Authors: John and Nancy, New Hampshire

This was our very first cruise, and absolutely will not be our last. After a lot of research we chose a week aboard the Explorer of the Seas, traveling the Eastern Caribbean.

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We flew down to Miami the day before to be sure we made it there on time in case there were any weather delays. We took a cab from the airport to our hotel (about $17). We stayed at the Hyatt Regency Downtown for $40/night. (a price line bid). The hotel was perfect for staying before a cruise. I think everyone staying there was cruising. Before we even got to the check-in desk, about 8 people had said "Welcome to the Hyatt". We checked-in, went to our room to drop our things, and then walked (about 15 minutes) to the Bayside Marketplace. This is a very nice "open air" mall. We had lunch and checked out the stores. There is also a Hard Rock Cafe there (which we missed, but wished we had eaten at!). We then walked back to the hotel. We took a nap since we had gotten up at 4 am and then got dressed for dinner in South Beach. If you go to Miami, you have to check out South Beach.

Getting On Board

We got to the port at about 10:30 am. We found someone to take our bags and tipped him $2/bag. We were then sent to one room where we waited for about an hour before we were sent into the check-in area. We checked in very quickly and then waited for probably another hour. One hint - the man we checked in with didn't tell us where we should wait. We noticed there were two escalators; one marked A and one marked B. A huge line formed at A before we realized that was where we should be. Remember to go to the line at A after checking in - you'll board faster.

We went right to our stateroom. We were in cabin 1568, a category B suite on deck 10. It was gorgeous. Almost 400 square feet with a 100 square foot balcony. There was marble on the floor, granite countertops. The furniture was very nice and the bathroom was as nice as any hotel we have ever stayed in. The cabin had a 19in TV with a VCR, DVD player and a stereo system with Bose speakers. The bed area could be closed off with a curtain for privacy. The room was even better than I had expected.

The Food

We had so many good meals on board, and it is easy to put on the pounds... We were pleased with all the healthy choices that were available, and that helped us avoid much of the weight gain that you hear about from cruisers. Breakfast at the Windjammer always included lots of fresh fruit choices, yogurt, cereal, and the like, much like we'd enjoy at home.

We never had breakfast or lunch in the dining room, it was always just more convenient to have a quick break in the Windjammer or Island Grill. We always got their pretty early for breakfast and lunch so the buffet contents seemed pretty fresh and appealing. We also were amazed at all the choices, fresh salads, grilled fish of one or more different types each day, omelets or pasta made to order, fresh-baked pizza, even sugar-free desserts if you so chose.

We had a nice variety of entrees each evening, and it was easy to order a 2nd entree if you wished. Like others had said, our waiters soon learned our preferences, so loving bread I was always served two rolls at a time, as well as getting my iced tea.. I ordered a medium-rare steak one night which was delicious and high-quality, and typically picked fish or fowl other times. Desserts were also special, and our waiters would usually bring one or two extras that we hadn't ordered to share with the table.

The Entertainment

We went to the Palace Theater each night to begin our entertainment, and the shows were great and high-caliber. We caught the variety show and the singers and dancers were very good. We also got to see the Ice show. This was the most entertaining show I have ever seen on a ship. It is not to be missed!  We work out twice a week at home, so we brought clothes and got our workouts in on the Explorer as well. We also did a few other things on ship bingo, crafts, dance lessons, art auctions, and the casino.

The Ports

Our most memorable day was when we stopped at St Thomas/St John. We were a little apprehensive doing a tour on our own and missing the ship, but we had plenty of time. The day began with a bus to Red Hook and a ferry to St John. I had read that St John has some of the best beaches in the world, and now I know this is true. We rented gear, snorkeled, and it was easy never having done this before. In the afternoon we went over to St Thomas had lunch at Bluebeards Castle, what a view, and ended with some shopping. What a great day

Going Home

It was a little hectic going home. Everybody jammed into the public areas, and everyone wanted to get off right away.  We had a late flight so we just hung out, had coffee on the outside decks, and waited to be called. We said good bye to the ship but took with us wonderful memories of a perfect week.