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Onboard Explora 1 (Sept 25- Oct 13) with Hank


Hlitner
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10 hours ago, Hlitner said:

I want to start off this post talking about the crew.  We have met quite a few and they have all been charming, friendly, and seem to share decent morale.  Many of the crew seem to be on 5 month contracts and will get about 2 months off until their next contract.  The real shocker is we have been told (by several crew) that about 80% have never worked on a cruise ship untill their first contract with EJ.  This was deliberate and goes to the philosophy of creating a new brand with its own set of standards.  All the crew members we have met have a decent background in the luxury hotel/resort industry which makes sense.  We have not met a single crew member that previously worked on MSC, much less in the Yacht Club.  

 

This evening after some interesting conversations with some other passengers at the Lobby Bar (which is becoming on goto place for pre dinner cocktails) we finally got to Fil Rouge around 8pm.  We thought this venue was very attractive and there was a pretty decent dining crowd.  DW and I started off with their Escargot casserole which we thought was OK (not great).  I than tried their Soupe Poisson which is a Provencial soup that is a personal favorite and a must eat whenever we are in NIce.  The version in Fil Rouge was quite good and had the right flavor.  DW had the Dover Sole main, which she thought was good although not up to what we get in the Thomas Keller Grill (Seabourn) which is a very tough act to follow. 

 

I decided to get the simple sirloin steak with a truffle kind of sauce.  The steak was about 3/4 inch thick, perfectly prepared, and the truffle demi glaze sauce was OK.  To be honest, our dinners were excellent, but Sakura has spoiled us.  The Sommelier suggested a French Syrah, and I thought it was OK.  I should mention that the included wines have all been Ok, but far from outstanding.  It is what we expect from included wines on luxury lines. 

 

The star of the night was my dessert which was a mille feuille (with vanilla cream filling) which is the signature dessert in Fil Rouge.  The pastry was light, had perfect thin layers, and terrific flavor.  A relatively simple dessert, difficult to prepare, which is among the best pasties I have ever had on any ship.   Sometimes the simple things can be the best :).  Like all the dining venues, we look forward to returning and trying other items on the various menus.

 

I will also add, that in our chats with other passengers, we have not heard many complaints.  And the ship did actually get some Cranberry Juice in Boston, so DW's personal supply is now housed in our cabin fridge ...just in case!

 

I will toss out a reminder (from our pre-cruise analysis of the bar list) that we are not very happy with the included single malts, cognacs, and bourbons that are offered on EJ.  It is a sad list for what is supposed to be a luxury line.  In fact, it is not even close to what is offered in the MSC Yacht Club!  An easy thing for EJ to fix, and it should be fixed!  And there are some strange lapses in what is available.  One person told us today that they could not get a favorite drink because they have no Cassis at the bars.  This is not a money issue, but just poor planning.  When it comes to booze on a luxury line, stock a little of everything so you never have to say NO!   And I again repeat my shock that one cannot get San Pelligrino on a line owned by the Aponte family!  If you want sparkling water on EJ1, you can only get what they make below decks.

 

Hank

 

 

This is still concerning to me. We have certainly enjoyed the large selection in the YC.  That is where my husband was introduced to Zucapa!

Have you noticed what spiced rums are available? When a list was shared during the first sailing we did not see one listed.  DH can deal with a lot of of things....but 14 days with no spiced rum might be asking too much! 😉

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21 hours ago, happy cruzin said:

This is still concerning to me. We have certainly enjoyed the large selection in the YC.  That is where my husband was introduced to Zucapa!

Have you noticed what spiced rums are available? When a list was shared during the first sailing we did not see one listed.  DH can deal with a lot of of things....but 14 days with no spiced rum might be asking too much! 😉

Not a problem.  Am sitting near the pool bar and the bar tender showed me a bottle of Kraken Spiced Rum.  I don’t drink the stuff, but the bar tender said it is good with Coke 🤭

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2 minutes ago, Hlitner said:

Not a problem.  Am sitting near the pool bar and the bar tender showed me a bottle of Kraken Spiced Rum.  I don’t drink the stuff, but the bar tender said it is good with Coke 🤭

It’s also great with the said ginger ale

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20 hours ago, uktog said:

It’s also great with the said ginger ale

The last we heard, there was no ginger ale onboard (perhaps that changed yesterday in Boston).  One person was drinking ginger beer as a substitute.

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I just can’t thank you enough for taking time out of your vacation to post.

 

I’m a bit of a hypocrite - I love “live” threads but am 100% too lazy to do them myself!

 

It all sounds pretty good to me - what you are generally describing are “software” problems that can easily be corrected. The people in Geneva don’t move too quickly- I’m hopeful that they’ll eventually “get it”.

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21 hours ago, Dr. Cocktail said:

I just can’t thank you enough for taking time out of your vacation to post.

 

I’m a bit of a hypocrite - I love “live” threads but am 100% too lazy to do them myself!

 

It all sounds pretty good to me - what you are generally describing are “software” problems that can easily be corrected. The people in Geneva don’t move too quickly- I’m hopeful that they’ll eventually “get it”.

Agree.  The “hardware” is first rate and the cuisine mostly impressive.  But we do wonder how it will work on a full ship.  

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5 minutes ago, Hlitner said:

Agree.  The “hardware” is first rate and the cuisine mostly impressive.  But we do wonder how it will work on a full ship.  

I think our passenger load by my estimate on October 3 which is far from precise will be about 570  people 

 

How do you think that will feel and restaurant availability on board

 

Thanks Hank for all yourposts 

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17 minutes ago, Hlitner said:

The last we heard, there was no ginger ale onboard (perhaps that changed yesterday in Boston).  One person was drinking ginger beer as a substitute.

Aargh doesn’t work as a mixer with spirits . If it doesn’t appear I’ll need to get some in Miami and bring onboard then 

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On 9/25/2023 at 9:40 PM, Hlitner said:

Ok folks, since we talked about a "clean slate" we are starting a new blog.  We welcome comments, additions and even flaming

DW and I have an awful lot of cruise experience, so some might find this thread interesting.  We boarded EJ1 today, about 1:30. in NYC, and to be very blunt, after 12 hours on the ship we are challenged as to how to review this vessel.  While the vessel capacity is about 920, there are only 200 (approximate) passengers on this 8 day cruise from NYC to Quebec City and we do not expect a lot more at QC.  So how on earth can one review a ship which has 200 passengers served by a crew of more than 600?  We are in cruise heaven and realize this is a once in a lifetime opportunity, So as you follow along on our thread, always keep in mind we are less than 25% capacity.

 

Embarkation in NYC was fast and easy (with only 200 passengers this is not a surprise). We started the process about 1:20, were aboard by 1:35 and were at the Lido (Emporium Marketplace) by 1:45!  This was necessary since that venue closes at 2pm after which we would have been at the mercy of a snack at the Crema Cafe or room service.  Our initial take on their Lido is that it is an upscale "Lido" with lots of staff.  Although it is a buffet (with many scattered stations), DW could not walk away without a "host" (their term for crew) insisting on taking her plate to our table.  Food was OK (we both had fish/chips) and the hosts were all over us pouring water and wine.  That being said, ask for Pelligrino or Perrier and we quickly heard, "we are out" and can only give you the fresh or sparkling water that is made on board (nothing special).

 

A little after 2pm, we were told we could access our suites.  We a OT3 Suite (which is a regular suite).  It feels somewhat smaller than Seabourn Suites, and about the size of a Yacht Club suite.  Our cabin (marked as "twins" on the deck plan) was made up as a King (the twins pushed together in normal cruise fashion.  The cabin has the usual safe, stocked fridge, etc.  There is a walk-in closet area which also has the make-up area.  This includes a top of the line Dyson hair dryer (these sell for about $500) which made DW smile.   Overall storage is pretty good, but we have seen better on other lines.  Our bathroom has a single sink and a large shower (with waterfall nozzle and another hand held nozzle).  There is no bath tub in our suite!  That is good for us, but others might want to ask for a bath if that is their preference.   Our cabin has a large (at least 48 inch) Samsung TV with the usual news channels (MSN, FOX, Sky, etc.  One previous poster complained about some shelves that had stuff blocking the ability to store items on those shelves.  These are 3 shelves that are intended to house artistic items (in our suite they are neat sculptures) and not storage shelves!  We thought it terrific, that EJ put some art in the suites. 

 

I should mention that there is NOT an electrical outlet (for shavers, etc) in the bathroom!

 

Since the ship is so empty, we decided to go to Sakura for dinner (about 7:15).  Big mistake as they would not take any "walk ins" this evening since they already had plenty of reservations (and we think local guests).  The hostess suggested we try Marble and Co, where we were quickly seated.  Other poster have not been kind to this venue so we had some concerns Our dinners were good and the service, excellent.  We both started with their signature caviar over a potato thing.  The caviar was good, and the bland potatoes a decent accompaniment.  It was topped with eatable gold leaf.  A good start for we caviar lovers.  Next, I  had the lobster bisque which was decent.  DW's main were lamb chops (she said they were perfect) which were two large chops.  Our waiter had suggested she order a double portion, but DW was not that hungry.  I was going to order what they call "Prime Rib" but our waiter suggested one of their filets (mommy told me to listen to waiters) which was perfectly prepared and served with my requested green peppercorn sauce.  We also had a few sides (OK, but nothing to shout about).  For dessert, DW had beignets (with 3 different sauces) and I had the terrific Yuzu Cheesecake.  No complaints, and a darn good meal for a luxury cruise line.  

 

After dinner we went to the Journeys Louge for their 9:30 show.  They had a decent 4 piece band (woodwind, bass guitar, piano, drums) and several singers.  This was decent lounge entertainment with music from Bruno Mars to Rosemay Clooney.  

 

After dinner we went up to deck 11 to check out the Explora Lounge and indoor pool.  The area was empty (except for staff).  The pool area is lovely, the loungers well padded, and the area gorgeous.  It will be fine for 200 passengers, but we wonder how this will all work when the ship is full with 900+.  The Explora Lounge was gorgeous (with a nice view of NYC) but had no customers (embarkation evening).  Hosts (staff) quickly were at our side asking if we wanted anything!

 

A few other thoughts.  Our visit to the restaurant reservations desk was frustrating. We are not allowed to make a reservation for our next cruise (we booked an 18-day cruise which is essentially a 8 and 10 day) until 2 days prior to the end of our segment.  We than went to the tour desk to spend some of our OBC.  We were able to book one tour (during this 8-day segment) but could not book any tours for next week (until the first day of the next cruise).  If you book an excursion pre cruise, your credit card is charged!  They will not later allow you to cancel, get a credit and change that payment to your OBC.  When we pointed out to the excursion person that most cruise lines let you use your OBC for excursions (booked prior the cruise) she told me "we are not other cruise lines,

 

I am trying to be very honest and give the pros/cons.  We can understand some of the negative posts that say that the policies/staff here are unyielding.  They have their policies, do not want to hear if they are bad, and have no interest in making improvements or changes.

 

Ok, so now on to the October 12 (naming ceremony issue).  Our ship docks in NYC on Oct 12 but the cruise does not actually end until the 13th.  EJ decided to have their "Naming Ceremony" on the 12th and, at the last minute, offered passenger a few options.  What has been posted is only partially right.  For those that simply want to stay on the ship until the 13th, they will need to debark on the 12th, be cleared by immigration, and then wait until allowed to reboard (this will likely be no more than 2 hours).  As of today, there is not needed to take off your luggage or pack.  It is just like a typical turn-around day (on back-to-back cruises) where the the ship will be "zeroed out" and then folks can come back aboard.

 

Another option (offered to us) was to disembark a day early, be taken to the Times Square Edition Hotel.  EJ will take care of one night at that decent hotel, provide $150 per person for incidentals, breakfast at the hotel, and transfers.  They would also refund a pro-rated amount for that last cruise day.  Another option is to stay on the ship and be among the invited guests to the "naming ceremony."  Our cruise agent called us today (after we boarded the ship) and had a US representative of EJ on the call (3 party call).  The rep wanted our decision as to the options, and we decided to attend the naming ceremony and stay onboard until Oct 13.  We go to NYC on a regular basis and had no reason to spend a night in a Times Square hotel (not a good neighborhood these day).  We also figured that a Naming Ceremony is a special event not often experienced by cruisers!  So, why not?   My complaint about this issue is that EJ created the problem and did not present the options until the last few days.  Our cruise agency was not notified until Saturday, and it was not until AFTER we were aboard that we could learn all the real options.  There was a third option to take a nice cruise credit, but we had no interest.  

 

I apologize, if this post is not up to standards, but it has been a long day, the booze has been flowing.. etc etc.   In our future posts we will try to go into more detail and answer any questions.

 

Hank

 

15 minutes ago, Hlitner said:

Agree.  The “hardware” is first rate and the cuisine mostly impressive.  But we do wonder how it will work on a full ship.  

An odd question  do the television in the room allow to load amazon prime or netflix maybe on sea days lok

 

Thanks Hank

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21 hours ago, Waltershipman said:

I think our passenger load by my estimate on October 3 which is far from precise will be about 570  people 

 

How do you think that will feel and restaurant availability on board

 

Thanks Hank for all yourposts 

It would certainly impact the ability to get into Sakura as a “walk in.”  Otherwise, I am not sure.  And consider that even with 570, the ship would only be about 2/3 of capacity.  The crew would probably appreciate having more to do 🙂

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2 minutes ago, Hlitner said:

It would certainly impact the ability to get into Sakura as a “walk in.”  Otherwise, I am not sure.  And consider that even with 570, the ship would only be about 2/3 of capacity.  The crew would probably appreciate having more to do 🙂

Thanks Hank see you soon 

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21 hours ago, Waltershipman said:

 

An odd question  do the television in the room allow to load amazon prime or netflix maybe on sea days lok

 

Thanks Hank

Not sure.  We do get 3 devices per person for free wifi, which is good.  But not sure you would be able to stream those services.  It is possible to reach behind the cabin TVs to the ports, but one might assume they have been deactivated like we have seen on some other cruise lines.   DW and I never watch TV in our suite, other than to turn on one of the news channels, so we have no first hand experience.

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2 minutes ago, Hlitner said:

Not sure.  We do get 3 devices per person for free wifi, which is good.  But not sure you would be able to stream those services.  It is possible to reach behind the cabin TVs to the ports, but one might assume they have been deactivated like we have seen on some other cruise lines.   DW and I never watch TV in our suite, other than to turn on one of the news channels, so we have no first hand experience.

Thanks Hank so great to have an on site 1st hand account  thanks for the generosity of your time and input

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It’s fun posting in almost real time :).  Just returned from lunch in the Emporium and it was all good.  We both decided to try the pizza and the first word out of DWs mouth was “fabulous.”  And the pizza is amazing quality and rivals the best pizza in Naples.  The pizza chef makes small amounts at a time and they are constantly changing the toppings.  I had a piece with prosciutto and later tried the yellow margarita (made with yellow tomatoes).  I imposed some self discipline and ignored the inviting raw oysters, which I hope will be a daily offering.  
 

The pastas also looked inviting, but that is for another day.  We do agree with a previous poster that the salad station lacks depth.  Not enough add in options and only 3 dressings.  North Americans expect more from a salad bar….but this is an easy fix for EJ.

 

I should mention that service in the Emporium has been outstanding.  Folks are helped to their tables, plates quickly cleared, drinks are served, etc etc.  It is a Lido befitting a luxury cruise line.

 

 The highlight of lunch was the two ladies (I think they were Americans) who came for lunch in their EJ bathrobes.  To our pleasant surprise, it was not long until a supervisor suggested they depart (DW heard them exclaim about being kicked out because bathrobes were not allowed).

 

Hank

 

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We are sitting in the airport at Newark waiting for our flight to Montreal to get on the Oceania Vista.  No this is not the wrong thread.  Being an Islay Whisky snob  I will say the Ardbeg is OK, though An Oa is the least expensive and weakest choice in the line. Would have preferred a  Lagavulin or Laphroaig. 

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54 minutes ago, saminina said:

I keep learning new stuff on here.  Like why do they serve Ardbeg?  Because it is part of the family which supplies their champagne.

Maybe because it is a premium Malt Scottish Whisky - one of Islay's best

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A quiet sea day left me with some time to go exploring the high outdoor decks.  Deck 12, is the major outdoor space on the ship.  The outside rails are covered with safety glass which helps reduce the wind on the open deck.  There is a marked walkway/track that wraps around the vessel and ideal for walkers or joggers.  The deck has lots of padded loungers which should be adequate in hot climates.  The downside is the lack of shaded areas for those that prefer to relax in the shade.  There is a higher deck 14) that has a pickleball court and adjacent small basketball court.  There are also some outdoor fitness bikes.  The lack of shade reminds me of a similar design faux pas on MSC ships.  Deck 12 also has two outdoor bars.

 

As others have posted, the ship has plenty of pools and hot tubs.

 

I wonder if EJ has made a mistake with their few high end shops?  We have not seen folks running to buy Rolex, Cartier, and Piaget watches.  Time (a pun) will tell 😀

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17 minutes ago, Wheelhouse said:

We are sitting in the airport at Newark waiting for our flight to Montreal to get on the Oceania Vista.  No this is not the wrong thread.  Being an Islay Whisky snob  I will say the Ardbeg is OK, though An Oa is the least expensive and weakest choice in the line. Would have preferred a  Lagavulin or Laphroaig. 

Hope to see the Vista in Quebec as it is there too

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3 hours ago, Dr. Cocktail said:

I just can’t thank you enough for taking time out of your vacation to post. - Surely! A great review! Many thanks to Hank or Hlitner!...

 

I’m a bit of a hypocrite - I love “live” threads but am 100% too lazy to do them myself! - You're not alone, dear Dr. Cocktail!... Count here one more to the count!... Once on a ship I just want to disconnect from the digital world, but on the daily basis it is up to read those wonderful reviews at any company's forum out there CC is ready to offer!...

 

It all sounds pretty good to me - what you are generally describing are “software” problems that can easily be corrected. The people in Geneva don’t move too quickly- I’m hopeful that they’ll eventually “get it”. - It is actually a mixed bag. Surely they're all "software" problems that will one day to be solved, but cruise lines are at the mercy of the cruise port's authorities ability to actually have contractors good enough to actually deliver whatever else needed to be loaded on cruise ships. I'm reading stories about the chain supply crisis elsewhere on CC forums and other social media. I don't blame entirely the cruise lines anymore, because the problem is far more complex. You can't call any contractor you'd want to fill your ships, even if you have a special agreement with that or the other trademark. The unique ones which will be authorized inside ship, will be only the ones properly accredited to do so at said Ports Authorities. Safety matters on those situations, and Port's authorities will chose among the locals. If all of them are not that great at delivering, nothing that the cruise lines could to do. They'll over order inventories just to receive whatever else those contractors can actually to deliver these days. I hope things go the before the pandemic ASAP, but, for now we need to cope with what we now have. Both cruise ships and those contractors are by the most part understaffed right now.

 

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2 hours ago, Hlitner said:

A quiet sea day left me with some time to go exploring the high outdoor decks.  Deck 12, is the major outdoor space on the ship.  The outside rails are covered with safety glass which helps reduce the wind on the open deck.  There is a marked walkway/track that wraps around the vessel and ideal for walkers or joggers.  The deck has lots of padded loungers which should be adequate in hot climates.  The downside is the lack of shaded areas for those that prefer to relax in the shade.  There is a higher deck 14) that has a pickleball court and adjacent small basketball court.  There are also some outdoor fitness bikes.  The lack of shade reminds me of a similar design faux pas on MSC ships.  Deck 12 also has two outdoor bars.

 

As others have posted, the ship has plenty of pools and hot tubs.

 

I wonder if EJ has made a mistake with their few high end shops?  We have not seen folks running to buy Rolex, Cartier, and Piaget watches.  Time (a pun) will tell 😀

I’m looking forward to spending lots of time in the hot tubs on deck 12 in November 

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3 hours ago, Hlitner said:

It’s fun posting in almost real time :).  Just returned from lunch in the Emporium and it was all good.  We both decided to try the pizza and the first word out of DWs mouth was “fabulous.”  And the pizza is amazing quality and rivals the best pizza in Naples.  The pizza chef makes small amounts at a time and they are constantly changing the toppings.  I had a piece with prosciutto and later tried the yellow margarita (made with yellow tomatoes).  I imposed some self discipline and ignored the inviting raw oysters, which I hope will be a daily offering.  
 

The pastas also looked inviting, but that is for another day.  We do agree with a previous poster that the salad station lacks depth.  Not enough add in options and only 3 dressings.  North Americans expect more from a salad bar….but this is an easy fix for EJ.

 

I should mention that service in the Emporium has been outstanding.  Folks are helped to their tables, plates quickly cleared, drinks are served, etc etc.  It is a Lido befitting a luxury cruise line.

 

 The highlight of lunch was the two ladies (I think they were Americans) who came for lunch in their EJ bathrobes.  To our pleasant surprise, it was not long until a supervisor suggested they depart (DW heard them exclaim about being kicked out because bathrobes were not allowed).

 

Hank

 

Guess I need to try all the pizzas 🍕 

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