Over on Facebook Julia asked (and Sylvia echoed) "Is explorer much different to voyager?"
I started to write a little and it turned into a little more, so I thought it would be a great blog post. So Julia, Sylvia and any others interested here's what I found.
Voyager of the Seas feels like how I imagine it would feel to enter an alternate universe; the same but different.
There are some physical differences.
The inverted sunlight cone on the lido deck has been removed from Explorer so you can see the screen from the top pool bar.
The Crown and Anchor desk on Voyager has been moved from forward on deck 2 to the deck 7 Library. Which sucks! You are trying to have a conversation with the loyalty ambassador and you are surrounded by guests reading and playing cards. Apparently they want to move it on Explorer too, because people can’t find it. It’s not that difficult to find, and now all Crown and Anchor conversations can be heard by all, rather than a quiet conversation in the front of the ship.
There are also subtle differences, like the names of venues - the following spring to mind (VY - EX)
- Pig and Whistle - The Crown and Castle
- La Scala Theater - The Palace Theater
- High Notes - Dizzy's
But then there are bigger differences eg the layouts of various venues (in brackets my preferred layout)
- Schooner Bar (EX)
- Promenade Cafe (EX)
- Star Lounge (VY)
- High Notes/Dizzy's. (EX)
- Casino Royale (EX)
- Windjammer (VY)
Other venues may be different too but these were the ones that stood out to me. One of the things that I loved on Voyager was the deck lighting. A nice yellow light, softer and warmer than the white on board Explorer. This definitely gave Voyager a more romantic vibe on deck. Well it would have been if it wasn't for the presence of drunk hooligans.
I should point out that I have spent more than 2 months on the Explorer this year, so this feels like home. I have grown use to her routine, the staff, the food etc. So even though Voyager is the same class, run by the same company, there are some operational differences that make the two ships very different. Both ships are configured for the other markets they serve when they aren't sailing out of Sydney, Voyager for the Asian market and Explorer the American.
These little difference include things like the way blackjack is dealt, trivia is sometimes in High Notes (a terrible location for trivia), the morning dance lesson is on the Promenade on Voyager, the sports court on Explorer. The time of events was different, sometimes as little as 15 minutes, but enough to make me take a second look at the Cruise Compass. Speaking of which, I can now skim the Cruise Compass on the Explorer as I know what I am looking for, Voyager's Cruise Compass required a deeper analysis, not only because times were different, but the wording and structure of events was different.
All of these things were just a little discombobulating. In the end I prefer Explorer, is it because it is the better ship? better run? Unlikely, it's probably because of my familiarity, with the crew and the ship.
But even on this cruise I am now on (Explorer) things are a little different as there have been some staff changes which have mixed things up.
Ultimately I think that most people wouldn't notice these differences as much as I have, however I have spoken to some other guests who have sailed on both, and they preferred Explorer too, but could't quite put their finger on why. Maybe it's that bloody cone on the lido deck.