was quite handy as well as nice to know at least one cruise line thinks like I do about that sort of thing.
Dining Room Carts – Waiters in the dining room have carts to wheel food to the tables instead of having to carry heavy trays piled with plates. I’ve often looked at the waitstaff on other lines crooked over under the weight of their heavy trays wondering if the ship’s staff includes a chiropractor for the dining room crew since they always look like they need one. Besides less likelihood of losing a mountain of plates in rough seas, it was much nicer to see the staff move about the dining room upright pushing a cart rather than bent over under a heavily laden tray. Plus they can move more items at one time with the cart making it more efficient than carrying a tray so that’s a bonus too.
$2 mimosas – Each morning the casino had $2 mimosas for a couple hours. I’m not a drinker, but a lot of other passengers appreciated it even if there was a 2 drink limit per person. For me personally the biggest hit about the casino was that it was non-smoking.
Solarium – The ship had a solarium area separated from the main pool deck with sliding glass doors. The outer portions of the room were under cover with an opening over the pool so it had both sunny and shady chairs (with the shady ones being the most popular). This area was both non-smoking and adults only. It also had 2 hot tubs under cover. This was our go-to area if we wanted to sit out on the deck for the shady and smoke free loungers. The fact that this area had nicer deck chairs than the main deck made it even more attractive, though if the situation were reversed I’d pick a smoke-free area over one with better deck chairs any day.
Ice Arena – Explorer has an actual ice skating arena. Royal Caribbean has them on a lot of their ships. Sometimes it is open for passengers to skate. They provide skates and helmets. They also had an ice show, which was one of the best shows of the entire cruise.
Flow rider – The ship had a flow rider with open times daily for both stand-up surfing and boogie boarding. Most of the crew working there were quite helpful teaching passengers how to use it. The Flow Show they had at the end of the cruise was quite fun to watch.
Rock Climbing Wall – the more things a ship has for people to do the better, and none of these activities cost extra, not the wall, flow rider, or ice arena.
No Indoor Smoking – The less smoking areas a ship has the more pleasant it is so it’s always nice to be able to walk around inside a ship without walking through smoke.
Cameras Allowed – on the behind the scenes tour. We have been on a ship where they were not, so we appreciated being allowed to take photos behind the scenes on this ship.
Blackjack Tournament – Pays to 3 places. Unless you’re the winner it’s nice if the winner doesn’t take all because that way more people win.
Lamingtons – Some afternoons the café on the promenade had lamingtons, which became so popular they ran out quickly once a significant amount of the passengers besides the Australians or people who had previously been to Australia discovered what they were. They may have been special for this cruise since it ended in Australia rather than a standard thing Royal Caribbean serves, which would be too bad because they were delicious.
Too Many Smoking Areas – Although inside the ship was smoke free, there were so many smoking areas outside that a significant portion of the outside of the ship was too smoky to set foot in. There were smoking areas on the starboard side of 3 outdoor decks including the promenade deck and pool deck. Also at the center of the pool area on a platform at the front so smoke travels over the whole pool area. The Walking/Jogging track circled around the pool deck and right next to the platform smoking area so neither the track nor the promenade were suitable for anyone who likes to breathe while they exercise. No wonder the treadmills filled up so quickly – all that smoke is not exactly conducive to good health.
Expensive Internet – There were no surf only internet packages available in the discounted packages prior to the cruise, and onboard the surf only cost about the same as buying the full surf and stream package ahead of time – which is supposed to be faster internet even if you don’t need the stream part, though on a ship out to sea no internet is ever actually all that fast.
No Self-Serve Guest Laundry – On a ship doing long cruises and ocean crossings some washers and dryers would be greatly appreciated by a whole lot of passengers. You can of course send laundry out for the crew to wash, but on this ship it was by the item, not the bag. Sometimes it’s almost cheaper to buy new clothes than to have the crew do your laundry, and even when they had a “special” it was $35 for a small bag and only for specific items – the ones that are easiest to handwash. We just handwashed.
Reserved Seating – A section of seats in the theater as well as a bunch of the loungers on the pool deck were roped off with signs saying they were for people with gold colored cards only. No idea if that is suite people or high status loyalty card people. The theater ones they did open up at the start of the show so if you got there a bit late you could get a better seat than if you got there early because the special people never seemed to fill many seats.
Bathrobes – are not standard in the rooms for everyone, but something to be earned by loyalty level (though the steward did bring one when requested on day 1 before I knew it was supposed to be a loyalty perk.)
Water Temperature – in a lot of the cabins the water temperature ranged from hot to scalding instead of cold to hot. As in turn the shower to the coldest possible setting to avoid burns, and you brush your teeth in hot water because other than pouring it out of the ice bucket there is no cold. Hopefully this was due to some sort of plumbing issue that has since been fixed rather than being a permanent problem with this ship, but I have no way of knowing if it was or not.
Chair Hogs – The crew are supposed to pick up unattended towels and things from deck chairs after half an hour so other people can use the chairs, but things would sit there for hours with no people in the chairs and nobody ever did anything about it even when other passengers complained. The same people hogged the best seats in the solarium all day every day and rarely ever actually sat in them. (You could tell it was the same people because they always had the same fancy towel clips holding their towels on the chairs.) Other people sometimes set these inconsiderate people’s things aside and used the chairs anyway when there weren’t any others available and could be there for a few hours without the selfish people ever showing up. Still the crew never removed their stuff, which of course just encourages others to join in that bad behavior making the problem even worse. This is an ongoing problem on many cruises where signs say chair saving is not allowed yet passengers do it anyway and the crew does nothing about it which rewards rule breakers at the expense of everyone else.
No Reef-Safe Sunscreen – With the amount of people cruise ships normally take to tropical places on a daily basis you would think the least they could do is have some reef safe sunscreen in their gift shop and try to make passengers aware of the need to use it, but they never do. Even the port lecturer on this ship failed to mention how ordinary sunscreens kill coral though at least one of the ports we went to had signs saying no sunscreen allowed on anyone going into the water.
Smoke Smell – the stench of stale smoke still hung about the casino even though it had been a couple years since smoking was allowed in there.
Overall we quite enjoyed our cruise on Explorer of the Seas and would be happy to sail with Royal Caribbean again in the future.