Royal Caribbean’s Explorer of the Seas came into service in 2000, and is the second of a series that debuted with Voyager of the Seas in 1999. Like her sister ship this ship is 137,000 tons and carries a full passenger load of 3114 and 1185 crew. Explorer was built with all the facilities, activities and entertainment that have been Royal Caribbean’s staple to the cruise industry.
Amenities include a 60 foot by 40 foot ice skating rink/concert venue/television studio, rock climbing wall, inline skating rink, a shopping and dining promenade, miniature golf, wedding chapel, florist, full court basketball, spa/solarium complex, and, for the first time at sea on Explorer, atmospheric and oceanographic laboratories with actual hands on demonstrations, interaction with scientists and displays such as a touchable iceberg. Active cruisers of all ages will love this cruise experience.
Explorer of the Seas is decorated in warm tones with maple paneling, and features an $11 million dollar art collection. The Royal Promenade is the hub of the vessel. You feel like you are in an upscale mall back home as you walk along, longer than a football field, and wider than three lanes of traffic. Places of interest include the Crown & Kettle, a traditional English Pub; a 24 hour cafe for pizza and pastries; 24 hour self serve yogurt; a sports bar; and shops selling everything from simple items to designer merchandise by Versace, Bulgari, and Lladro. There is the Aquarium Bar, with beautiful tanks holding hundreds of tropical fish; a hip cigar lounge; the Schooner Bar; a well stocked library; the Card Room; the Champagne Bar; and the Skylight Wedding Chapel located at the highest point on the ship, on Deck 15. An Internet Center is open 24 hours (there is a charge to use, check for minute plans while on board).
On Explorer of the Seas there are 939 ocean view cabins (765 of those with balconies) and 618 interior staterooms (138 with Promenade views). Twenty-six cabins are wheelchair accessible. Cabins are quite spacious, nicely decorated in earth tones with art on the walls and quality fabrics. Cabins feature twin beds that can convert to queen size, phone, television with closed-circuit and satellite programming options, mini-bar, hairdryer and individually controlled air conditioning are part of every cabin make up. Category G cabins, inside with Royal Promenade views, are 150 sq. feet (as are other standard cabins) and have blackout curtains and special glass in the windows to reduce noise. Balcony cabins are 180 sq. feet, plus a 4.5 by 8.8 foot balcony.
The three level formal Dining Room is linked by a grand staircase, dramatic fluted, gold leaf columns, golden velvet curtains and a ceiling dome with gold sky burst rays, stars and fiber optics. Each of the three levels is themed to real legendary explorers: Columbus, Da Gama and Magellan, with mosaics on the walls celebrating their journeys. Vegetarian selections (including paella) and low in fat healthy items such as grilled sea bass with ginger lemon sauce are offered.
Other dining venues include Johnny Rockets, a 50’s-style dining venue. Royal Caribbean has instituted a cover charge per guest for both in restaurant and take out dining, with beverages additionally charged as well. Windjammer Cafe and Island Grill offer casual buffets. Euro-Italian Portofino Restaurant is the reservation only with a fee dining option for dinner. The Windjammer also offers a casual, open seating alternative dinner in the main restaurant featuring a buffet and table service with no fee and no reservations necessary.
Royal Caribbean’s room service options are available around the clock via 24-hour menus that offer a range of snacks and sandwiches. At breakfast, continental dishes, along with a handful of egg entrees, are available both in cabins and suites. Items off the main dining room menu can be ordered at dinner.
Even on sea days there is plenty of room for everyone around the two pools. One interesting feature about the hot tubs is several are double sized, which makes room for more passengers. The main pool tiered decks surrounding an outdoor theater, where contests to live bands for dancing takes place.
The Solarium pool and whirlpools lie in a quieter, more laid back setting and is adults only. All of the major outdoor athletic activities, the rock climbing wall, golf, basketball, etc. are tucked into a sports center area that lies aft on the ship. The skating rink is tucked well down below. Some of the more specialized activities, rock climbing, rollerblading and ice skating are offered only at specified times so check your daily schedule for available hours. The ship’s jogging and power walking track winds around the main pool area.
One nice touch is the policy at Royal Caribbean to not layer on a lot of extra fees for equipment rentals. There is no charge for using everything from ice skates to roller blades.
Explorer of the Seas has extensive facilities with more than 15,000 sq. ft. of workout, aerobics and spa area, in addition to 10,000 sq. ft. of Solarium relaxation, are among the largest afloat today in the cruising industry. The oceanview gym with stereo and TV monitors offers 20 treadmills, 18 Reebok strength units, 14 Reebok recumbent and upright cycles, eight Reebok steppers, six Reebok Body Trecs, and free weights with multiple benches. There is also a jogging track on the ship. The Steiner-operated spa has 14 multipurpose treatment rooms, hair salon and relaxation area. The Solarium boasts a Spanish theme with bronze bullfighters and a bull, mosaics and fountains. Its retractable glass roof makes it possible to enjoy its pool and two whirlpools rain or shine. Other recreational facilities include a miniature golf course, driving range and golf simulators; a full length sports court for basketball, paddle ball or volleyball; a rock climbing wall, rising 200 ft. above the sea, and the ice skating rink which is open for free skating during the day, and the free inline skating track; a dive and snorkel shop, where there are additional fees for classes and gear. An array of fitness activities includes everything from Sit To Be Fit classes to Challenge Workouts. “ShipShape” dollars are earned for participation and redeemed for sports gifts.
The year round Adventure Ocean offers supervised programs for four age groups: 3-5 years, 6-8, 9-12 and 13-17. There is more than 16,000 sq. ft. of dedicated space including a playroom and outside play area with splash pools. Teens, have their own club, Optix, with a dance floor, DJ booth and soda bar. Activities include crafts, parties, movies, a carnival night and Adventure Science, with hands on experiments. Children’s menus offer tomato and cheese pizza, hamburgers, cheeseburgers and other favorites. Group baby-sitting (children must be 3 and toilet trained) is offered daily (there is an hourly rate for this service). In stateroom sitting must be booked through the Purser’s Office at least 24 hours in advance (it’s available from 8 a.m. to 2 a.m., children must be at least a year old, and fees do apply for this service as well).
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