December 2013 couldn’t have come any faster. A rough 2013 was finally drawing to a close.
There was no better way to close out the year than sailing aboard Royal Caribbean’s beautiful Explorer of The Seas for Christmas. We were once again sailing to Port Canaveral, Nassau, and Coco Cay. Having experienced Christmas and my brother’s birthday at home the year before, we couldn’t have made a better decision. There was going to be nothing better than sailing out the Verrazano Narrows and leaving the stresses of the New York area behind us.
December 22nd, was embarkation day. It was also my work day. I am on the Cape Liberty staff. My dad drove me to work early that morning. The Explorer of The Seas was returning from its ten-day Caribbean cruise. Before getting on board the Explorer for our cruise, my colleagues and I had to all 3,500 guests off the ship and through customs. Once that part was all over, the fun part started. My parents and my brother arrived late morning to get checked in. Surprisingly, our accountant and his family were also sailing with us. That just what we needed; to have our accountant looking over our shoulders for a week. Fortunately, we didn’t have to worry much about them. I was already having a good time checking many of my fellow guests. While working, I gave each of my supervisors their Christmas gifts. Before I knew it, it was time to sign off for the day and head on board. The moment had finally arrived.
Being aboard the Explorer of The Seas for the third time was truly special. Having sailed on her on two earlier occasions, it was very easy to find our way around. My brother and I knew every piece of art displayed around the ship. Unfortunately, this was going to be one of our last cruises aboard the Explorer of The Seas. Royal Caribbean’s brand new Quantum of The Seas will be replacing her this coming November 2014. The lifeboat safety and muster drill was about to start. Once the drill was over, we were officially on vacation once again. At quarter after four, the our beloved ship began pulling away from the Cape Liberty pier. There were three other ships in port that day. The Norwegian Getaway had just passed us. We were right behind her on the way out. Shortly later, we were off to dinner and the “Welcome Aboard Show”. The day went without a hitch.
The second day on board was our sea day en route to our first port-of-call, Port Canaveral, Florida. Like there was nothing to it, my brother and I got into the swing of things. We attended the Cruise Critic meet and mingle event in the Maharajas Lounge. There we met many of our other fellow Cruise Critic members. In addition, we got to meet our activities manager, Urky. The on board staff refer to him as Urky from Turkey. In addition, my brother changed our shore excursion plans for Port Canaveral. We had plans to take the shuttle bus to Universal Studios. We decided to forgo Universal Studios due to the potential crowds and long lines during the Christmas season. We decided to visit Cocoa Beach. We had no excursions planned for Nassau. The rest of the day went great. It was never so relaxing to get away from the stresses of the real world for a week. Later in the afternoon, my family and I went to see the ice show, “Spirits of The Seasons”. If you haven’t seen the ice shows on Royal Caribbean’s ships, it cannot be missed. Royal Caribbean’s on board ice casts are skaters from all over the world, including many of them from eastern and western Europe. They were nowhere shy of amazing.
The afternoon of Christmas Eve, we arrived at Port Canaveral, Florida. It was so windy out on the bow, you had to duck tape your hat to your head. Needless to say, I nearly wound up with a brand new hair style. Once we tied up, we lined up to disembark from the ship. Once off the ship, we headed downstairs to our Cocoa Beach shuttle bus. Cocoa Beach was really nice. It looked like the Jersey shore town of Seaside Heights, a honky-tonk kind of town. My brother and I walked on the beach, taking a boat load of pictures. Cocoa Beach is home to the famous Ron Jon surf shop. It is also where people, including tourists, can take surfing classes. We saw plenty of those going on at the beach. The weather was just amazing. The overcast skies were clearing up. The day was shaping up to be absolutely awesome.
After walking around on the beach, we visited one of the most famous locations in Cocoa Beach; the Ron Jon surf shop. The shop is no average surf shop. The place had just about everything. It had top-of-the-line surf boards, to surfing gear, swim wear, and other ocean themed memorabilia. You could just walk out of the place as if you were Christmas shopping. Since we had our Christmas presents with us aboard the ship, we were all set. We bought a whole bunch of post cards a few little trinkets. I wanted to buy myself a ukulele case, but it was best to look for one at home. Once we were done, we headed back to the ship. At 11pm, we cast off from Port Canaveral en route to our next port-of-call…Nassau, Bahamas.
The afternoon of Christmas Day, we had a half sea day. We arrived in Nassau around 1pm. We weren’t in Nassau alone. There were three other cruise ships in port. The Norwegian Sky, Norwegian Breakaway, and Enchantment of The Seas were there. Unfortunately, there wasn’t all that much to do in Nassau. It was Christmas Day, and many of the stores in town were closed. At the same time, preparations were well-underway for the Boxing Day parade. I made good use of the Solarium pool, the adult pool area on board. I love the Solarium. It’s so quiet, with no kids running around rampantly. Doesn’t everyone like that? It was a pleasant day, with sunny skies with a calm breeze.
Later on at night, my brother and I attended one of the most exciting shows on board, the “Love & Marriage Game Show”. It is by far the funniest game show ever. There was a group of hearing impaired guests on board. Throughout the cruise, a signer was interpreting every show on stage for them. During the “Love & Marriage Game Show”, there was one moment where one of the three wives was asked what her husband’s most annoying habit was. When the wife said that her husbands worst habit was “farting”, the signer signed “farting” to the group of deaf guests. Oh…my….God was she laughing uncontrollably. Even the cruise director, Leigh, who was a real comedian himself, asked her to show the hand gesture for “farting”. It was plainly the funniest moment of the show. Guests were getting up and walking to the restroom or to the bar to get something to drink. It was just the funniest moment ever. End of story. At midnight, we cast off from the Nassau pier en route to our final port-of-call, Coco Cay.
The following morning, we arrived at Royal Caribbean’s Bahamian private island, Coco Cay. It was a gorgeous day out. I have never seen weather so perfect. A little bit after noontime, my brother and I took the tender to shore. We took a ton of pictures, and even walked to the very end of the quiet beach, away from all the hustle and bustle of the main area. While walking, we passed a new addition to the beach activities at Coco Cay, the inflatable water slide. Wow, it was a big one! There we saw a school of sting rays swimming about. Everyone was standing around, watching them swim around in circles. Amazingly, the sting rays were very docile. On the way back, one of the ship’s bartending staff made for each of us strawberry daiquiris. Oh, did that taste good…til a nine year old ran into me, knocking it out of my hand. I got sand in my drink! The bartending staff was kind enough to refill it for me. Before we knew it, it was time to head back to the ship. As they say, all good things have to come to an end. Well, so was our cruise. At 6pm, we departed Coco Cay for our home port of Bayonne.
The second to last day of the cruise came faster than expected. I wasn’t too disappointed. Why? My favorite competition was on Day 6. The “Men’s International Belly-flop Competition” was coming up. It was overcast, chilly, and drizzling on pool deck. I whispered to one of my seven co-contestants, “Hey, combat conditions, I like it!”. I kind of take such weather as a sign, as if something good is about to happen. Well, something good did happen. I finished in 2nd place. There’s one more medal I need to lock up. It’s not going to be easy, and I’m sure it won’t be pretty either.
Later in the evening was another favorite competition of mine and my brother’s. It was “The Quest” game show. I was one of four captains for my team. It was a fun night. I had to take my sweat pants off, and then one of the cruise director’s staff snagged them from the pile, making me have to stand in front of the audience with no pants on. I wasn’t one bit embarrassed. The last time I was a team captain, I hurt my knee…on the same ship. Then, I was almost made to dress up like a woman, but we made my other co-captain, Josh, do the honors. He didn’t do anything the whole night, so we gave him some exercise. My team didn’t finish 1st, 2nd, or 3rd place, but it was a wild and exciting evening.
The final day of the cruise couldn’t have come any faster. Cruises begin out slowly, but they sure speed up quickly. As they say, “Time flies when having fun!”. My family and I had to do the not so favorite thing. You guessed it; packing up for disembarkation. My brother had to pack his Royal Caribbean birthday decorations and other Royal Caribbean stuff we loaded up on throughout the week. I couldn’t believe that I bought nothing at the Logo Souvenir shop on the Royal Promenade. As odd as it seemed, it was far better having a light-weight carry-on.
After dinner, we filed into the Palace Theater for the farewell show. To start the show off, a sneak peak of the “Cruise In Review” DVD was shown. When my jump in the “Men’s International Belly-flop Competition” was shown, the whole theater erupted. My mom was right. I was robbed. Oh well! There’s always the next cruise. During the cruise, I found out from my mom that she had booked my family on the brand new Quantum of The Seas, the new ship due to sail from Bayonne this coming November 2014. I cannot wait. The countdown is officially on!
The following morning, it was time to do the hard part…to disembark from the ship. Even though I don’t like getting off the Explorer, it’s still a privilege working with the on board staff week-in and week-out. When it was time to head home after work, I gave the guest services manager my thank you’s for such wonderful trip, and for getting me off the ship ahead of the whole crowd. With the right staff on board, anything is possible. The Explorer of The Seas has been sailing from Bayonne since 2005. I will sure miss her this coming Fall when she repositions. She will be off to her next home port, God only knows. She’s been to Miami, Bayonne, and now her next home port awaits. That’s why they call her the Explorer of The Seas.