Hi everyone! I thought I would just tell you a bit about my experience on the Explorer of the Seas. I just got back today from a 7 day Western Caribbean (Belize, Costa Maya, Cozumel, Grand Cayman). First I would like to share some comments about the ship and the ports.
The ship- Overall it was VERY clean and well kept. I saw lots of staff constantly cleaning. Also, I thought in such a big ship, it would feel crowded, but on the contrary. There were times where I went to Deck 4 and just read alone for hours! That was really nice. All I heard were waves. The food was very good, the staff extremely friendly, and plenty of activities for all ages. If anyone gets bored, its because they wanted to be.
Belize- I highly recommentd the cave tubing and jungle walk tour. It takes 1 hour by bus some on dirt roads to get to the caves, but it is AMAZING. After walking for 20 minutes with the inner tube and guide (and humidity) it felt great to plunge into a cool river and float downstream. Belize City itself was dirty, run down and you can see the poverty everywhere. There is really nothing to see in the city except a few tourist trap stores. This is why I recommend the cave tubing tour.
Costa Maya- Another new port for the Explorer. There is literally nothing but jungle around a new small outdoor mall complex that was built there just for the ships. Here we did the Chacchoben ruins. Very cool place and the guide, Manuel, was very informative.
Cozumel- There is lots to see in Cozumel, but we opted for the Tulum/Xel Ha tour. This tour is long and you have to leave the ship at 7am. Tulum was beautiful, but Xel Ha was a lot of fun. By the way if you go to Xel Ha make sure you get a life jacket so you can float and snorkel. They charge for the snorkel, but you can get the life jacket for free.
Grand Cayman- YOU MUST DO THE SWIMINING WITH THE STINGRAYS!! This was incredible. We did the personalized tour, which means that there are only 10-15 people on your boat and you have a guide with you. The regular stingray tour boat had 80-100 people! The rays are amazing animals and very docile. They just rub up against you like cats and feel very very soft like a cat. I must admit I was a bit apprehensive, but when I saw how nice they were and how breathtaking the area where we saw them is I felt ok.
And...by the way...we had PERFECT SUNNY WEATHER the whole time! :-)
So, if any of you have any questions on this cruise, I will gladly help.
Thanks to all of you for your help and comments before I left on the cruise. It really helped.
To answer your questions, we booked all our tours through the Royal Caribbean Shore Excursion website. We didn't want to take chances with independent operators and miss our ship or not get a refund in case of any problems. On the first day at sea our cabin attendant delivered all the tickets to our cabin. The size of the tour was 2 greyhound type buses full of people, but each bus has a guide and you stay with your group the whole time. I highly recommend the cave tubing/jungle walk tour. It was amazing!!
Regarding the time, Belize I believe was an hour behind, but we always stayed on ships time. All the tours from Royal Caribbean used ships time as well.
I was surprised that a ship carrying 3,000+ people you could find a spot where you could be alone and there were plenty of lounge chairs. I especially enjoyed Deck 4 outside for quiet time where I read for hours.
As far as the food, we always had big breakfasts at the Windjammer, went on our tour and by the time we got back it was close to our second seating meal time, so we just picked up a snack at the Cafe Promenade and went to the dinner in the main dinning room. We loved our group (from Canada and Spain), but if you don't like the people you are seated with at dinner, you can just go to the Windjammer for dinner every night.
The food is great, the staff is friendly and the ports are lots of fun.