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Explorer of the Seas 9th Feb 2018 3 Day Cruise

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I am not really a blogger so this will just be some ramblings and photos from our 3 day Explorer cruise leaving from Sydney.

Day 1

We had to be up at 4am to catch a flight from Auckland, New Zealand to Sydney, Australia which takes approximately 3 hours. Today we were flying Latam Airlines. The flight was on a Dreamliner and was very nice. I love the mood lighting in the cabin on these flights. Due to the time differences between Auckland and Sydney we arrived just after 9am. Customs processing was quick so we though the airport in 20 minutes.

We caught the train from the airport directly down to Circular Quay where the ship was waiting for us.

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As this is only a 3 day cruise we only had carry on luggage and nothing to check in so it was straight through to the check-in area. For this cruise we are in an Owners Suite (1592) so we could use the suite check-in line but as we were early everyone at the terminal could check-in without having to wait. 

The ship was not ready to board yet we had to wait in a reception area on the first floor for about 20 minutes. When they did start boarding we were on screened through security and on the ship within about 10 minutes. There was no customs processing for this voyage as it is a domestic cruise.

Once on board I changed out of my travel clothes straight into the swimwear I packed in our carry on. The Solarium was empty so I jumped into the pool and spent some time talking to the Life Guard so that he would get bored. I learnt he was from Indonesia and is on the ship until May. It is the only job he has to do on the ship so he was pretty happy. He said the main issue they have is not with people drowning as they are trained for that, but people falling over on the deck and hurting themselves.

When his shift changed (they are on duty for 30 minutes before changing pools) I got out of the pool and had a quick soak in the hot spa. I let the sun dry me off and then we grabbed some food from the Windjammer at about 12pm. It wasn’t too busy but we took the food and ate it out by the pool.

After lunch even though the cabins weren’t ready yet we went down to our cabin on deck 10 and left our bags outside our cabin door before heading up to Dizzies. They serve lunch up there for Suite guests so we just wanted to see what was on offer. The selection is small (similar to the food available on Cafe Promenade) so if you are after a quick light lunch it is fine. We didn’t have anything and went off to check out the Diamond Lounge.

The Diamond Lounge on Explorer is much nicer than the Concierge Lounge in my opinion as it is light and airy and has a nice outside area.

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Diamond Lounge Inside

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Diamond Lounge Outside

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Concierge Lounge

After checking out the lounges we headed back to our cabin to see what that was like. Normally we have a Grand Suite but this time paid a little extra to try an Owners Suite. The layout was different from a Grand Suite in that’s the Island that normally separates the “bar” and “living” area is not there and there is a table and 2 chairs in its place. The living area itself is spacious with a large couch and a couple of chairs.

the bathroom has a free standing shower as well as a bath and a bidet. The Grand Suite normally only has a toilet and over the bath shower. The space itself seemed smaller than a Grand Suite but maybe that was because there was more in it.

The sleeping area was also large and had a picture window that you could sit and look out of. Very nice.

The balcony seemed a little smaller but still had a table and 2 chairs and it was fine for what we need.

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Because we are Diamond and in a Suite waiting for us in our cabin when we arrived was 1) fruit platter, 2) 4 biscuits 3) 4 bottles of water 4) 1 large bottle of Evian water and 5) 2 cans of coke.

Here is the list of Suite services for this cruise.

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At 5pm it was time for the guest assembly drill. We went down at about 4:45pm to avoid some of the crowds. Our muster station was on deck 4 and there were already quite a few people there when we arrived. Unlike Ovation they did not scan our sea pass cards, rather they ticked us off on a piece of paper. Even at this time it was clear that some people had spent most of their time on the ship at the bar. After the drill as we made our way back to our cabin following some people you would think we were out at sea in a 4 metre swell.

Once back at our room we changed into some casual clothes and headed off to the Concierge lounge. It was busy but still possible to get a seat. Most people in the lounge were suit guests but didn’t stay long. Prior to our cruise we purchased the ultimate dining package and I had emailed the concierge about booking Chops for night one. I needed to check with him what time dinner was booked for. We stayed for 1 drink and then went up to the diamond lounge. We were there just after 6pm and apparently it had been busy but a lot of people had left by then. It was easy to find a table outside and we grabbed a couple of Cokes. The Diamond Concierge came over to make sure we were “legit”. We asked her to book Giovanni’s for dinner for night 2. We stayed there for around 40 minutes and then got ready to go watch the sail away at 6:45pm before heading to Chops. 

The weather had turned a bit rainy by then but people were still having a good time.

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It was now 7pm and time for dinner.

As we weren’t sure what Chop’s policy was on diamond drinks we grabbed a glass of wine and coke from the Windjammer bar before making our way into Chops.i checked the waiter and he said we could use our diamond vouchers in Chops so that is good to know for the rest of the cruise.

I ordered the shrimp cocktail for me entree and Anita had the tuna crab cake. Both were delicious as usual.

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For the main I had the half roast chicken and Anita had the filet mignon. Sorry they were so good that we ate them before I took photos. They looked great and tasted better.

We had to wait a while to let the food settle before we were game enough to have desert. Anita decided not to have anything but I went with the red velvet cake and I didn’t regret it.

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As we had the ultimate dining package there was no bill to pay so we decided to have a quick wander around the promenade. Most of the shops were still open apart from Port Merchants which does not open on Australian domestic cruises.

Anita was feeling pretty tired by this stage so she went back to the cabin.

i elected to go to the casino and try my luck on the roulette table. I retrospect I should have just gone to bed and saved my money. I enjoyed it all the same.

After that it was time to head off to the cabin for some sleep. It has been a long day but thoughly enjoyable one.

i suspect tomorrow will be a late start.

Stray Observations

Boarding was very fast. Getting to the port early certainly helped with this.

The majority of guests are Australian’s as you would expect and most would be under 45.

The guests are mainly composed of birthday, anniversary, divorce party hens and bachelor type groups and also families with children. 3 days is perfect for this type of cruise.

Explorer now has free style machines. It didn’t have those last time we were on her.

Voom has been working well. I take a photo of the voom code and airdrop to all our devices. This means if we want to connect another device I can just look at the photo without having to carry the piece of paper with me.

Right that is me signing off for day 1. Hopefully I will wake up before day 2 is over so I have something to post

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Awesome live blog first post!

Great photos and nice cabin too!

Thanks for pictures of the concierge lounge.  I'm just down the hall from it for the Royal Caribbean Blog Alaska group cruise on Explorer this coming June and was curious what it might look like.

Watch out for Pippa from Ocean Time @Pippa_OceanTime.  She is on board this cruise.  She is from Brisbane and runs oceantime.com.au.  She has been scoping and on facebook live as well, her twitter and periscope name is the same.  She occasionally fills in for Matt on his daily scopes.

 

 

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Day 2

Even after the long day yesterday I woke up today at around 6:50am. I think I am still on New Zeand time as it was 8:50am there. There was also a little bit of noise from the decks above. In in all it was still a pretty good nights sleep.

We decided as it was early we would eat in the Windjammer today rather than Chops as it shouldn’t be too busy and the selection is bigger.

We were right, there were plenty of tables free at this time. I normally have porridge (oatmeal) for breakfast. Firstly the hot milk next to the porridge was in a big vat with a ladle. Because of the design of the serving stations with the sloping glass cover it was really awkward to ladle the milk onto the porridge and I ended up burning my hand. Annoying and painful. Normally they have hot milk in pourer which is much easier to use than a ladle. Then I spend ages trying to find the soft brown sugar for the porridge but there didn’t seem to be any around. I spoke to a few of the staff before somebody finally understood what I was talking about and got some for me.

Anita got a freshly made omelette from the omelette station which took about 10 minutes to prepare as there were a few people waiting.

By the time we finished breakfast at the Windjammer at 8:30am it was starting to get busier as families with children starting arriving. There were still quite a few tables available for people who wanted them.

Here are a few photos from Windjammer

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After breakfast we decided to go for a walk around the top deck. It was a bright sunny day with a slight breeze so conditions were very pleasant. As I walked past Johnny Rockets and saw people playing ping pong in the undercover alcove wondered to myself why the area didn’t seem to have lights so they didn’t have to play in the dark.

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We also want down to the helipad as most people don’t seem to realise you can go up there and have a “titanic” moment. When we were on Ovation you had to book with the photography studio (for free) to go up there. 

There were a couple of members of the crew there working as there’s is always something that needs to be varnished. 😃

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“And my heart will go on”

We always go to the gym on the ship and today was no exception. The gym is located up on deck 12 through the vitality spa entrance. Explorer has a large hot water spa in this area that a lot of people do not know about. It doesn’t have seating in it so you have to stand but it is great alternative if all the spas by the pools are full.

The gym was reasonably busy around the time we went (11:00am) but there were still a few treadmills available so I jumped on one. Someone had left their sea pass card in the iPod dock on the one next to mine. A common problem I think as I have done this myself in the past.

I took my iPad with me and streamed a show on Netflix with only one slight buffering problem. Because of the satellite connection I had access to the the US Netflix rather than the New Zealand one so there were some different shows to watch that aren’t normally available to us.

Gym done it was time to think about a shower and lunch. On a cruise you always seem to be thinking about your next meal.

We decided to go and see how busy Johnny Rockets was for lunch as on a previous cruise we had to wait over and hour before they could take us. We went up just after 1pm and timed it really well as the belly flop competition was on so there were a lot of people by the pool.

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Because of the belly flop competition there was no wait time at Johnny Rockets. We elected to sit outside as there was no wind and a little sun. I asked the server whether JRs was included in the ultimate dining package as I thought it was. He told me it was not and that a surcharge will apply. As this is different from what I heard I had a look on the RCI website but could not find any specific info on the UDP. There may have had some info on the cruise planner but because the cruise had started I could no longer see their t&cs. We do have another cruise booked but that is too far in advance to book the dining. 

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The burger and fries were okay but nothing exceptional. I enjoyed the milkshake as it was nice and thick.

By this time the belly flop competition had finished and quite a long queue was forming outside JRs.

We grudgingly paid the bill and left so that the table could be allocated to somebody else. I did check with the concerige later and he also confirmed JRs is not part of the ultimate dining package. They should not be using the word ultimate, maybe it should “almost ultimate”. Apparently JRs is not a specialty restaurant which is why you have to pay. By the way it was $6.95 USD on Explorer.

On the way back to our cabin we looked in on the Solarium. It was a lot busier today than yesterday when I had the whole place to myself. Another reason to get on the ship early. Just make sure you pack your swimming gear in your hand luggage.F59A3BA1-4BCF-4F81-A83A-2B1C6A10A4AF.thumb.jpeg.b03415d4055f3e57709b7099c945a599.jpeg

A busy Solarium.

It was almost time for the ice show show so we changed into something warmer and headed down to Studio B where the concierge met us and let us in early to pick the seats we wanted.

As it turned out we had seen the show Spirits of the Seasons last time we were on Explorer in Dec 2016 but thoroughly enjoyed it anyway. The venue was quite full but there were still a few seats available even if you turned up late.

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After the show we returned to our cabin for some balcony time before going up to the Diamond Lounge for refreshments after such a hard day.

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We went up to the Diamond Lounge at about 4:50pm and there was plenty of seating available, either inside or outside. We elected to sit outside as we prefer this space. It is a little noisy for people with hearing difficulties as there is the music from the mini golf and also the noise coming from the ship funnel.

The snacks were okay but the skewered chicken must have been there for a while as it was tough as old boots.F99D702D-6731-4F34-A789-4627B72F8B45.thumb.jpeg.18b89287fe535994968674365fdcad25.jpeg

Snack selection in the Diamond Lounge.

At about 6:10pm the ship started changing direction which meant the sun came down directly on the outside area and because of the direction of the sun there was nowhere to shelter. As all of the inside seating was taken by now we went down to “the cave” as passengers affectionately call the concierge lounge. Luckily for us it was not busy at all and it was easy to find a seat. We just had a couple of drinks and I chatted to the concierge for a while. This is his last cruise before heading home for a break.

We also tried to book Chops for our final night tomorrow but the entire venue has been booked out by a large party so we booked Izumi instead. I am not a big fan of Izumi so we will see how it goes.

Our dinner reservations were not until 8pm so we left the lounge and went back to our cabin. We checked our bill on the TV and found they had been charging us for gratuities each day. As this is part of the base cruise fare I found a copy of our guest invoice with this information and made a visit to guest services. Once they saw our invoice with the gratuities included they reversed the charges.

We had dinner at Giovanni’s tonight as part of our ultimate dining package. It was scheduled for 8pm which is quite late for us. Before going to the restaurant we used a couple of our diamond drink vouchers to get something to take in with us.

We arrived at the sitting change over time so it was not too busy. We were seated quickly and looked over the menu. It has changed since the previous cruise we did on Explorer in 2016. We both ordered the almond scallops and were not disappointed. Yum Yum

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For my main I had chicken and Pene pasta. It wasn’t outstanding but it was enjoyable.

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We both had tiramisu for dessert but in my eagerness to tuck in I ate it before taking any photos. I was tempted to post a photo of an empty plate but the server whipped it away before I had a chance.

I don’t drink coffee or tea but Anita ordered a coffee after desert. We asked to have the coffee as part of our diamond discount but he said he never charges diamonds with a dining package for coffee anyway. 

After we left the restaurant and we were returning to our cabin we bumped into Rolly, our stateroom attendant from Radiance. It was really nice to catch up with him and have a chat. Hopefully we will see him again tomorrow.

Well after another great day at sea it is time to turn out the lights and go to sleep.

if you made it this far thanks for reading.

Stray Observations

Today they were doing some testing of the navigation and propulsion systems so we stopped dead in the water for a while and did a few sideways movements using the thrusters. 

If you want a ship model get them as soon as you can, don’t wait as people buy them 2 at a time. There were about 20 In the shop on day one but they were all sold out by day two. They were retailing for $32.95 USD.  Update: some more appeared later in the afternoon of the second day.

There is no formal night on this cruise.

They do not have a top tier event scheduled. I thought they had for every cruise 3 nights or longer. We had one on the last 3 night cruise we did.

Guest Services has a sign up saying the ship is full and there are no upgrades available.

We had an email from the casino saying if we earned between 2400 - 4800 points we could have a free cruise. If only I hadn’t lost the first night maybe I could have earned a free cruise. I think I would need to spend more than $140 to earn a free cruise otherwise their rewards system conversion rate would be incredible.

 

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More great photos.  Thanks for taking the time.  

Interesting observation with respect to Voom.  It almost makes me think that is O3b based Voom since it appears to be from the US.  I don't suppose you have tried speedtest.net have you?

I agree about those sneeze guards, I understand while they are needed but it can make getting certain foods or sauces a pain.  Better practice some yoga moves to get the milk.

Thanks for sharing!

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Day 3 - Last Day

Woke up this morning at the same time as yesterday and we decided to go to Windjammers for breakfast again. There were even less people than yesterday so we were able to get a table at the back of the ship overlooking the ocean.

When I went to get my porridge this morning I took extra care not to spill the hot milk on my hand. Again there was no brown sugar but this time I spoke to the Windjammer manager who sorted the issue out for me.

After breakfast we returned to our cabin where we had a lovely surprise waiting for us. Rolly who was our stateroom attendant on Radiance, and who we met again last night, had organised for a bottle of wine to be delivered to our stateroom for us. It was a lovely gesture for which we were very grateful. He is one of the nicest people you could hope to met.

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After breakfast we headed up to the mini golf to play a round. I have an app on my phone to keep track of the score. I can save the courses from each of the ships as we go on them.

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As the FlowRider is next to the golf we spent a few minutes watching people having a go. There were about 10 people waiting for a go. On all the cruises we have done I never tried the FlowRider as I have terrible balance, as evidenced by my tragic attempts to ski

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We had a few photos taken last night around the ship so we headed down to Studio B. We found a couple of photos we liked and ordered them using our diamond free printed photo voucher. This is a great benefit as we allowed one each, saving $40.

Next we headed off to the casino to get our 3 free spins. We didn’t win anything but the cashier did not swipe our sea pass cards so we will go back this afternoon and see if we can get another set of tokens.

Rather than talk about all the things available on the ship I have taken some some photos from around the ship which hopefully you will enjoy.

Shops and the Royal Promenade

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Outside Promeande Deck

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Gym,Early Morning Aerobics and Dive Centre

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Peek a Boo Deck. This is a great way to see the bridge without having to pay for a bridge tour. I think a lot of passengers don’t realise the ship has this feature and miss a wonderful opportunity. The cabin was on the bridge in these photos as they were re-calibrating the GPS.

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For lunch today we had a poolside barbecue. This is the first time I have seen this on the ship but the food was great. I hope we see it more often in the future.

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Some random shots I liked.

Us up on the helipad

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Memories of my misspent youth.

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Seagull with an outside  cabin

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A fun piece of technology outside the arcade.

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The Australians will love this.

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I hope you enjoyed seeing some of the features and sights from around the ship.

Tonight we went to Imuzi for dinner. It was very busy because Chops had been booked out for a private function. The menu on Explorer was much better than the one on Ovation. Ovation only had sushi but Explorer had the hot rock option. I opted for chispy chicken as the starter and surf and turf as the main. I really enjoyed the hot rock option and would now be happy to go to any Izumi that has this option in the future.

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Well that is pretty much the end of the cruise as we only have hand luggage so we will get up early tomorrow and disembark ourselves. Ouch that sounds painful.

i hope you have enjoyed following along with me.

It has been an interesting experience, especially when I was just in the process of uploading my last photo tonight and Safari on my iPad crashed and everything was lost At least the second time was quicker as I already had a template in my head.

i have scans of the cruise planner and all the menus so I will send them through to Matt when I get home.

Right I am submitting this now before something else goes wrong.

Some bonus photos, these are the TV channels available on the ship

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Thanks for the live blog! I'm going to have to see if the Freedom has that same "peek a boo" deck that Voyager has; if it does, maybe I'll skip signing up for the bridge tour. (although the geek in me really wants to see it up close and personally)

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24 minutes ago, JLMoran said:

Thanks for the live blog! I'm going to have to see if the Freedom has that same "peek a boo" deck that Voyager has; if it does, maybe I'll skip signing up for the bridge tour. (although the geek in me really wants to see it up close and personally)

Freedom class don't have the peek-a-boo bridge area.

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Thanks everyone for your nice comments.

this is our only cruise this year as we are off to Hawaii for 3 weeks later in the year for my birthday. Back on Explorer in March 2019 for a trip up to the Pacific Islands.

BROWN SUGAR UPDATE: they are now trained at putting out the brown sugar for my porridge. They put a huge bowl of it.

Mission accomplished. 😃

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