Royal Caribbean Explorer of the Seas Cruise Review – booked through Costco Travel. In June 2023, our family sailed on a Royal Caribbean cruise onboard the Explorer Of The Seas ship for a seven night Greek Isles tour, departing from Venice, Italy (aka Ravenna). This is a Voyager class ship. Costco offers a wide variety of cruise packages and some great benefits but regardless of whether you booked via Costco Travel, if you’re looking for a review of the CURRENT Royal Caribbean Explorer of the Seas, this will apply to you!
I took a 7 day cruise on the Explorer of the Seas from Royal Caribbean in June 2023, photos and features in this review represent the current ship, as it sails today in 2023.
Preface: the RC Explorer Of The Seas is a 20-year-old ship. When I began my research I found a number of older reviews which did not include all of the current features, and I found a number of pseudo reviews which were written like a review but discussed the proposed editions to the ship that didn’t fully happen, so it can be a little confusing when you are looking for the actual features on the current Explorer Of The Seas. It was refurbished during covid, and got a number of upgrades. There were some upgrades that were scheduled/proposed that didn’t happen fully so it’s important when you are reading reviews for the Explorer of the Seas ship that you are reading newer reviews (post covid/post upgrades) AND reviews from people who were actually on the ship…not just bloggers covering what they were expecting to happen!
Interesting the main image on the Royal Caribbean site for the ship uses an old photo…no water slides in it! I digress. Read on for the important stuff…
Why I Chose Royal Caribbean
Royal Caribbean ships tend to offer a lot of onboard features and activities kids in comparison to other Cruise Lines. On the Explorer Of The Seas, there were two water slides, mini golf, kids clubs, rock climbing wall, and tons more. (See complete list below).
Some Royal Caribbean ships offer a little less than the Explorer of the Seas, and there are a number of newer ships that offer way more than the Explorer Of The Seas including gaming family suites (my kids are DYING to stay in one of those!). It’s important that you look up the actual ship that you will be sailing on in order to see what the features are for your kids, each one is different.
There are also a number of Disney Cruises as well as Carnival Cruises on Costco Travel that offer ships with kid oriented features and activities.
Note: This post is NOT SPONSORED. We paid for our cruise and expenses 100%. Maybe next time…lol.
Features and Activities for Kids on the Explorer Of The Seas Ship
There are tons of fun entertainment and activity decks for kids onboard! As of June 2023 the top major features and activities for kids on the Royal Caribbean Explorer Of The Seas are:
- 2 water slides
- 9-hole mini golf
- indoor ice-skating rink
- kids and teen clubs (Adventure Ocean)
- wave simulator (surfing and boogie boarding)
- rock climbing wall
- movie theater
- rooftop movies on pool deck
- soft archery
- sport court
- paddle tennis
- ice cream shop (incl)
- Johnny Rockets (not incl)
- Ben and Jerry’s (not incl)
- multiple evening shows geared toward kids
- opening night show/bmx show
- ice skating show
In addition to the fun stuff listed in the kids section, you’ll also find a jogging track, spa, adults only pool (solarium), casino, multiple taverns/bars, dance club (I heard…to be honest we didn’t go), gym, Studio B (gameshow, and other classes), movies, and more.
Explorer of the Seas Grand Suite Room Review
This was our family’s first cruise, and we learned a LOT onboard about what you get, and don’t get. We booked a Grand Suite which is also called a 1-bedroom suite. We were VERY happy we booked a suite, the additional services and features (in addition to the larger size room and balcony) made our entire experience better.
- tons of benefits for booking a suite
- double width balcony
- large bathroom with bathtub and countertop space
- very attentive attendant to help all room needs (including putting up and taking down the fold out sofa for the kids every morning/evening).
- mini fridge
- clothesline in shower to dry suits
- just a curtain separates the bed from the living space (does not close fully or offer any sound buffering), which in my opinion is not a one bedroom suite
- I could see this in photos before booking but I assumed it was an accordion wall or something with more substance than a blackout curtain….my mistake!
- poor use of space (I’d love to redesign these rooms lol!! Whoever designed this didn’t have kids!)
- not enough drawers/cabinets for a family of 4 to unpack and no space to keep suitcases accessible – we managed but closet organizers in one of the closets would make a big difference – that wall of large closets you see are all hanging space
Advantages of Booking a Suite on Royal Caribbean
As this was our first cruise, we chose our room type for a little extra room and not because we knew what benefits a suite had…and I was SO THANKFUL we had a suite! I will never take another cruise and not book a suite! Okay, well maybe if it was a really, really good deal 😉
The concierge lounge was a huge bonus! Coffee, tea and waters were available all the time, and in the mornings they had a few pastry and quick breakfast options out, and in the evenings there were appetizers and drinks (soda, beer and wine included even if you didn’t book a beverage package!).
As the above implies…you get access to a cruise concierge. They can help you to book restaurant/dining reservations, get info on activities, book spa or other specialty services, book your departure transportation, and more. They can’t make true magic happen, but on a few occasions I’d say our concierge delivered near magic. He was undoubtedly helpful!
No Tender Tickets Required
Passengers booked in suites are escorted to the tender boats by the concierge, and don’t need to register in advance to get on a tender to go to shore (in ports where the ship does not pull up to the dock, like the image above from Montenegro). That just made life easier for us, much less stress than trying to make a scheduled time.
Breakfast at Chops
Chops, the Explorer of the Seas’ signature speciality steakhouse grill is open for a sit down breakfast with table service exclusively for passengers in suites. We dined there a few times, and the Captain of the ship came by and said hello.
General VIP Treatment
These are small examples of things that just made life easier, and made the cruise more enjoyable.
- When we dined in the dining room (we had anytime dining), they always sat us at a window table – I can’t say for certain that was because we were in a suite but I can’t think of any other reason tbh.
- We didn’t have to check towels back in at the pool (non suite guests have to scan towels out, and scan them back in every time they borrow towels).
- When we were waiting in line after leaving the ship to get on our transfer bus to the train station, the line attendant saw our “suites” bag tags and ensured we got on the next bus.
Important Note About Location of the Port
Although the Explorer of the Seas’ cruise port is casually referred to as Venice, Italy…the actual port is located in Ravenna, Italy which is over two hours drive south of Venice. In fact, Bologna airport is significantly closer (but still over an hour drive).
For clarification, there is a cruise port in Venice, Italy. But it’s used for ships stopping in Venice for the day. I don’t know all the granular details…but make no mistake…the Explorer of the Seas embarks from Ravenna, Italy (not Venice!).
Our travel agent quoted over $1800 for car service (round trip from Venice to Ravenna). As it turns out my kids hate long car rides, and long bus rides (Royal Caribbean offers a bus transfer from the airport) so we went on our own and took the train. It was far cheaper, and the train is such a lovely way to travel a distance over cars and busses and I highly recommend it if you’re comfortable using trains in Europe.
Check-in was a breeze. They has SO MUCH STAFF working check-in, that was a surprise!
Dining on Explorer of the Seas
There were a ton of food options onboard the Explorer of the Seas. You have 6 types of dining options:
Main Dining Room: You’ll be assigned one of 3 main dining rooms for sit-down service. This is in a large, banquet-style room but you do NOT share a table with other passengers. They offer upgrades like this lobster tail (don’t recommend…they didn’t remove the vein…gross).
Buffet: The Windjammer is the Explorer of the Seas’ mega buffet. It’s multiple rooms big, has a good amount of seating in front of floor to ceiling windows (great views!) – even if you can’t get window front (we did every single time, with only marginal patience) it’s good views from every seat. It’s casual, but offers omelette bar at breakfast, burger/hot dog grill at lunch, and carving stations at dinner.
Snacks: On board the Royal Caribbean Explorer of the Seas you’ll find an ice cream cone shop (near the pool, included), and the Cafe Promenade (limited but generally open all the time, included).
Room Service: Royal Caribbean Explorer of the Seas offers basic complimentary room service (a very limited menu is included (upcharge on other items), passengers in suites can order the full menu included). In our experience, the menu was quite limited, food was mediocre, order was always missing something (and sometimes had added items lol). It was free for us, so didn’t bother me…but I don’t recommend paying out of pocket for room service.
Specialty Restaurants: Explorer of the Seas offers a number of additional dining packages at their specialty restaurants including Chops (steakhouse, recommend), Giovanni’s (Italian, do not recommend), Izumi (sushi, didn’t eat there), Johnny Rockets (burgers, recommend), Ben and Jerry’s (ice cream, didn’t eat there).
Dining Room Tip: For families with kids, I’d suggest that you select the earlier dinner time slot at 5:30 (that will allow your family to attend the 7:30 evening shows or do an activity in the evening (mini golf, or a quick swim, etc). You can always dine in the buffet on evenings that you don’t want to eat early or go to the no reservations line for the dining room.
Packing Suggestions for Explorer of the Seas Cruise
Purchasing items on board can get really expensive, really quick! Here are a list of things I packed (and forgot to pack that I wished I had)…take a look and see what you think you need to add to your cruise essentials packing list!
- As with any vacation, be sure to bring your own skincare and medical essentials like sunblock, imodium, bandages, neosporin, thermometer, advil, etc. You can buy most (limited selection) onboard, but they are expensive!
- Waterproof pouch for your phone – from water slides to pools to beaches you’ll want to take photos with your phone, and you won’t want to leave it unattended so grab a little waterproof case for it, and wear it when you swim! Double check before you order to make sure you buy one that fits your phone. Mine works through the plastic – it’s not super easy to use but I can take pics with the pouch on! These are also great for water parks or the beach!
- Bathroom Spray – you won’t find ventilation fans and bathrooms tend to be interior so if you’re sharing your space, you’ll want to pack some kind of bathroom spray designed to mask bathroom smells. I also like the one from Trader Joe’s a lot!
- Lanyard for ID card – you need to carry it all the time onboard and this way you don’t lose it and know you always have it. Great for kids, especially if they’re old enough to venture off on their own…that way they don’t put it down and lose it.
- Outlet extender/splitter with USB and USBC ports – there are surprisingly few outlets in staterooms on cruise ships. Take 1 or 2 of these along if you need to charge phones, laptops, ipads, etc. If you’re cruising outside the US you may also need adapters.
- Clips for pool chairs to hold down your towels on windy cruising days – they also serve to mark seats and “save” seats which no one is supposed to do but everyone does.
- Dirty Laundry Bag – it will make your cabin neater if there’s a dedicated place for dirty laundry to go…the laundry bags on board are really small (too small to be repurposed for dirty laundry, you really need to bring one).
- Crossbody Bag – cruise ports are full of tourists (no surprise there) and you want to be a little extra conscientious of your bag/wallet. Thousands of tourists with cash is a draw for petty theft/pickpocketing. IMO it’s safer to bring as little as you can off the ship, and wear your wallet items (cash, phone, id card, etc) right on your chest. Plus that keeps your hands free!
- Coffee Tumbler – you won’t find “to go” cups at breakfast (you will find them in the concierge lounge though if you have a suite) – so if you would like to take a coffee refill to go, then you’ll want to bring along your own reusable coffee tumbler. You might also find out what kind of coffee pod your coffee maker in-room will take and bring extras (of good coffee) on board with you.
- Cruise Packs for Beginners – you can also find a variety of all-in-one packs that have a bunch of handy must haves for first time cruisers!
Let us know if we missed anything you think should be on this list!! It takes a village!!
Booking Cruises on Costco Travel
When you book your cruise vacation package through Costco Travel, you get a Costco Shop Card back, plus other onboard benefits which vary. Before you book your next Cruise vacation, I highly recommend checking the Costco travel package prices for your chosen cruise. You can also transfer your cruise to Costco even if you purchased it somewhere else (most of the time!).
We hope our review of the Royal Caribbean Explorer of the Seas for families with kids was helpful and PLEASE leave your additional reviews, thoughts, experiences in the comments (even if you don’t agree with us, or had a different experience!).