The first time I was standing in the hallway, inoperable room key in hand, we were just hours into our trip. We had made it to our rooms, unpacked, booked our dinner reservations, met family for a spot of afternoon tea and watched the ship pull out of Sydney Harbour as the sunset shone brilliantly off the Opera House. Upon returning to our room I was met with a spot of bother. I swiped my card and tried the door.
I swiped it again, but slower.
No matter how many times I swiped, or how many different speeds I swiped at, my key card would not work.
Thankfully I had my Husband-In-Tow and he was able to open the door as I headed off in search of help to fix my key. The most obvious place to start was Guest Services on Deck Five.
Our First Trip on Royal Caribbean’s Explorer of the Seas in a Promenade Stateroom
Helllloooo there Possums
I will admit that I was a little nervous before embarking on our last cruise. We had never had an interior room before and I was worried I would feel cooped up and claustrophobic in there. But with three rooms and six people to pay for, I was looking for savings any way I could. With the mindset that the room was only for sleeping in, we booked three Promenade Staterooms side by side.
I always book our cabins midship to be closest to the fulcrum of the boat. I get motion sick quite easily and would not even consider booking a room forward or aft down near the bottom of the ship. It may save money, but it would be a miserable and possibly technicoloured trip for me. Our Promenade Staterooms were no different. As close to the middle of the ship as possible to get the least rocking.
Looking at the deck plan and photos online, we could see that these rooms had a window that looked into the interior of the ship. We were hopeful that this would give us a feeling of space around us. The stateroom looked comfortable enough that we wouldn’t feel that we were living on top of each other for ten days. Mind you, we are consenting adults with our own stateroom; living on top of each other might not have been the worst outcome from the situation…
But I digress.
Arriving at our room, I was already cranky and sore. It had taken so long to get through customs and on to the ship that I had had a 40-minute long panic attack. I’d been badgered by well-meaning staff to have embarkation photos taken in front of green screens on the way in, all the while having my ribs punctured by a sharp pin that had worked its way through the fabric of my handbag. I was more than ready to snap at the next person that stopped me from getting to my room and dealing with the minor blood flow I was experiencing.
You would think that in my sore and sorry for myself mood, even minor things would have been blown out of proportion. That anything wrong with our room, be it too small and shoeboxy or the mattress too solid would be noticed and cause my brow to furrow. But upon opening the door to our room, I was pleasantly surprised.
My inherent cynicism has me permanently prepared for things not to be as perfect as they appear in photographs. But even the sceptic in me had to admit I was wrong. Everything was exactly as promised in the glossy photographs. The room was no smaller than staterooms I had stayed in with obstructed views on other cruise lines. It was comfortably appointed and the sofa built into the bay window looking down over the promenade was rather lovely. It almost had an inner city vibe about it. Our room looked out on the cobbled ‘street’ below, at people shopping, out for a stroll and having a drink out at the English style pub. Across the way were other windows exactly like ours, just like looking across at a hotel across the street.
I love cruising, but that first time you travel with a cruise line can be a little confusing; especially if you are new to the hustle and bustle that is cruising and customs. Every company does things a little differently, not every line even leaves from the same port in a particular city. So, from my experience, here’s what to expect on embarkation day with Royal Caribbean when you are travelling from Sydney, NSW.
The Explorer of the Seas was so large that it could not fit under the Sydney Harbour Bridge and we got to leave from the International Terminal in Circular Quay. Although I was a little disappointed that my kids would not get to sail under the bridge for their first cruise, it was delightful to be moored where we had a lovely view of both the Bridge and the Opera House out on deck. It also made it easier for anyone staying in the city before embarkation or catching public transport to get to the ship. White Bay is a particular pain in the hole to leave from with its lack of public transport and nonexistent onsite long term parking. My parents, who are not familiar with Sydney or the cattle crush that is the city, stayed in the city before embarkation and had navigated the whole process alone to check in before we even made it to the port from the Coast.
Upon arrival at the terminal it appeared to be a little chaotic with so many people getting out of taxis, limos and walking up from the train station. Before jumping into the fray, this is the ideal time to take the obligatory pictures of the ship in port, once you’ve gotten into the fracas it will be too late.
Before you enter the terminal you will be directed by staff to drop your checked luggage with them and line up. Once inside the terminal you will be given coloured cards and your Outgoing Passenger Card to fill in. If you’re a first time overseas traveller and you have not seen one of these before, there is an example from the Department of Immigration and Border Control here.
All inclusive cruising really can be all inclusive on Royal Caribbean’s Explorer of the Seas. With a diverse range of dining and snacking options included in your cruise fare you will be spoiled for choice (and possibly 5kg heavier by the time you arrive home. Yeah, that happened on my first cruise.)
The Sapphire Dining room is the ‘formal’ dining room on the Explorer of the Seas. I say ‘formal’ in inverted commas as although it is the formal option, you don’t need to be put off by the thought you need to dress in formal attire every night (I’m looking at you, Husband). Smart casual is acceptable. Anything from jeans and a nice shirt to black pants and tie won’t raise any eyebrows. Depending on the length of your cruise you will have several formal nights and as long as you make an effort you won’t be turned away.
The Sapphire is a three-level restaurant and is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner on sea days. Meals here are included in your fare. You may find one item that comes at an extra cost on the menu each night but you can eat fantastic meals here every day without putting your hand in your pocket at all. Iced water will flow freely but if you want anything else to drink with dinner you will need to pay.
The menu is wonderfully varied and you will find something for everybody in your party. Half of the menu is available for your entire cruise and the other half changes each night; you will never get bored with what is on offer here. Steak, lobster, prawn, salmon, soup and pasta dishes are paraded in front of you every night with equally appetising desserts to tempt you.
It is a wonderful opportunity to try something new without worrying you have wasted your money ordering something you won’t eat. I would never have ordered escargot in a restaurant otherwise. Don’t forget that you are not limited to one of everything and you can mix it up by having two starters for mains or dessert for every course. A children’s menu is available and fussy 15 year olds are welcome to order off of this too (I speak from experience).
It’s a story we’re hearing more and more coming out of cruise ships, dreaded gastro viruses ripping through the holiday makers turning the trip of a lifetime into an intimate acquaintance with a vacuum operated toilet bowl. As I write there is a 24 hour gastro bug going around the ship I am on and at this stage I have avoided getting sick even though it has ripped through the 3 male members of our travelling group. And at the beginning of the holiday we had a few members of our family feel a little ‘squiffy’ while they were getting used to the constant motion of the ship. Below are a few tips to feeling and staying healthy at sea.
One: Location, Location, Location
If you are worried about getting ‘sea sick’ book a room with a window (a balcony is better if you can afford it) at the fulcrum of the boat – half way down and as close to the middle as you can get. These rooms experience the least movement on the waves like the middle of a seasaw. If you are feeling ill, look out the window (or get some fresh air if you are in a balcony room) and focus on the horizon, it is a steady straight line that doesn’t rock with you.