We sailed on the Navigator of the Seas April 3 to 7 from Fort Lauderdale -- Cozumel -- Fort Lauderdale.
I am a little late with this review, but I am not going to miss an opportunity to review this ship, so here it is.See my picture gallery here: cruisemates.com/gallery/view.php?id=4744.
Embarkation Embarkation was smooth, long -- but fast moving lines that were well managed. No complaints.
The Ship This ship is well maintained, clean and fairly new. If you have been on RCCL you become accustomed to a certain standard and I have not been disappointed very often. You did not find much wear and tear on carpeting, or wall furnishings. You found the crew cleaning constantly. One of my things I look for is rust, and as usual there was NO rust to be found on exterior parts of the ship.
The Crew Very friendly. I have to say I can't complain about the service, however it was not as good as on my previous cruise on the Adventure of the Seas, but they really set the bar for me.
We dined with the Captain on this cruise, and we reallydid enjoy the formalities greatly. Thank You RCCL for this special treat.
Food Food was very good in both the main dining room and the Wind Jammer. I really can't complain about a single meal. All the food was hot, fresh, and delicious. Our wait staff bent over backwards to get us a table that was just right. A+++ food and service.
Activities and Shore Excursions Well coordinated, no complaints. We participated in the ATV Mayan jungle excursion, which was VERY FUN, but you should only do this excursion if you can handle a real rough ride in the jungle.
Accommodations Our room was clean and well maintained. No real wear and tear. Unfortunately I do have one complaint though.
We booked with another couple well ahead and got two balcony rooms next to each other with the intent to have the balcony partition opened so we could hang out together on the cruise. While I have never requested this on RCCL I have done this on Carnival more than once without issue. Clearly the doors could have been opened, they had locks and hinges, and yet we were first told they do not open, then after complaining we were told they would not open them for various reasons.
We never did get to sit together on this cruise and I do think that RCCL could have done better. I will not forget this experience and if you plan on doing this, remember Carnival allows it, RCCL does not, at least not on the Navigator.
Disembarkation Efficient, long lines -- but if you wait till the last moments to leave the Lido you will be better off.
All in all, I recommend this cruise unless you are planning to go with another couple in balcony cabins.
Overall Grade: B-
When we arrived on the Navigator we were impressed by the size, beauty and cleanliness of the ship. We were tired and hungry so we went to The Windjammer to eat. Don't stop at the first buffet, because there are 8 or 10 more buffet areas around the corner, and you don't realize this at first. Choices are Prime Rib, Ham, mashed potatoes, Jerk Chicken, Cheeseburgers, fries, salads, fruit, desserts, way too much to list here. Make sure and sit by the window. You are looking out over 11 stories overlooking the ocean, and the view is very romantic.
Our room was decorated tastefully and had a balcony. We ordered room service (which is free, except for a tip) and most mornings we ate on the balcony. The beds were very comfortable. Each day when you exit your room, the attendant goes in and cleans it spotless.
Every day there is a Cruise Compass Newsletter to let you know the activities for that day. Try to go to as many as you want. They are so much fun.
The shows are mainly at night and were very good. The Ice Show was excellent.Even though the ship was moving slightly due to windy conditions, I was impressed because no ice skater fell. The comedy show was great. We laughed constantly. Don't miss the Quest Game Show. It was a riot. There was also a comedy show for married couples that everyone said was good, but we missed that one.
In the evening you go the the dining room at 6:30 or 8:30 pm. We ate at 8:30 pm. This is the time most evening shows start so next time I will request the 6:30 dining time. Food was good. Service was great. I was disappointed because no chocolate was on the menu until the last night we were there. (I'm a chocoholic.) Someone asked our waitress about chocolate and she brought her out a bowl of chocolate syrup. Brush up on your manners and which fork to use before you go. You had about 10 pieces of silverwear to choose from. (Start with the fork on the outside and work your way in and don't start eating until everyone has their appetizer, salad, etc.) You can go to the regular dinner at the Windjamer if you want to eat buffet style dinners.
The pools & hot tubs were everywhere. Attendants handed out towels to everyone. Reggae bands were playing music while we were there relaxing. There was a belly flop contest. It was hysterical.
The Solarium was my favorite pool area. It was decorated like Italy, with murals and statues around the pool. It had 2 huge hot tubs and was very relaxing.
The Promenade was like a small Mall inside the ship. There were some decent souveneer shops. There was a small cafe that had good ham and cheese croisants, pizza, coffee and cookies.
Below the Promenade was the casino. One lady won $14,000 (that will buy her a lot more cruises!).
Our ship had one formal night. We decided not to go. Our friends talked us into going. My husband wore dockers and a polo and I wore dress pants and a nice top, and we fit in fine. On formal night photograpers are everywhere taking pictures. They have very nice backdrops. We had our pictures made at about 4 different areas. We bought all of them. They were professional quality pictures.
We docked at Cozumel. There were numerous excursions available, and you can order one from your T.V. We ordered Playa Mia Deluxe Beach Break at $69.00 per person. It included the bus ride there & back to the dock, and all food & alcohol for 5 hours. The ride there was not scenic. I guess it was due to the hurricane. The trees had no branches and there were vines growing everywhere. When we arrived there, the sign said $49.00 each person. We pre-paid $69.00 each. The beach looked like paradise. It had such a pretty color of blue like I had never seen before. There was a water trampoline and a rock climbing wall. There were jet skis to rent, and snorkeling available.
The shops in Cozumel had some very good prices. Swim suit cover ups for $5.00, pure vanilla at $4.00. I did purchase some freshwater pearl jewelry and it was strung by one piece of thread. I gave $38.00 for it and it broke the second day I was home. So look carefully at your souveneers and make sure you are buying something worthwhile. People in the shops almost beg you to buy their wares. I thought one was going to grab my arm & lead me in.
Go to Senor Frogs. It's an outdoor bar type place. I can't tell you what they do to you. Just go and see. (I had stories to tell about this place when I got back home!)
The only negative thing about the cruise I would say is that they brought your salad, and maybe 10 minutes later they would bring your salad dressing. (No big deal.)
Near the end of our cruise I was dreading the thought of going back home. It was snowing when we left Ohio.
Now our cruise was 4 weeks ago and it is in my memory everyday. It's like my "Happy Place" I go to when work or the kids stress me. We are going to make this a yearly tradition.
We traveled on the Navigator of the Seas on the Jan 14th sailing from Fort Lauderdale to Cozumel and Belize City.
Boarding We arrived at the port at around 12:20 PM; and in spite of the large number of passengers already present, we were on board by 12:50 PM. We had lunch in the Windjammer Café and the announcement that cabins were ready was made at around 1:10 PM. Our suitcases did not arrive at the room until 5:30 PM though a lot of the other rooms close to us had bags outside by 3:30 PM.
Cleanliness No issues here. All the public areas were kept in a good state of cleanliness and the overall state of the ship seemed to be at a high level despite the continuous levels of foot traffic. There seems to be a lot of ongoing maintenance. The only area that seemed a bit worn was the furniture in the Windjammer Café.
Cabin In good condition and the cabin attendant (John from St. Vincent) did a fine job. He was always around, amiable and ready to answer any queries that we had. The room was alwaysmade up quickly. We were on deck 2 toward the bow of the ship. The room was close the front bank of elevators and the Corporate Conference area, but we experienced little noise. There was lots of storage space and the toilets worked fine.
Food and Dining I thought the food was as expected with enough choice to satisfy most tastes. The breakfast and lunch was a bit more limited than I thought it would be, but I understand the range of the menus was being cut back to reduce waste. The food was well seasoned (I do not like bland food). The dinner service was of a high level and our waiters (Miguel from Costa Rica and Subbiah from India) were attentive and provided excellent service. Johnny Rockets was visited once and we enjoyed it.
Public Areas The swimming pools seemed small for such a large number of passengers and were crowded on a number of occasions. The separate adult and family areas on the pool decks were a good idea, but the family area (where the band played) seemed much busier and lively. The free coffee/tea/snack section of the Promenade was well patronized but the absence of readily available drinking water was a bad omission. One had to go to the bars or buy water from the shops. The Promenade was busy at nights and the shows seemed to be well attended. The Ice Skating show was the best of all the shows we saw (none of the skaters fell over).
The entertainment staff was largely anonymous and seemed to do very little especially on the pool deck (aside from the resident band who played at least twice per day). On only one occasion did I see any pool area games and that seemed half-hearted. The Cruise Director, who I met twice, completely lacked any charisma or enthusiasm.
Kids My son was in the Adventure Camp every day and seemed to enjoy it greatly. He was never in a rush to leave. The extended hours made it easy for us (as parents) to get some quiet time. Thanks to Laura, Yolanda, etc. for a well-run facility.
Ports I did not enjoy either of the stops. In Cozumel we were faced with a taxi driver who tried to charge over twice the stated fare from the dock to Cozumel, despite the price being shown on signs at the port. I dislike people trying to take advantage as they think you are from a rich country. The taxi dropped at an indoor centre where he was immediately paid by people for dropping us off. The shopping centre was full of overpriced rubbish that I would never buy. Belize City was OK but shockingly poor and shabby. I was glad to get back on board.
Grouses We prepaid our gratuities and this was noted in the Royal Caribbean booklet. Our attempt to get the vouchers to hand out to the staff proved to be difficult. First the Guest Services desk suggested that we had not paid the gratuities and then suggested we call our travel agent in Canada to query what they had done with our money. When we pointed out that their own paperwork said that Royal Caribbean had received the money, the staff then changed tact and said the vouchers would be sent to our room immediately. Two further visits (and some loud talking) on the same day were required to get the vouchers. Very poor performance from the people you would think would try a bit harder to meet an acceptable level of customer service.
Overall Excellent value for money; staff were great aside from the incident at the Guest Service desk, and the ammenities offered by such a large ship were welcome. The only time we really noticed the number of passengers on the cruise (3,100 was the announced figure) was when taking the tender to shore and the last breakfast in the Windjammer. We will certainly travel with Royal Caribbean again.
This holiday cruise was a good experience. The staff was very friendly and helpful. Plenty of activities for children and adults. The shows were not as good as we have previously experienced on Royal Caribbean ships. The food was good, but not outstanding.
We want to warn anyone who is thinking of purchasing gift certificates online. RCCL requires the certificates to be "redeemed" online before the cruise begins.
We had a problem with 2 certificates not being redeemed properly. RCCL, although they have the certificate numbers and know the certificates were not redeemed, will not credit my credit card account for the unused certificates. Their claim is that the certificates can be used at a later date. However, the cruise is over: there is no later date.
BE CAREFUL IF YOU DECIDE TO PURCHASE RCCL GIFT CERTIFICATES ONLINE FOR AN UPCOMING CRUISE. THE WEBSITE PAGE WHERE THE CERTIFICATES ARE PURCHASED DOES NOT WARN YOU THAT YOU HAVE NO RECOURSE IF ANYTHING GOES WRONG. YOU WILL SIMPLY LOSE YOUR MONEY.
An excellent ship crewed by utter professionals who take a pride in their service. Thoroughly enjoyable cruise!
Our party of five returned last Saturday from seven nights on this fantastic ship.
The Navigator is glitzy bright very clean. The outdoor activities are numerous. The entertainment is impressive, the singers, dancers, bands, with the exception of Adams Rib are all that one expects and more.
The problem with Adams Rib we felt is that they play too many of their own compositions, to sell their CD no doubt.
The carnival parades down Promenade were eye openers, just what was needed at about midnight. The waiters everywhere on the ship were attentive, always ready to serve our needs.
Our room attendant was special. Always remembered our names, complemented our ladies, and would come down the corridor to open our cabin door if he got there first.
The food... oh dear the food!!
Not at all first class. We dined in the Nutcracker Dining Room and while the staff were good, the food was not. The first night the steaks were totally underdone. A Medium-rare was raw, just seared one side. A replacement Medium to well done was a bit better.
It is not silver service, our dinner came up already on the plate and theportions were small and mainly only two veg. On our last night we sent back portions of broccoli that were turning yellow and if you are offered the chefs chocolate bread pudding, steer clear. We thought it was the most blandish piece of stodge ever.
The Windjammer cafe, casual dining, was somewhat different. More to choose from and we were able to pick what vegetables we wanted and liked the most. Problem there is it's very busy. We thought that more people dined there that in the dining room. It's a problem to find seats if the five of us dined there together. Why couples sit at the five or six seat tables only they know.
We didn't take advantage of Chops Grill or Portofinos Italian Restaurants, why pay over the odds for food when in reality the money we paid should have provided us with good quality grub.
Nevertheless a cruise on Navigator should be considered, if you like busy, glitzy, and noisy and crowds of people. Check more recent reviews to see if the food has improved although some people have lower standards.
We really had a good time but probably would not join it again.
Pliny once wrote, "Home is where the heart is." and over the past month or so our hearts have been at home in many distant places. On board the Navigator of the Seas our home away from home was the extremely comfortable wheelchair accessible Cabin #7604. For twelve days, we were made to feel as comfortable as at home: we had breakfast in our room daily, and slept on the newly upgraded mattresses and bedding which rivaled what we call our mattress at home -- "the most comfortable in our known world." The Navigator is one of the five Voyager Class ships of Royal Caribbean International (RCI). These were once the largest cruise ships afloat. However, in 2005 Cunard's Queen Mary 2 held that title for a mere year, until in 2006 when the RCI Freedom of the Seas was launched and regained the title "Largest Cruise Ship in the World" for RCI.
The Navigator sat majestically in the port of Miami, Florida. This would be our third cruise on board her, and thus we were very happy to see Captain Leif Otto Bang as her Commander, since we have sailed withhim several times. He has been with RCI for over thirty years, but his maritime career spans over 48 years. Very soon his extensive experience was evidenced, when he canceled our first Port of Call, Bermuda, due to high seas and a tempest in that area. He changed our route to a more southerly course, thus sailing us to calmer seas and the opportunity to visit the Azores instead. An Atlantic crossing is a wonderful experience, since it always includes 5 or 6 sea days conducive to enjoying ship board life.
EMBARKATION We arrived at the Port of Miami at 12:30 pm on a Saturday. Our luggage was quickly taken, and we had a short wait inside before we were ushered to a fast track check-in lane. Once we received our boarding passes, we also received wheelchair assistance. We were on board by 1:15 pm which is quite good considering over 3,800 passengers were all embarking at once! There were the RCI famous huge, delicious cookies, coffee and lemonade on hand. These are always welcome to tired and hungry travelers. We immediately went to the Dining Room and encountered Asst. Maitre D' Ali Matjani (Kosovo) who created table #38 for two, near the entrance to the Nutcracker Dining Room on Deck 3. Very happily, we were off to the Welcome on Board Buffet in the Windjammer on Deck 11.
Boat Drill was at 3:30; it was short and informative. We returned to our cabin on Deck 7 and relaxed until dinner at 6 pm which is main seating. Our cabin was a short distance from the rear elevators which are near the entrance to the dining room. We usually select a cabin in close proximity to the areas that we frequent during the cruise: the Library, the Concierge Lounge, the Dining room, etc.
THE SHIP We have written two reviews on the Navigator, so rather than boring the readers, we will refer them to those reviews for a deck by deck description of the Navigator's decorations and art work (1/25/03 and 12/3/05). The very cordial Hotel Director Georgio Katikkis (Cyprus) kindly gave us a "Fun Facts" page of little known interesting information about the ship. The ship registry is Nassau Bahamas with call letters C6FU4. It was built in the Kvaerner Masa Shipyards of Turku, Finland in 2002 ; it took only 18 months to complete, at a cost of $650 million dollars. It has a gross tonnage of 138,276; length is 1,020 ft.; beam is 157.5 ft. and her draft is a mere 28 ft. She has 15 decks and 1,557 rooms on board. Her crew numbers 1,256 from 65 different countries, and she carries approximately 3,835 passengers. Her six Diesel 12V46 generators produce 75,000 megawatts of power and her cruising speed is 22 knots (25.3 mph). The Navigator of the Seas' Godmother is Steffi Graf of tennis fame.
The Navigator has fresh water production through reverse osmosis and desalinization by steam of 14,000 metric tons per 24 hours or 259 liters per person! By far the most interesting figures regarding this ship involve the feeding of the more than 5,000 passengers and crew on board. Executive Chef Troy Swindle, whose long, impressive resume includes both the American Express "Hall of Fame" and the Conde Naste 2000 "Best Leisure" award, runs this department well. Each week he oversees the preparation of over 105,000 meals; 300,680 desserts; 234,000 appetizers and over 69,000 steaks. In order to accomplish this the Navigator consumes 37,000 pounds of beef, chicken and pork; 7,900 pounds of fish; 28,000 fresh eggs; 118,000 pounds of fresh fruit and vegetables and 8,000 gallons of ice cream; not to mention 5,800 pounds of cheese and 18,000 slices of pizza.
There are three marvelous features of this class ship: the four deck high Royal Promenade, the Ice Skating Rink and the Rock Climbing Wall. First the Royal Promenade is an elegant street which runs through the center of the ship with windows of inside cabins overlooking the tiled and marble paved street below. There are Logo shops, The Two Poets Pub, a General Store, a Perfume shop, the Connoisseur Club (fine cigars etc.), Ben & Jerry's and even a Champagne Bar in this friendly area. This is where Capt. Bang has his Welcome Cocktail party and, throughout the cruise, there are always parades and musical entertainment here. The second unique feature is the Ice Skating Rink with Olympic quality ice shows by an international cast. Finally, the Rock Climbing Wall offers the height of exercise for those inclined. It towers 200 feet above the sea! Other features are a Sports Court for basketball and volleyball, a mini golf putting range, an in line skate track and one of the nicest outdoor Promenades at sea, replete with many chaises for relaxing and reading, or just watching the sea.
Of course, the ship's major asset is its mammoth size, which affords all passengers areas for listening to live music, or sharing a quiet conversation. There is the open stack library, which has no specific hours unlike many other ships, rather this is open 24 hours per day. There are many areas such as pool side or the Solarium which are constantly busy, yet they are sufficiently large enough to accommodate those passengers who love aquatic activities and those who just want to relax.
During this crossing the sea was more active than usual, and the weather less favorable than any other crossing we have made --- but as Captain Bang states "She (the Navigator) weathers it well and is most tolerably stable." He is still in awe of the wonder of his ship. Great skipper!
SERVICE & FOOD Service under Hotel Director Georgio Katikkis is tip top. Passengers are accommodated with a smile. All our questions or needs were simply and quickly met. RCI even has a telephone system which allows passengers to utilize "Cingular Wireless Maritime Service" as long as passengers have service with one of more than 220 worldwide carriers. We used it and called our family from the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Calling to the USA was as simple as dialing 1+ area code and the number and the charges are much less than those of the traditional ship to shore calls. Calling to other countries meant dialing 011+ country code, city code and local number. Needless to say we tried immediately and got through to the USA. However, the next few days, we had no such luck. We were told that it was due to the satellite positioning.
Of course, most passengers connect Service with the Dining Room, and we must say that under Maitre D' Yonel Altun, we had terrific service. We were served admirably by our Waiter Mursel Metin and his assistant Christian Chavez. They were fast, friendly and helpful. Always available was Head Waiter Joao Oliveira, who ensured that we had anything we desired. He had pasta made just for us at lunch (Spaghetti aglio, olio e peperoncini). He made us feel special! Very often we were served by Asst. Maitre D' Ali Matjani, who was a font of dining information along with 2nd Maitre D' Gianni Nana. Our meals were delicious, pleasant and very enjoyable. After so long on board we were family.
As usual, the highlight of the crossing was dinner with Captain Bang and this meal was a most enjoyable one. Mary was seated by Mr. Rolfe and thoroughly enjoyed his conversation. This well traveled gentleman and his wife had dined with us and Captain Ringborn on the Radiance of the Seas and we had a lot to discuss. The table was strewn with sea glass jewels and appetizers included onion focaccia, shrimp ceviche, and prosciutto e melone. There was Cream of Cauliflower Soup and Beef Consommé Royal garnished with truffles. Entrees included Southern Buttermilk Fried Chicken with gravy and mashed potatoes and roasted corn (we felt like we were back home in Savannah, Georgia with our son and his family); Black Angus Sirloin Steak Oscar topped with crab meat Béarnaise sauce with asparagus spears; and finally the Chef's signature entree: Thai Style Shrimp with ginger, lemon grass and stir fried vegetables. Dessert was the Captain's favorite ice cream and fresh mountain berries served in an almond brittle tulip cup --- A delicious end to a delicious meal.
Royal Caribbean has a unique service provided to Crown & Anchor Members which includes the help of Concierge Carlos Marasigan. This young man got for us the ice show tickets, made restaurant reservations, ordered the Italian Stampa (newspaper) for Vincent, and was always helpful and courteous; in other words he was a real live "Figaro". Carlos was available in the Concierge Lounge from 8-11:30 am daily, where a continental breakfast was served and Vincent frequently had his favorites espresso and cappuccino. Diamond members and passengers in suites are served complimentary cocktails from 5 to 8 pm each evening. The hors d'oeuvres were excellent thanks to Exec. Chef Troy. Needless to say, food and service made our trip one to remember.
CABIN Wheelchair accessible Cabin #7604 on Deck 7 is centrally located near the rear elevators. When entering on the right is the huge bathroom, equipped with an oversized shower and safety bars all around. There is a large medicine cabinet. Next, there is a sofa and upholstered chair, and a large coffee table, on which we were served a full American breakfast each morning. Room service is terrific, excellent and punctual. Next, there is a TV, refrigerator, private safe and a long desk/vanity with many draws.
When entering on the left is a mirrored wall and shelf and three wardrobes: one has shelves and the other two have hangers and more shelves. Now, we come to the good part, RCI is in the process of upgrading all the beds to those similar to the Freedom's: Wonderfully firm mattresses, double mattress pads and new white duvets! Excellent!
The room's color scheme is royal blue, maroon gold and pale green. Linen's are new and crisp, the furniture is all light oak, and there are lovely pictures of orchids on the walls. The far wall has windows and a door to the balcony and our excellent Cabin Stewardess Marlene Rambaran had a chaise for Vincent placed on the extra large veranda. Unfortunately, the weather rarely cooperated on this voyage, so he had only a few occasions when he could enjoy the balcony. Rain and raw winds prevented extensive use. But at times the crescent moon was lovely, and in the dark sky, some planets and constellations could be easily spotted. This cabin made a wonderful "home away from home" for twelve days and nights, thanks to Marlene.
ENTERTAINMENT We were very happy to once again encounter the very witty and debonair Cruise Director Gordon Whatman. His wonderful voice was soon apparent and his way with a song and an audience is phenomenal. The RCI Orchestra and the RCI singers and dancers are stupendous. They put on several wonderful reviews including the following: "Now and Forever", a tribute to contemporary Broadway; "the Variety Showtime" with vocals by Gordon Whatman; "Ballroom Fever" in the Metropolis Theater which showcased various dances; and the spectacular new show "Once Upon a Time" with fairy tale delights. Excellent!
However, the Highlight of any Voyager Class cruise is the ice show. "Ice Dancing" featured the lovely Marina Karamysheva. We were ecstatic and the International Cast received a standing ovation. Movies on board were quite good and included "Lady in the Water", "Eight Below" and "Click." TV and news were woefully wanting, after two days at sea, the CNN and ESPN channels were not available anymore, but only the mediocre, highly biased Fox News was available. This channel did not go over well with the international crowd on board. Many times we had to dodge comments from fellow passengers on Fox's shortcomings.
PORTS OF CALL Day 1. Miami, Fl, USA Departs 5:00pm Day 2. At Sea Day 3. At Sea At noon Captain Bang announced a change in itinerary: Bermuda was dropped due to a gale. Day 4. At Sea Day 5. At Sea Day 6. At Sea Day 7. At Sea Day 8. Ponta Del Gada, Azores, Arrive 7:00 am Depart 4:30 pm Beautiful scenery of green hills and mountains of volcanic origin can be seen here. Day 9. At Sea United Kingdom Passport check was done on board. Day 10. At Sea Day 11. Port of Cobh, Cork, Ireland Arrive 7:00 am Depart 4:00 pm There is the wonderful Blarney Castle to visit and a Museum dedicated to Irish Immigrants and the ships "Titanic" and the "Lusitania." Day 12. Brest, France Arrive 7:00 am Depart 4:00 pm There is a lovely Castle, the Maritime Museum and the Botanical Gardens of rare and endangered plants. Day 13. Southampton, England Arrive 6:00 am
DEBARKATION This was very simple. We had white tags, which meant we were first priority, since we were flying from London Gatwick Airport. There was wheelchair assistance, from our cabin to baggage, through customs and outside with lavender tags for the two hour bus ride through the lovely English country side, which reminds Mary of her birth place, New England. At the airport, we had excellent assistance by a sky cap: he took us from the bus all the way to check in. The Brits do everything charmingly well and orderly. We were now on the second leg of our trip --- Rome and three weeks in Italy. Arrivederci.
LAND TOUR We planned our own flight to Italy, three weeks car rental at the Rome Fiumicino Airport from Thrifty Italy, and the return flight to Miami. This part of our trip included a Gastronomic Tour of Italy (Rome, Ladispoli, Naples, Benevento, Pannarano, Castelvetere Val Fortore, Foggia, Spoleto, Assisi, and Perugia). We enjoyed the drive to Assisi, especially since the entrance to Highway E45 was closed, so we took the very beautiful scenic mountain route through Lazio and Umbria. Needless to say, this was a much longer and slower route, but we enjoyed it: As the saying goes, "We stopped and smelled the roses!" We also enjoy the panoramas with their characteristic towns of medieval and renaissance architecture. In Assisi we visited St. Francis Basilica and were awed by its unique Italian Gothic architecture and the beautiful frescoes of famous Italian Masters, such as Giotto, Cimabue, Lorenzetti, etc. We did not see it all and since this town deserves a longer visit, we promise to return!
This was truly a gourmet tour. We savored some of the best dishes of regional (Puglia, Campania, Lazio and Umbria) Italian cuisine. Just reminiscing about it makes our mouths water: The large variety of cheeses and cold cuts, so many types of home made pastas with delicious sauces made of locally produced ingredients, desserts out of this world, and characteristic wines of the regions. Some of the restaurants worthy of mention are "L'Angolo Preferito" in Foggia, "La Rosetta" in Perugia and our favorite "Grazia Deledda" in Ladispoli.
When choosing restaurants we always search travel guides or ask the local people for their favorite place, but when possible we take suggestions from our Italian relatives who are themselves gourmets or, as they say in Italy, "buongustai". In Foggia our nephew Matteo suggested "L'Angolo Preferito" (Preferred Corner), a restaurant serving only sea food. Here we ate a delicious sea food appetizer, Troccoli ai Frutti di Mare (home made pasta with mixed shell fish), grilled and fried sea food, all served with a smooth local white wine, and finished with dessert, fresh fruit and caffe` espresso. In Perugia we parked the car in Piazza Italia and there was the Hotel & Restaurant "La Rosetta," we saw a beautiful and inviting courtyard full of people dining al fresco. We lucked out, we entered and had one of the best reasonably priced lunches in Italy: Vincent's choice was Umbricelli ai Porcini e Tartufo Nero di Norcia (a locally home made pasta with Porcini mushroom and black truffles from Norcia), simply delicious; Mary's choice were Lasagnette Tartufate (Small Lasagna with white truffles) and Vitello Tonnato (thinly sliced veal with tuna sauce), both superb; and our cousin Mario had Lombatina alla Griglia (Grilled veal loin), also delicious. Two days before our return home we invited our Roman friends and relatives to a banquet at the restaurant "Grazia Deledda" in Ladispoli. This is one of our cousin's favorite restaurants and we have had other banquets there many times before so we knew it was going to be good. And extraordinarily good it was! Most of our 26 guests enjoyed the same menu: A mixed sea food appetizer with octopus salad, Risotto allo Scoglio (sea food risotto) Tonnerelli alle Vongole (pasta with clams), Grigliata Mista and Frittura Mista di Pesce (grilled and fried mixed sea food) served with wild greens salad, local white wine, Macedonia di Frutta (mixed fruit cocktail), and Vincent's favorite dessert Pan di Spagna (Italian rum cake) served with Prosecco (Italian sparkling wine): A superb feast of Italian delectable flavors!
Now we are back home in Boca Raton with a whole wealth of beautiful memories of our cruise and land tour of Italy. There were many kisses and tears as we said "Arrivederci" (until we see you again) to our dear relatives and friends. Maybe in a couple of years we'll go back again, but for now we look forward to our summer trip to New England and several cruises we have already booked for this fall: Liberty of the Seas, Eastern Caribbean, September 15; Caribbean Princess, Eastern Caribbean, October 21; and Jewel of the Seas, westbound transatlantic crossing, October 30. Happy Cruising!
Sorry folks,this is no longer a 5 star ship as far as the food in the main dining room goes--more like 2 to 3 star. The ship is very nice-the staff wonderful-the cabin & bed are just great and the in the other areas is good-not great, but good.I sent two meals back and their replacemnts were just as bad. One night a man even sat in the main dinning room with a baseball cap on--thats not 5 star.
Truly, it is a fantastic trip for my first cruise vacation. We have a family of 4 from Toronto, Ontarion, Canada.
Navigator of the Seas by Royal Caribbean: The ship are loaded with every activities for every age group. It is so calm and stable on the sea. My daughter (11 age) loves the kid adventure activities. My son (16 age) loves the Teen activities. We love every activities (show, game, food, dinner & room service etc). Except one thing is the smoking arear is not enclosed. We have to smoke the 2nd hand as we pass the Bar on deck 3 & 4. Also on the deck 11 near the pool, all the smorkers are gather there.
Labadee (Royal's own port): Not much to see but just relax on the beach. Be sure to negotiate the price from the local reseller.
Ocho Rios, Jamaica: As we travel on the West Caribbean route, I will recommend the local tour guide - Trevor Hudlin for Ocho Rios, Jamaica. He is not only provided the lower price but the best service. He introduces us the local drink - fresh coconut drink and famous Jamaicafood - Jeck Chicken. We have visited the Dunne River Fall. It is fun and much visit. You can reach him by: http://trevorhudlintours.com Be sure to negotiate the price if you want to buy anything from any local store. You can buy Jamaica Rum on the store at the port. They sell for much less than in the town.
Grand Cayman Island: I will also recommend the local tour:- snorkeling with stingrays at Stingray City Sandbar on Grand Cayman Island by Captain Marvin. They provide the best service and lower price. Don't miss the tour. The staffs are very helpful for non-swimmer (my wife). We saw a lot of beautiful different fishes because they feed the fish. Also they hand over some stingray to us to touch. At the end they provide fresh water to wash the salt water. You can reach Captain Marvin by www.captainmarvins.com. Also be sure to visit the store 'Del Sol" which sell any items will change color under the sun.
Cozumel, Mexico: I will recommend to visit the Chankanaab National Park on Cozumel, Mexico. The park provides every water activities you can spend for a whole day. Thus the local snuba & snorkeling service we used is not that great by Mayan Paradise Tours - Zorro 3 Reef Snorkel & Snuba Trip-Special Sept/Oct. No fish feeding and no fresh water to wash the salt water. Even it is the great price included with drink and fruit. We don't see a lot of different fishes. Be sure to negotiate the price for everything including taxi in Cozumel. They are always over price. I recommend to buy from the store with price tag on each item. I suggest to buy from the stores at the port. The items are labeled with price tag.
Miami, Florida: Be sure to negotiate the price for Taxi, don't take the meter. South Beach is the Shopping paradise. Be sure to ride on local shuttle bus. It charges only $0.25 per person.
Conclusion: For sure, we will choose the cruise ship from Royal Caribbean again especially the new big ship such as Freedom of the Seas. Be aware to carry light hand carry or back pack, it may take a long time (2 hrs) leaving the ship to the US Immigration Dept. Hope this info will help the first time cruisers.
Edwin Lai and Family. September 2005
P.S. You can only bring 1.5 litre of alochol per adult into Canada.