Explorer of the Seas Cruise Review by Myrrhanda
- Sail Date: June 2019
- Destination: Baltic Sea
- Cabin Type: Ocean View Balcony
Despite reading some negative reviews about the state of the ship before we went, we found it to be fine: immaculately clean, decor was smart, everything was well-maintained. We were in an aft balcony cabin with my son in the overhead bed and found it comfortable and sufficiently spacious, with a particularly large balcony.
Entertainment was not always to our taste and we were disappointed that there wasn't a west end musical production of the type we've seen on Royal Caribbean in the past. But some of the acts they had around the lounge areas were excellent, we particularly enjoyed the reggae band and the classical guitarist. We do a lot of quizzes and got to know several of the cruise director's team who were lovely. We were a bit disappointed that RC are still rolling out the same Murder Mystery dining show, having already done this twice we didn't want to pay to see the same scenario played out yet again.
Ports of call were efficient, even St Petersburg seemed pretty well organised and we quickly got ashore everywhere we went.
The one thing which really let this cruise down was the food. Two of our party of 5 are vegetarian, which is not uncommon in the UK. We had told RC about this in advance even though according to their website vegetarian food is always available and does not have to be notified to them.
We tend to go separate ways during the day so one thing we really enjoy is a proper sit-down meal in the MDR in the evening where we can all catch up. We have sailed with RC in the past and in the past there have always been at least 2 veggie options available in the MDR every night, one on the main menu and one under "classics". Unfortunately, they've dropped the vegetarian dish from the "classics" selection and on 4 of the 14 nights there was NO vegetarian main course on the menu: on 1 night there was nothing at all, on the other 3 the only options contained parmesan cheese which for legal reasons is always made with animal rennet.
We complained to the Head Waiter, Guest Services (who referred us back to the Head Waiter) and directly to RC via their website (who sent us an email saying they were sorry we were disappointed but made no effort to address the issue). The Head Waiter tried his best but told us that the menus are set from a central point in Florida and the ship's chef cannot alter them. He did offer us a list of vegetarian options from which we could choose the day before, but what we got didn't always match what we'd ordered and in any case who knows how hungry they're going to be a day in advance on a cruise?
A couple of times we did cave in and go to the buffet instead, where we found plenty of other vegetarians who had already given up on the MDR. There was more choice there, but it wasn't ideal as the veggie dishes were often placed in front of others containing meat or fish so prone to cross contamination with people dropping meat into them, and too few serving utensils were set out so people would use the same for both dishes (I did ask for new utensils when the latter happened but shouldn't have to do this).
Oh, and having informed everyone possible about your dietary requirements don't expect this to be passed on to Shore Excursions. Apparently they are completely separate (don't RC have computers)? On the first day of our St Petersburg excursions we were served up with a plate of potatoes as our main course.
Dining has always been one of the most enjoyable aspects of cruising for us, but on this cruise we felt very much like second-class citizens.
According to 2018 figures from Waitrose, 12.5% of people in the UK are now fully vegetarian or vegan with a further 21% claiming to be flexitarian, where a largely vegetable-based diet is supplemented occasionally with meat. So on a ship sailing from Southampton where the majority of guests are from the UK there will be a significant number of people on board who are exclusively or largely vegetarian and an even higher number of groups or couples which include at least one vegetarian in their party. Sort your vegetarian options out RC or you risk losing a lot of repeat business!
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