SHIP SHAPE, A Bow-To-Stern Tour Of The MV EXPLORER Part Two

Ship Shape,  A Bow-To-Stern Tour of the MV EXPLORER Part Two


Shawn J. Dake

All photographs by Shawn J. Dake

Deck 6 continued

One of the most popular and attractive public areas is the Piano Lounge and Bar. As with so many other parts of the ship, this is virtually unchanged since the maiden voyage.
The Piano Lounge and Bar looking forward.
The Piano Lounge looking aft.

The Piano Lounge is the social hub of the ship in the evenings, regardless of the type of voyage. Nightly entertainment is provided by a talented pianist or musical combo. Original works of art line the passage through this lounge, with larger pieces near the aft entrance.

A sample showing three of the dozen pieces of art set into the port bulkhead.
The aft port corner of the Piano Lounge can be partitioned off to form Classroom 3.

The Piano Bar has an intimate feeling to it. The clever arrangement of space provides seating for 104 passengers. Separate, yet still joined with the lounge, the quieter aft corner on the port side may also be divided into a classroom through the use of sliding walls. The wide aft stairway leads up to Deck 7 and down to Deck 5, with two elevators also providing access. A small section of open deck is just outside either side of the foyer.

The Garden Lounge seats 210 inside and another 110 outdoors.
The Garden Lounge serves breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks, buffet style.

The aft most public room on Deck 6 is the beautifully appointed Garden Lounge. Light wood walls and bubbling columns of water, nicely offset the white pillars and soft blue carpet and upholstery. A central buffet can be accessed from both sides and at the aft end are additional serving stations for drinks, breads, soups and sandwiches. On the port side a section has been walled off to form two classrooms, numbers 1 and 2, but these are often open for additional dining seating during meal hours.

Classroom 1 retains the Garden Lounge furnishings and décor with only a wall and audiovisual equipment added.

The tall floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the sea may distract students during class, but certainly enhance the dining experience in this lovely room.

During good weather there are few places more comfortable to dine than outdoors on the aft section of Deck 6.

Getting even closer to nature, there is ample seating outdoors at the extreme aft end of Deck 6. A small semi-circular bar is used mainly to serve ice-tea and juices, although drinks can be purchased during certain hours of the day. Numerous tables and chairs make this the perfect open-air adjunct to the Garden Lounge for dining or just relaxing.

Deck 5

Deck 5 is an eclectic mix of various cabin types, public areas and open promenades. Starting at the forward end are 24 Suites and staterooms in no less than four categories. The aft two are now used as offices for the Voyage Director and staff. While some of these cabins have counterparts on other decks, the 12 Category SB, Deluxe Suites with balcony, are unique to this deck and to this ship.

One of the Deluxe Suites on Deck 5 with a private balcony. Photo courtesy of Semester At Sea.

Each has a private bathroom with tub, ample storage space, a bedroom with adjacent sitting area near the windows and a balcony recessed into the superstructure of the ship, large enough for two chairs and a table. When sistership OLYMPIC VOYAGER was launched these rooms were given bay windows, but by the time OLYMPIA EXPLORER was completed the advantage of additional balconies was clear. These Suites measure 258 square feet and other than the Suites on Deck 7, are the most spacious accommodations aboard the EXPLORER.

Tymitz Square looking forward and to starboard Reception Desk.

Moving aft from the cabins and suites, the lower level of the atrium forms the reception lobby known as Tymitz Square. Named for Dr. John Tymitz who was instrumental in forming the Institute For Shipboard Education, he served as the Chief Executive Officer until February, 2007, devoting 35 years of his life to educational opportunities at sea.

The two deck atrium looking toward the Activities Desk, forward on the port side.

The attractive space blends white marble walls, carried over to a floor surrounded by red-patterned carpet with gold trimmed columns and faux-woodwork in light tones. On the starboard side, the Purser’s Office forms the main Reception Desk. The portside counterpart is the Field Office, known on other ships as the Shore Excursion Desk, and a separate Activities Desk used for arranging shipboard events and signups for things such as tours of the bridge. For a relatively small ship, this lobby is a rather impressive central feature.

Cabin #5028 on Deck 5.
Bathroom facilities in a handicapped accessible stateroom.

Midship on Deck 5 are 22 cabins designated as Category TB, Deluxe Oceanview staterooms with picture windows. Several of these are also handicapped accessible. These rooms all have partially obstructed views, looking across the exterior promenades below the lifeboats.

Looking aft along the open promenade on the portside.

The exterior bulkheads are painted a dark shade of blue, the same as the hull, while the metal decks are painted a lighter shade. Recessed, hinged railings allow the tenders to be swung out. At the aft end of this sheltered deck, on the starboard side, is the ship’s only designated smoking area.

The entrance to the Aquamarine Dining Room facing port.
The well-stocked Wine Bar.

Back inside, the Aquamarine Dining Room is accessed from an entry along the starboard side. A section adjacent to the entrance has been sectioned off for dual-purpose use as a private dining room annex, or as Classroom 9 on student voyages. The white marble-tiled flooring of the entry is an attractive pattern of squares with darker brown insets. On the forward bulkhead in the center is a well-stocked Wine Bar, with fairly reasonable prices starting at $17.00 for bottles of South African and Chilean wines.

The center section of the Aquamarine Dining Room looking forward.

The dining room is configured in a U-shape with tables along both the port and starboard sides and in a slightly raised central area in the aft section. Windows look out to sea on three sides including across a small open deck at the stern to the wake beyond.

Looking aft in the starboard section of the Aquamarine Dining Room.
Looking forward on the port side of the Dining Room.

The Aquamarine Dining Room is the largest of the three dining areas onboard, seating 470 passengers at a time. All meals are served at open sittings; breakfast between 7:00am – 10:00am, luncheon from noon – 2:00pm, and dinner from 5:30pm – 8:00pm. Guests can choose to dine alone, or with fellow passengers as they wish, with full waiter service provided. Ordering is from a printed daily menu except for the salad course which is obtained from a salad and cheese bar stationed along the central bulkhead. The room is decorated in soft shades of blue-green with both direct and indirect lighting. Most spectacular are the three crystal chandeliers in each section, that can be lowered when it comes time to clean them. The Aquamarine Dining Room is the only room to officially retain its original name through both incarnations as the OLYMPIA EXPLORER and as Semester At Sea’s EXPLORER. A small section of open deck at the stern rounds out Deck 5.

Deck 4

Deck 4 was formerly known as Venus Deck.
The bow of the EXPLORER.

The pointy end of the ship starts off Deck 4 at the bow. Deck 4 is easily recognized from the exterior by the large picture windows of the cabins, set within the lowest dark blue stripe, against the white structure. This paint scheme adds to the already rakish appearance of the ship.

Even tied to a pier the EXPLORER has the appearance of wanting to race ahead.

The entire length of Deck 4 is given over to cabins in three categories. The Superior Inside rooms are designated as Category D and come with two twin beds, refrigerator, safe, television and bathroom with shower. They are very similar to the Category TA Deluxe Oceanview staterooms, although lacking the large picture window. Several rooms in the forward part of this deck can accommodate a third person in an upper berth.

An interior stateroom midship on Deck 4.
A Deluxe Oceanview Stateroom with upper berth.
A view looking inboard in cabin #4054 showing the closet and drawer space.

Most of these cabins are 140 square feet in area and the twin beds do not convert to doubles. Midship however are a group of 20 larger cabins, the Deluxe Junior Suites, in Category SC. In these the bedding can be arranged as a double and there is considerably more storage space.

A Deluxe Junior Suite in Category SC, midship on Deck 4. Photo courtesy of Semester At Sea.

Two additional rooms of this type can be found on Deck 5 with the main difference being those have floor to ceiling windows. At the stern of Deck 4 is the lowest exterior area accessible to passengers.

Deck 4 aft at night.

For some, this is one of the great spots on a ship. The flagpole extends over the stern, the deck is sheltered from the wind and there is a great view over the wake. On this ship it is a quiet place away from the crowds, save for the sounds of the rushing water and throbbing engines.

Looking down on Decks 6 and 4 overlooking the stern.

Deck 3

Like the level above it, Deck 3 is entirely devoted to cabins. The only real difference is the ocean view cabins designated as Category TC have smaller windows. The Standard Inside cabins in Category F are basically the same as on Deck 4. A few triple cabins in both categories can be found toward the stern.

Another Deluxe Oceanview stateroom with a reverse configuration, shown facing toward the hallway. Photo courtesy of Semester At Sea

There are four Category FC, Family Cabins that are unique to this deck. They are priced the same as the Deluxe Junior Suites. Two are situated all the way forward with the other two all the way aft on Deck 3. At the stern is a covered crew working area for handling the lines.

The stern on the starboard side including Deck 3 in the blue. Note the enclosure of this lowest level to prevent piracy.

Deck 2

The lowest level on the EXPLORER for passengers is Deck 2. Here the outside cabins are called Superior Oceanview Staterooms in Category A, but they have portholes instead of windows.

The passenger corridor on the port side of Deck 2.
The lowest grade of cabin on the ship are these Economy Insides. Photo courtesy of Semester At Sea.

There are only nine inside staterooms on this deck and they are much smaller and more basic than any other accommodations found on the ship. Each has two lower beds with an upper bunk, a wardrobe closet, bath and shower. These can only be recommended for students on a very tight budget.

Entrance to the crew accommodations looking aft on Deck 2.

Just forward of the passenger cabins, which except for four are found on the port side only, there are counseling offices and the Waldron Medical Clinic. The clinic is always staffed by at least one doctor and two nurses. Free seasick tablets and condoms are distributed in boxes just outside the door; each presumably for use at different times. The remainder of the forward and midship portion of this deck contain crew cabins.

The door to the engine room. The top sign is original in both English and Greek.
Configuration of the main engines, shafts and propellers.

Aft is the powerful engine room of the EXPLORER. The four main engines are capable of providing 37,800kW of total power. Below the waterline two four-bladed props are set close together in a semi-tunneled aft body near the centerline, tapered from a slender mono-hull design forward. This combination of power and less water resistance is the secret to the ship’s 27.5 knot cruising speed. Or 22 knots on just two engines.

The EXPLORER is “Ship Shape From Bow To Stern.”

The EXPLORER is a unique ship serving a very different clientele on a remarkable array of voyages throughout the world. Few ships can boast a more interesting concept, nor execute their service as well. I hope you have enjoyed this first installment of “Ship Shape” exploring nearly every bit of the MV EXPLORER.

Thanks to Martin Cox, Caroline Denton-Dake, Dr. Gloria Dake, Ph.D, Captain Jeremy Kingston, Peter Knego, Lucille Renwick and all at Semester At Sea.

Return to Ship Shape,  A Bow-To-Stern Tour of the MV EXPLORER Part One

Click below to begin Shawn Dake’s three part travel blog:

EXPLORER Enrichment Voyage To Central America And The Panama Canal – Part One

EXPLORER Enrichment Voyage To Central America And The Panama Canal – Part Two

EXPLORER Enrichment Voyage To Central America And The Panama Canal – Part Three

See also Shawn Dake’s article from April 2011:

EXPLORER Cruise Ship/Floating University by Shawn J. Dake


Shawn Dake

Shawn Dake

Shawn J. Dake, freelance travel writer and regular contributor to MaritimeMatters, worked in tourism and cruise industry for over 35 years.  A native of Southern California, his first job was as a tour guide aboard the Queen Mary.  A frequent lecturer on ship-related topics he has appeared on TV programs.  Owner of Oceans Away Cruises & Travel agency, he served as President of the local Chapter of Steamship Historical Society of America.  With a love of the sea, he is a veteran of 115 cruises.
Shawn Dake

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