Eat, drink, sleep, repeat... sums up cruising, right?
Although we were very preoccupied with those activities, there was actually plenty to on the Explorer of the Seas. Our thirteen night cruise, only included six days of port stops, so we had plenty of time to take advantage of all the ship had to offer.
First, here are a few shots taken around the boat. Admire that mega elevator.
The Royal Promenade on deck five was the place to shop for everything from Royal Caribbean souvenirs to expensive jewelry and handbags. They had a great Kate Spade collection, which I would have swooped up, if the exchange rate hadn't been killing us. I love me some Kate Spade. The Royal Promenade had multiple themed bars, including the Crown and Kettle Pub, which was always packed. I was happy that the Royal Promenade had a Starbucks Coffee and a Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream store. Yummy creature comforts while on vacation,
One of the most aggressively promoted activities were the art auctions. Art auction invitations were delivered to our suite daily.
We took a look at the art gallery offerings one afternoon, when Felix was being naughty and his punishment was doing "boring adult things" with us. This backfired. The art was terrible and as we tried to appreciate it, we all felt like we were being punished. We were almost curious enough to attend an art auction, just to see who buys the stuff. We didn't see a single piece that we would hang in our home. It looked like modern office decor.
The ship has lots of "art" sprinkled throughout. There are cool things, like Annie Leibovitz prints and then there's this thing, that we kept calling the Tin-Foil Angel. It's huge, it's gaudy, and it's ugly.
And stuff like this...
It wasn't always "boring adult things" for the kids. Royal Caribbean boasts having one of the best kid's clubs on the seas, called Adventure Ocean. Adventure Ocean is for kids 3-17 and they split the kids into age groups for appropriate activities.
Felix was in the Aquanauts (ages 3-5) and Zoe was in the Explorers ( ages 6-8). The groups were in neighboring play areas and sometimes they combined age groups for activities. The actives were often themed, like Pirates or Superheroes and split into three hour sessions (morning, afternoon and evening). They played games (Zoe loved Gaga Ball), did crafts and watched movies. Face painting day was a big hit.
Adventure Ocean included a huge arcade. We are a competitive family with air hockey.
Here's the thing about our experience with the Adventure Ocean. When the kids went, they loved it. They had a great time, they were happy and they came back exhausted. They made friends, which they kept running into all over the ship. They loved the Adventure Ocean staff ( special shout-out to Splish-Splash Ash), who are all child-care specialists. Seriously, Adventure Ocean is awesome. However, the kids don't get to see Dan much and quickly we realized that they would rather spend time with daddy, than go to Adventure Ocean.
Without Adventure Ocean, we had to come up with an alternative way to expend their pent-up energy. We had them do laps on the upper deck running track. Not kidding.
We played shuffle board.
We checked out the helicopter landing pad.
Took a look at the wedding chapel.
People watched at the rock climbing wall.
Watched people attempting to surf on the Flow Rider.
There was even a basketball court.
However, one activity reigned supreme.
The Explorer of the Seas has ten saltwater pools and spas. The kids could have spent the entire vacation swimming, they loved it. Unfortunately, the weather at the very beginning and end of our cruise was very cold, but there were plenty of sunny days overall.
Here's a picture of me. I'm sunbathing, reading and thinking that pool/beach vacations are the best.
On hot sea-days, the pools were usually jammed and it was often difficult to find lounge chairs. As suite guests, there were a small section of lounge chairs reserved for us, but they were first come/ first serve and often filled. If you are traveling without children, there is an adults only pool area that always seemed less crowded. It was quiet too. Quiet spaces on cruise ships are hard to find.
In the evenings, there was always a MainStage performance, which included revue shows, musicals, comedians and vocalists. Most of the shows seemed to be geared towards adults, so we skipped them. We did however, go see an afternoon performance of the Ice Show.
Did I mention that Explorer of the Seas has an ice skating rink?
As soon as we arrived, we were greeted by our suite concierge, Denzil, who asked the kids if they wanted to participate in the show. They were hesitant, but in case they changed their minds, he seated us in the front row near an access area to the ice.
They hour long show was a tribute to the seasons and featured about fifteen ice skaters. It was impressive. Although the kids were too nervous to participate, they could have gone on a sled ride during the winter sequence. Dan and I wanted to go!
One of my favorite parts was a summer scene with a skater who also did tricks with a hula hoop. There was a lot of talent on the ice and they really seemed to enjoy performing. There were a few harrowing moments when one of the performers fell, twice, but he got up and kept on skating. He was clearly in pain, but a professional all the way. The ice show is not to be missed.
If you want to learn to ice skate, the rink is open at various times throughout the cruise for lessons and open skate. Among the other activities that we didn't do...the casino, bingo, crafts, lectures, towel animal demonstrations, tours of the ship, gym, spa, wine tastings, et... truly, there was something for everyone.
The in-room map provided hours of entertainment. It's like the maps on your individual TV screens in planes, impossible to not stare at them for updates.
The most amusing source of entertainment was provided by Henry and a woman from Jamaica.
Early in the cruise, Zoe and Felix, would say "hi" to Henry, when they passed him in the hall. One of the suite attendants caught on to this and she would come out of the room with a big, booming voice, "Who's disturbing Henry?". The giggles would ensue as she chased the kids down the hall for bothering Henry. It was hilarious. She was another Royal Caribbean employee who went out of their way to make our cruise memorable.
I will end on this picture, sometimes Dan and I were able to sneak on the patio for a romantic moment!
Next up, my favorite part of the cruise; shore excursions.