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Background: I have cruised 30 times with several different lines over the years. I have cruised with RCI 22 times and consider them my favorite of all the ones I?ve tried. I?m writing this review from the point of view of a frequent cruiser with RCI.
Pre-cruise: We stayed at the Holiday Inn across from Bayside Market as we did 2 years ago. The hotel was clean and neat and was a great location. We had a port view on an upper floor and it was great to get up in the morning and see our ship. We also watched the Navigator sail out the evening before.
Embarkation: Miami is a crazy port to start with so try to be patient. We arrived at the pier, gave the porter our luggage and my husband parked the car. We went into the terminal and went to the Diamond Crown and Anchor line. We checked in but were unable to board the ship as they hadn?t cleared immigration from the previous cruise. We started boarding at 12:30. Cabins don?t open up until 1:00.
The Ship: Having sailed this ship 3 years ago and knowing that she?d be going into dry dock in a few months I was prepared for the ship to show wear and tear. Truthfully I was impressed by how wonderful the Explorer looked, worn is places but still a beautiful ship.
The Cabin: We had an aft balcony on deck 7. Marvelous is all I can say. Our cabin steward Delroy was the best. He took care of our room with amazing speed and was a real pleasure to get to know over our week aboard. He also gave me some tips on where to eat while in port.
The Crew: The crew aboard this ship was great. It was fun to see some of my old crew friends and to make new crew friends along the way. Special thanks to Edwin and Rudolph in the Schooner Bar for the excellent service, bar games, etc. Thanks also to my old friends Sam in the Sports Bar and Himraj in the Aquarium Bar for remembering me and sharing some wonderful old memories as well as helping me to make new ones.
The Ports: Belize was not one of our favorites but it was nice to at least go somewhere new. We thought it would be different from the Mexican ports we?ve been to but it was very much like them. It was also extremely hot and humid!!!!!! Costa Maya was a cloudy day so we decided to stay at the cruise facilities at the pier. It was wonderful. We enjoyed limited sun but the day was perfect. We took the advice from our cabin steward and ate at the bar on the far end of the area. It has an upstairs and the view of the ships and the water were magnificent. Ask on the ship for the place with ?the big fish? seems all the crew knows it. We had chips and salsa and chicken tacos as well as some refreshments. The cost was quite reasonable (under $18.00) and the food was excellent. The salsa was out of this world. Same old shopping here of course. Cozumel was great! We love visiting here and have our favorite stores over the years which of course we visited. We took a cab ($12 each way)to Paradise Beach and enjoyed the wonderful lounge chairs and Sol beer. We had to have lunch here and really enjoyed the nachos as we had a year ago. Our waiter Antoino was great! We decided not to tender in Grand Cayman and enjoyed the ship for the day.
The Food: Late Seating. Please remember I?m writing this as a longtime RCI cruiser and that everyone has different tastes. The cost cutting aboard this ship was very evident. I will say that the Caf? Promenades food was very good. The sandwiches, pastries and cookies were great. The same 3 kinds of cookies were served each day and the sandwiches did not vary very much either. The buffet food was typical RCI, some good some bad, some awful. The dining room was another matter entirely. The choices on the menus have been reduced greatly as well as the variety of the food. Sourdough rolls were served every night and the variety of the bread aboard this ship was poor. The menu stated one evening that the chef recommended Sea Bass but the waiter told us not to order it as it was not fresh. There were many of the usual favorites from previous cruises, warm chocolate cake, cr?me brulee, etc. There were also many missing items that RCI is famous for like Flourless Chocolate cake. The chef also changed the Strawberry soup a longtime favorite of our families and it was not creamy but bitter. We were very disappointed in our dining room experience. Our waiter Hakan was OK. Our assistant waiter Diszel was absolutely the best we have had in years.
Please understand that we did not starve but we didn?t enjoy the dining room as we had on previous cruises. We expected the usual RCI standards but did not find them on this cruise. Please note that ship, dinner seating, chef, headwaiter, etc. will make each cruise experience different.
Disembarkation was great. We got up at 7. I grabbed some coffee and a roll and got the family up. We could have disembarked with our white tags at 7:30 but we decided to get off the ship just before 8 and head from the cabin to the car.
All in all we had a wonderful time. The ship was lovely, the crew magnificent and the company great. We will gladly sail RCI again but we will go with much lower expectations of the food. We always enjoy our sailings with them and the food won?t deter me from Getting Out There again!