We experienced the first of many differences from other lines – some good and some not so good.
Our first cruise on Royal Caribbean took us to Oslo, Copenhagen, Helsinki, St Petersburg, Tallinn, Stockholm, Skagen, Stavanger and back to Southampton.
Southampton, Sunday 23rd June 2019
Our drive down the M3 was free of traffic jams for once. We were held up at the end of the M271 at the roundabout.
Inside Gate 10 we turned left and headed for the City Terminal. There was only one lane was open for drop-offs and it was a rather busy one. Not being sure of the procedure we had to wait and ask a porter where to put our cases. We added them to a long line of cases at one end of the pavement. I wasn’t sure about this as there didn’t appear to be anyone around or any security.
We then had to get out of the drop-off zone and head off away from the terminal to find our car drop-off point somewhere in the short stay car park. There we had to look for a ‘blue flag’. A man leapt out of a van, assured us that we were in the right place and asked me to park in the middle of the nearby empty spaces. Then the car was photographed from every angle and he was kind enough to point out to me a couple of stone chips at the front of the car!
Onboard the Explorer of the Seas
The walk back to the city terminal took us 10 minutes as we had to walk past all the other car parks. Once inside the terminal we joined the queues for security and then the queues for registration. All went smoothly and we were soon on board. This all took less than 15 minutes – almost a record. As we walked onto the ship we heard the announcement that all the cabins were ready and it was only just 1 pm.
Now it was time for lunch in the Windjammer Market, the buffet on the Explorer of the Seas. The butter chicken (curry) was excellent!
We went back to the cabin and we still didn’t have any cases delivered. We went to the Schooner Bar where we met our friends who were joining us for the cruise. After an hour or so we left the bar and called at the cafe on the Royal Promenade and picked up some pizza slices.
As I ate the pizza I thought I had found an olive stone – but this was just one of my crowns that had decided to fall out.
The safety drill (Guest Assembly Drill) for us was out on Deck 4 at lifeboat station number 13. We duly arrived 10 minutes early and stood out on the deck curious about what would happen next. Then a crew-member told us that we were not allowed to stand next to the deck wall and we had to move to the front. As we stood we watched as others arrived to stand under the lifeboat only now these late-comers were “allowed” to stand next to the wall!
In front of us was a painted line and passengers with cases and crew passengers streamed backwards and forwards in front of us. By 4 pm, a good 15 minutes late, we listened to a short speech from the Captain. Then we had a short demonstration of the life jackets in front of us. In all of this “drill” gave precious little information about what to do in the case of an emergency was briefed. Then that was the end of the drill.
At 4:15 pm our first case arrived, nearly 3 hours after we boarded. The next case arrived at 5 pm and after a short discussion with our cabin steward he promised to find our third case which duly arrived about 10 minutes later.
Our first evening
Back in the Schooners Bar at 7 pm we all met for a drink before going in for a first dinner of the cruise. There was no slimline tonic in this bar tonight, the gin was definitely served with American (large) measures with the very minimum of tonic. I had to ask for another bottle of tonic to try and get a drink that at was at least drinkable
We had booked a table for 7:30 pm for the seven of us. This was a good option for Anytime Dining. We were on Deck 3 of the Sapphire Restaurant and above us we could see the two more decks of the restaurant through the atrium. This was a very impressive restaurant.
The service could not have been more helpful and soon after taking our orders for drinks they arrived along with the evenings menus. We were a little cramped on the table as it clearly was designed for only six people.
I settled for an American style prawn cocktail as my starter. Then a New York strip steak with a baked potato instead of mash potatoes. We asked for extra vegetables for the table which we then shared between us. For desert I had a blueberry sponge pudding.
After our meal we went for a wander around the shops and then it was time to rest after a long busy day.
The ship’s clocks went forward an hour overnight.