The Royal Caribbean Explorer of the Seas was the cruise ship my family boarded to sail to Alaska. The trip included stops in Skagway, Juneau and Victoria Island. We were excited to board the cruise and begin our adventure of the ship and Alaska.
Boarding the Ship and Lunch
We arrived at 11 AM, the earliest time you are allowed to board the ship. We had sailed Royal Caribbean in the past so we were also a member of their Crown and Anchor Club. Membership to this club is free and allows you to stand in a different line than others that do not have membership. Being there so early and being a member of the Club, we made our way through the line very quickly. We finished all of the paperwork necessary and were given our keys for our room and we headed to board the ship. The process for boarding was easy, taking us less than 20 minutes. We had had a similar experience for boarding the Disney Cruise Line.
For those of you who have boarded a Disney Cruise, the boarding process for Royal Caribbean is much different. On the Royal Caribbean ships, you board to a room along the side of the ship (usually the room that will eventually house the photos you can purchase) where crew members attempt to sell you drink packages or upgraded dinners. On a Disney Cruise, you board the ship inside their grand main room with winding staircases with an announcement of your family’s name and thunderous applause from staff members. The feeling you get from boarding a Disney Cruise is much different from that of the Royal Caribbean. The grandeur of the Disney Cruise ship is immediately seen where as the one for the Royal Caribbean happens much later when you walk around the ship.
Once onboard, we headed to the Windjammer Cafe for lunch. This is the only option for dining when getting onboard a Royal Caribbean cruise for that first lunch meal. On the Disney Cruise Line, there is the buffet location to dine at as well as one in a main dining room onboard. The dining room at Windjammer is very crowded quickly so getting a table after the first hour of boarding can be difficult for larger parties. With the Disney Cruise Line having more options for dining on that first lunch of the cruise, there is less congestion found.
While on the Explorer of the Seas, I found that the activities presented were not as fulfilling or fun sounding as the ones I had had on other Royal Caribbean Cruises. In fact, I usually looked at the day’s line-up of activities and thought there was nothing I was really interested in doing. There were things such as karaoke, ball room dancing, and art sales but none of those were too interesting. On our cruise we had taken with Royal Caribbean in March aboard the Brilliance of the Seas, I had found more to do than I could even fit in to a day. That cruise had comedy shows, scavenger hunts, daily drink specials and casino tournaments. Onboard the Explorer of the Seas, I felt that the activities were more geared towards older adults, while the Brilliance of the Seas offerings were more for a younger adult crowd. Onboard the Disney Cruise Line, the activities were for many age groups covering some activities for the karaoke fan, music all over the ship for multi-generations and fun games for the Disney fans.
The dining aboard the Royal Caribbean Cruise Line was held in one dining hall or in the Windjammer. If you wanted to have a table service meal, it was always held in the dining hall. On the Explorer of the Seas, we were on the My Time dining option where we chose the time for dinner daily. We chose to book the times for the dining at the beginning but were able to change out the dining time if needed later on in the cruise. Our wait staff was attentive but not nearly as attentive as that of the Disney Cruise Line’s staff. The food aboard the Explorer of the Seas was truly wonderful. We had great meals, variety of foods offered and were never disappointed. Ironically, the menus on that cruise were the same ones offered on the Brilliance of the Seas but the food was not nearly as good!
Dining onboard the Disney Cruise Line is much more exciting with the dining halls changing nightly. You can tell which dining hall you are to eat in by looking on your key card. The change from one dining hall to another really makes the dining experience feel more special. When cruising onboard the two ships, Magic and Dream, we never really felt that the food offered was particularly good. The food did not have enough seasoning, sweetness or was dry and without flavor. The food always was presented well, just did not taste very good.
Overall a cruise on the Disney Cruise Line feels much more luxurious. The rooms are more plush and the overall ship upkeep is much better. For instance, the window maintenance on the Explorer of the Seas was not great. When cruising to Alaska where much of the cruise time is spent looking at the surrounding area, having clean windows is essential. The staff on the Disney Cruise Line is always working to maintain the ship. While the food for the Royal Caribbean is better, the ambiance of the various dining halls feels very special on the Disney Cruise Line. The onboard activities of the Disney Cruise Line were more fun and entertaining than those offered by the Royal Caribbean. While I do find the Disney Cruise more luxurious, my personal rating of the Royal Caribbean cruises is still very high. I can afford to take Royal Caribbean cruises. In fact, I nearly afford to take two or three Royal Caribbean cruises for every one Disney Cruise Line cruise I take. So, if you are looking for luxury and money is not an option, look to take a Disney Cruise. However, if you are instead interested in seeing a location such as Alaska and do not want to spend an arm and a leg, look at sailing with Royal Caribbean!