We first sailed on the Explorer of the Seas in 2000 when it was brand new. It has held up well over the years. It has a classy, opulent style that is as impressive now as it was then. Things look clean and are in good repair. As Royal Caribbean continues to build new and larger ships, it is nice to see that this medium-sized beauty we have been riding for weeks is still useful. The oldest ships in the RCL fleet are currently sailing in the Cuban market. I’m guessing that their smaller size was a factor in making this placement decision. Ports are gradually adjusting for the ever larger ships, but their itineraries continue to be limited.
We don’t know what they put in the crew’s drinking water, but to a man (and woman) they are genuinely friendly and helpful. We have noticed a major shift to more Chinese crew than we have seen in the past. Will the North Koreans be on our next cruise? While all the crew members speak English, our language seems especially challenging to them (as theirs would be to me). A short conversation can leave me feeling like their mouths must hurt making those alien sounds.
There are few things cruise ship companies hate more than reports of the Norwalk Virus, a highly contagious disease which confines passengers with upset stomachs to their cabins. and totally ruins their vacations. The crew is on a constant mission to sanitize. A fleet of 95 pound Chinese ladies stand at the doorway of the buffet with sanitizing liquid in hand, squirting us all as we come in saying, “Washie, washie. Yummy in the tummy.” They joyfully beam at us repeating this phase over and over as if it was so much fun to say. They have interesting name tags with names like “Ye er” and “Princess.” To a woman they all wear braces on their teeth. I wonder if this is the first time they have had the funds to make straight teeth an option. Sanitizing is a 24/7 job. At first I was grossed out when I touched a railing and it felt slimy. Now I know that it is the same stuff the “washie,washie” ladies are squirting in our hands at the buffet door. We haven’t heard about any tummy troubles, but there is an upper respiratory disturbance making the rounds.
The entire sail from Sydney to Seattle has been amazingly smooth. A few barf bags have been strategically placed in the stairway, but there has been no need to consider using them. Since we left Hawaii the temperatures have fallen dramatically and there are few people using the pool. Nevertheless each of our three pools is staffed by full time lifeguards. We've never seen life guards on a cruise before this. That’s got to be the most boring job ever. At their deepest the pools are just over 5’. Perhaps if there were more kids on board lifeguarding could be useful, but with a ship full of gray hairs, not much is going to happen unless someone has a heart attack.
As I am writing this we have completed five of the seven time zone changes required for the sail to Seattle. The captain’s strategy of changing the time at noon rather than during the night seems to have been a good one for us. If the clock encourages you to go to bed a little earlier it is easier it seems easier to get up a bit earlier the next day. I’m not sure all the crew agrees when they lose the precious hour they use to take a nap or do their laundry. Traveling east is a challenge no matter how you do it.
The entire time we toured Fiji and Australia we had a hard time remembering to walk on the left. People drive on the left in both these countries and walking on the left is a natural consequence. On board the Aussies still dominate, but in crowded situations you cannot tell the nationality of the people coming toward you and it’s anybody’s guess. Perhaps by the time we get home we’ll just walk down the middle, fingers crossed.