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.
We Flew into Miami on the 6am flight. We arrived at the pier at approximately 10:30am. There were no lines at all and we were checked in and given our room keys right away. We were then told to go stand in line and wait until they could let us on the ship. This was a disaster. We ended up standing in line for two and a half hours until 1:00pm. Supposedly, immigration was giving the guests departing the ship from the cruise week before us a hard time and this caused the long delays.
Our room was a larger oceanview family stateroom. It had the 2 beds pushed together and a sofa sleeper that was a double bed. My boys had to share the sofa sleeper. There were lumps at every break in the cushions and the feet area was about a foot lower than the head area so they were sleeping on an angle. I complained to our room steward and he said the bed was broken but no one came and fixed it the entire week. When the sofa sleeper bed was fully opened there was noway to walk from the queen size bed to the bathroom. You literally had to climb onto the sofa bed every time you had to go to the bathroom. It was a nightmare and not pleasant for the entire week. The steward opened the sofa bed while we were at dinner and the entire evening before we went to bed we had to deal with this sofa sleeper in our way. Each morning as we showered and got ready to leave the cabin we had to deal with the sofa bed again, as the steward didnâ?Tt close it until late morning.
This ship has lots of extras in the area of entertainment for kids and that is one of the reasons that we picked the Navigator. But only one of my sons got to do rock climbing and only one time. There was a special time on a couple of the sea days when kids were allowed to do the climbing wall. The first 20 kids to show up were allowed to climb and the rest were sent away. This made it very difficult for my kids to get a chance with over 1500 kids on our cruise during the week. As far as roller blading went, it was not clearly marked where the roller blade skates were given o, and therefore they never even tried roller blading all week. The ice rink was only open in the morning for free skate from 9am - 11am on a couple days at sea and my kids never woke up this early to try ice skating so again they didnâ?Tt use the facilities that I paid a premium for by booking the Navigator. I booked this ship thinking they would have a ball doing all these different activities when in actuality they werenâ?Tt necessary for their enjoyment of the cruise.
The entertainment on this ship was excellent. Ken Rush was the cruise director and he was full of life and very entertaining. He is one of the best cruise directors I have seen at sea. The Broadway type shows were good and the comedians they had were also good. We usually went to the theater about a half hour early to be sure to get a seat. The house was jam packed each night. The ice show was great too. Just a pain to get tickets for the ice show. If you have first seating of dinner the best show is on Tuesday at 9pm after dinner. For this particular show the tickets are given out in the first 10 minutes after the line opens. People had to wake up extremely early on their first day at sea to stand in line to get these tickets. Other options for first seating dinner were at 7:30pm (had to rush thru dinner to make this show) or 5:15pm on the 2nd formal night. Who wants to get ready early for formal night dinner and then go to ice show dressed formally. But the ice show is definitely not to be missed. We were exhausted the first morning of the cruise but forced ourselves to wake up early to get in line for these tickets.
There were two different parades going down the promenade at midnight. One was the first evening and was called the Welcome Aboard parade. There was a second parade near the end of the cruise called the Mardi Gras Parade. These were fun to watch.
They had only one midnight buffet. Viewing and picture taking was until 12:45am. And they didnâ?Tt even open it up for eating until 1:00am. We didnâ?Tt even stay up to try the food. It was just way too late to gorge ourselves.
This was our 11th cruise and our first on Royal Caribbean and we felt the food was not good. I didn't even gain one pound. The choices were terrible and the food was not prepared properly. Everything was hard and tough and tasteless. We were really disappointed in the dining room food. The buffets were typical cruise food and were fine. The desserts were all horrible and tasteless too!!! I was shocked. The ice cream machines were always broken. The buffet closes at 9pm each night so no late night snacking. They had a little shop on the promenade with a Ben and Jerryâ?Ts ice cream for $2.75 scoop which was open 24 hours a day. This place also had cookies and pizza all night long. It had desserts and little sandwiches which werenâ?Tt very good. My favorite thing on the cruise were the cookies. I lived on cookies most of the week.
The teen program was very poorly run and I was really surprised at this knowing how many people chose Royal Caribbean because of there childrenâ?Ts programs. Activities were listed on the daily planner for teens and when my teens would arrive at the center the counselor wouldnâ?Tt run the programs, he would just say that it was â?ochill timeâ?. My boys were very upset by this having cruised Carnival and Princess in the past and having a fantastic time in the teen program, Royal Caribbean was a real let down for them.
The pop card was the most expensive I have seen on a cruise line at $35. This is expensive and you have to drink a lot of pop to get your moneys worth. If you want to celebrate a birthday in the dining room they expect you to pay $8 for the little cake that they will bring to your table. If you want to watch a cable type movie in your cabin you have to pay $12 for the experience. If you wanted to try out Johnny Rockets for burgers and milkshakes you had to pay $3.95 per person for the experience. This was the only restaurant on the ship that was open until 1:00am for snacking and you had to pay for the privilege.
There are 2 outdoor pools on this ship but one of the pools was always being used for scuba diving lessons and was closed. When you are on a ship with 3200 people and one pool isnâ?Tt even available most of the day and it is hot out, this is not a good thing. There was one other pool which was considered adults only, but chair space at this pool was limited and it was next to impossible to ever get a seat around this pool except on port days. None of the pools were heated and all of the pools were filled with salt water.
I had a relaxing week at sea, but truthfully I was not thrilled with Royal Caribbean. My boys were very upset with the teen program. There was a game room on this ship and all games were priced from $2 and up. Using a room card the games could be played.
Now that travel agents are not allowed to discount Royal Caribbean, I really donâ?Tt think it will be worthwhile to book a Royal Caribbean ship in the future. The prices are extremely expensive without discounts and I feel what Royal Caribbean is offering is no better than some of the other lines where discounting will still be available. The ship was beautiful not gawdy like Carnival, but it really didnâ?Tt offer anything special to warrant paying the extra money needed to sail this line. They seem to nickel and dime the customer once they are onboard. Charging for birthday cakes and in room movies, things that used to be free while onboard.
OVERVIEW: My partner and I have recently returned from an Atlantis Events gay charter cruise aboard Royal Caribbean's "Navigator of the Seas". This was our second cruise with Atlantis, our first one being in March of 2003 on Norwegian Cruise Lines "Norwegian Sky" - now renamed the "Pride of Aloha" and working out of Hawaii. In comparison there were many similar things and many different things. Keeping in mind that this was a charter cruise by Atlantis Events our experience aboard the Navigator of the Seas would be different than your usual sailing.
EMBARKATION: Our arrival at the pier and the time it took to get on the ship was extremely quick and efficient. It only took about 20 minutes from the time we arrived at the pier to embarking the ship.
THE SHIP ITSELF: Royal Caribbean's "Navigator of the Seas"
Absolutely Incredible! We knew that this was one of the largest cruise ships in the world and we had read much about it and seen other peoples photos of it prior to sailing, but once you are at the pier yourself and look up and see how massive it really isand then get aboard to explore it for yourself, you are totally amazed. It is said by Royal Caribbean that if you stood this ship on its end that it would be as tall as the Empire State Building. There are so many areas of this ship that it literally takes you several days to see it all. There are so many venues to go to and it is absolutely breathtaking to see what Royal Caribbean has done in designing and building these ships. There is so much attention to details. The 8.5 million dollars of artwork alone throughout this ship is incredible. I took so many rolls of film of the ship itself as I thought it was so magnificent. You would think that with roughly 3200 passengers and 1100 crew that there would be too many people at times, but we never felt this way whatsoever. We never even encountered any problems finding deck chairs around any of the pools/hot tubs. There are so many places on this ship to see, from the main Promenade in the middle of the ship which stretches as long as two football fields, to the Casino, the Dungeon bar, the Spa facility, the pools and the various hot tubs, the gym, the saunas and steam rooms, to the outdoor mini-putt, the rock climbing wall, running track, volleyball courts, and the many beautiful lounges, bars and dining rooms throughout this amazing ship - it is all yours to get out there and discover.
ITIENRARY / PORTS OF CALL: As this was a charter cruise, it was a customized itinerary departing from Miami. Our first full day was spent at Sea. The second day we arrived early afternoon in San-Juan Puerto Rico. St. Maarten was the port of call for the next day, and then another day spent at sea, followed by Royal Caribbean's private destination - Labadee, and then one final day at sea before returning to Miami.
San Juan: Our stop in San Juan was a short one, a late departure from Miami, and rough seas on our trip south, made our arrival in San Juan around 3:00 p.m. - a little later than was originally expected. We had an opportunity to walk around old San Juan and explore the beautiful cobblestone streets and all the old architecture, and visited an old cemetery right on the edge of the ocean. We made our way back to the ship for out dinner around 6:00 p.m. The ship then set sail for St. Maarten at around 10:00 p.m.
St. Maarten: Our morning arrival into the port in St. Maarten sailed us right beside Cunard Cruise Lines "Queen Mary 2" - the largest cruise liner in the world. It was anchored out in the port harbor as it is simply so large that it can't actually dock in some ports of call. St. Maarten is one of the best "Duty Free" shopping islands in the Caribbean. After departing the ship we made our way via Water Taxi to Phillipsburg where we spent most of our morning doing jewelry shopping. After spending our hard earned cash we hurried back to the ship to get ready for our afternoon shore excursion - The Rhino Rider adventure. We traveled by bus to a small inlet where we were briefed on the afternoons activity. We then boarded our small inflatable type boats with 25 HP motors and set off through the harbor and out to the Ocean. Unfortunately our boat was a lemon, and we weren't able to keep up to everyone in our group. They replaced our boat and off we were again. The second boat we had was somewhat better, but we still weren't able to gain the same kind of speed as the rest of our group. We traveled along the coast line of St. Maarten to a place called "Shipwreck cove" where we had an opportunity to do some snorkeling, which was very enjoyable. Later we traveled over to another side of the island and stationed ourselves in the ocean right at the edge of the runway for the St. Maarten airport, where planes actually landed right above our heads - quite an incredible sight. We then made our way back to the Rhino Rider base. This excursion was not as much fun as we had expected as the boat we had didn't operate properly, and the ride on the ocean was really quite rough.
Labadee: This is Royal Caribbean's private destination, a peninsula on the tip of Hispaniola, Haiti. This was by far one of the nicest stops of our cruise. We were the only Royal Caribbean ship in Labadee that day, and the private destination was totally ours for the entire day. You have to tender in from the ship at this port of call, but the tender boats are huge and carry several hundred passengers at a time. We didn't sign up for anything in Labadee, other than renting floating beach mats for the day. This place was really beautiful - the beaches were pristine, and there were lots of beach chairs, places to explore, and all of the food and drinks were brought off the ship and a huge BBQ lunch was prepared. There was a Haitian Market that was pretty high pressure sales, but you could really bargain with the vendors, and we came home with some really nice crafts, which we paid very reasonable prices for. If you weren't into the high pressure sales, there was a smaller area where set prices were available for similar kinds of items.
OUR STATEROOM: We had booked a Deluxe Outside Stateroom with a Balcony on level 6 of the ship. Our stateroom was very nice and was large enough for the two of us. The room's amenities were good and we had enough room for all of our belongings. This stateroom was a very nice upgrade for us, as we had previously had an interior stateroom on our first cruise with NCL. Being able to go out onto your balcony to have breakfast or to watch as the ship pulled into our various ports of call was very nice. It was also very nice to sleep with the balcony door open listening to the ocean at night.
DRINKS: Well the drinks on the ship were certainly not short of alcohol. One of the bar tenders actually joked with me a couple times "do you want it, unleaded, leaded or super leaded" The bar service and the quality of the drinks was really quite excellent, and if anything, sometimes they were a little on the strong side (not complaining) Of course we had a number of the "drinks of the day" and kept the souvenir glasses. We did purchase the soft drink package while on-board which gave us unlimited soft drinks. The cost for this was $48.30 US each.. I'm not sure if we really got our monies worth out of them - maybe we should have only got one pass and shared it.
We did not "smuggle" any booze on board this time, but heard of others who did. Some people who purchased alcohol at duty free stores on some of the islands didn't have their purchases temporarily confiscated upon boarding, while others did. Those who had alcohol confiscated had them returned to them on their final day before disembarking the ship.
DINING: As this was a charter cruise Atlantis Events made some changes to the manner in which the ship would normally operate. They changed the normal dining arrangements, whereby there was open seating at all meals throughout the cruise. When booking the cruise we had been previously assigned a dining time which we were able to ignore and were able to dine wherever and whenever we wanted during the times that the dining rooms were open - This was similar to NCL's Freestyle dining concept. Our opinion of the food itself and the table service on the Navigator of the Seas was less than that which we experienced on our NCL cruise. The overall food quality on this cruise was good and the desserts themselves were very good. The quality and quantity of the food on NCL seemed to be somewhat better, and the service at the tables was definitely better on NCL.
We were unable to eat at either Portifinos, or Chops as they both booked up so quickly. They would start to accept reservations in person starting at 10:00 a.m. each day, and on many days the line up to make reservations started very early in the morning. We did hear from various people that the food and the table service in these areas were excellent, and well worth the additional $25.00 per person. One individual I spoke with said that his dining experience at Chops was probably one of the best meals he had ever had in his life.
We did manage to eat at Johnny Rockets, and coming from Canada, we had never eaten at a Johnny Rockets before. It was really good, and we enjoyed the old fashioned "diner" experience. The nominal $3.95 surcharge for this restaurant was not a big deal. We could probably have eaten more than one hamburger though. I made up for it by having both a milkshake and a delicious desert.
There were no formal dinner nights. The only stipulation which was made was that no tank tops or shorts were to be worn in the main dining rooms, or at any of the specialty restaurants. The open seating arrangements were a really nice way to meet new and different people each night.
ENTERTAINMENT: Being a gay charter cruise, Atlantis Events brings on much of it's own entertainment, comedians, hypnotist, drag queens, entertainers, disc jockeys, sound systems, lighting, laser shows etc. Names such as Shann Carr, Jim David, Andre Kelley, Bruce McDonald, Edie, Miss Richfield, Matt Yee, Pam Ann, Rudy Galindo and Pamela Stanley were among many of the entertainers on this particular cruise. RCI did have some of its own entertainers on this sailing, but the majority of the entertainment was provided by Atlantis Events.
In their usual tradition, Atlantis usually brings on board a "Star" entertainer, and on this particular cruise they had two main attractions - Mario Cantone (comedian) and Deborah Cox in concert. Both of these stars put on two shows in order for all guests to have an opportunity to see them as the venues were simply not large enough to seat all guests at one time.
There were many different Theme Parties on this cruise - Dog-tag, Classic Disco, and Beach Ball afternoon T-dances, Mardi-Gras Party, Island Magic Party, and of course The White Party. Many of the late night parties lasted till the sun came up the following morning.
The laser light shows at the parties which were held at night on the outdoor deck area were truly a sight to see.
SPA SERVICES: Our word of advice for utilizing the spa services on a gay charter cruise - book early. The spa services on gay cruises are usually very popular and as such they don't start to accept bookings until after the pre-departure boat drill takes place at your original departure point. There was a HUGE lineup for people wanting to book Spa Services. We booked a couple's massage treatment which was quite nice.
SHIPS PHOTOGRAPHY: Royal Caribbean's ship photography department seemed to thoroughly enjoy capturing "The Largest Gay Cruise in History" in photographs for everyone. Not only did they take your usual welcome aboard pictures, the ports of call pictures, and the formal pose pictures, but they really got into photographing everyone in their various costumes during the various theme parties. They were really creative and took lots of time with everyone wanting pictures. We purchased 3 pictures, and a couple of the ship itself. We purchased a "Cruise in Review" DVD of our cruise. It could have had a little more substance and more footage from our own cruise, but it wasn't too bad. At one of the ship's shops we also purchased a DVD copy of Royal Caribbean three hour documentary "The In-depth Story of How They Build The World's Largest Cruise Ships". This is a fascinating and informative documentary - well worth purchasing.
DISEMBARKING: During the cruise, they ask you to complete the survey on your interactive television in your stateroom. They ask what time your flight leaves, and they use this information to issue you specific colored luggage tags. As our flight departed Miami after 3:00 that day, we were issued Lavender colored tags (one of the last ones to be called to depart the ship)
On the day of departure they really want you out of your staterooms by 7:00 a.m. and they want you to wait in any of the Public Lounge areas until they call for departure by the luggage color tags. We had to wait until almost 10:30 a.m. before we were called to depart the ship. Once out of the ship itself, it took a fairly long time, to go through Customs as there were only a handful of immigration agents. If you go on a Royal Caribbean cruise and want to get of the ship early - make sure you advise them in the survey that your flight leaves before 11:30 a.m. and then you should get White luggage tags and you'll be able to depart early.
Unbelievable cruise, magnificent ship! We just got back from an Eastern Caribbean cruise on the Navigator. It was an all gay chartered cruise, 3100 guys, 37 women, so things ran a just a little different than a "normal" cruise. There was one or two straight couples who heard about the cruise and thought it would be fun. I talked to one of them, they had a vacation of a lifetime. They had been on many cruises but never had so much fun as they did this time with all gay men. Here are my thoughts:
Embarkation: remarkably fast. We went from being dropped off at the port to inside our cabin in 25 minutes. Would have been sooner but we stopped for a Rum Runner on the way. Most of the waiting was getting through the security scanners.
The Ship: in a word, magnificent! Never felt crowded. Never a wait. Never hard to find deck chairs
Cabin: we were in an outside cabin on level 2. It was fine. We really didn't need a balcony, since we were never in our cabin much. Got lots of exercise, though, taking the stairsall the time (the ship has 14 levels). There was rarely a wait for the elevators when we did take them. The cabin itself was roomy enough. We and our 4 friends had 3 cabins in a row. Our cabin attendant, Gil, was great, and we got a kick out of the towel animals he made every night, although, you do end up with this weird towel zoo by the end of the cruise, LOL.
Food: because this was a chartered cruise, dress code, formal night and early/late seating was thrown out. The only dress code for the dining rooms was no shorts or tank tops. Some people may frown upon that and may want the "Dockers and collared shirt" look at every meal, and may want the formal night. Personally, I'm on a vacation to relax and be comfortable, and for me, that means a nice pair of jeans, a dressy T-shirt and Top Siders, so I was thrilled. The seating was "open seating" at every meal. You just walked up, told them how many in your party, and whether you wanted your own table or wanted to join with others, and you were seated. There was never any wait, ever, not even a minute. I don't know why RCI would not do this every time. It seemed to work like flawlessly. You could eat dinner in the dining room any time between 6:30 and 10:00. The food was fine, not exceptional, but fine. The choices were adequate. We ate at Portofinos one night and I have to honestly say, it was one of the best meals I have ever had. Both the food and the service was 5 star. Pay the extra money and treat yourself. Never ate at Johnny Rockets.
Drinking: I'm going to set the record straight, so to speak. We brought a bottle of rum and mixers in our checked luggage. No problems. I asked our cabin staff to make sure we always had plenty of ice, and since the rum was always on the coffee table, he knew why we wanted the ice. We mixed our drinks in one of those plastic drink containers and were on our way. In San Juan, we bought 4 more bottles of alcohol. We put these in a duffle bag that we had with us, and when we re-boarded the ship, we just walked right by the table where you are "supposed to" declare your alcohol purchase and surrender the liquor until the end of the cruise. If they do "catch" you bringing alcohol on board, they will ask you to surrender it, but they honestly seemed to not really make a big deal out of it. A funny note, the ship had to purchase additional alcohol from the duty free shop in San Juan because we drank so much on the first 2 nights. If you're a beer drinker, The Two Poets and Cosmopolitan bars have 20oz import drafts for $4. Can't beat that anywhere! The coke card is a great deal. The give you refillable metal container for the coke, as well as put a sticker on your Sea Pass. And they honestly didn't care if you ordered 2 cokes at once.
Entertainment. Because this was an all-gay ship, the entertainment was specifically tailored to the crowd. Gay comedians, gay hypnotist, even a gay ice show featuring US champion Rudy Galindo, and male/male ice dancers. The RCI Broadway type shows were entertaining as well. Also, because this was an all-gay cruise, the nightly parties typically ran from 11PM to 6AM. We usually made it to around 2AM. Don't even ask what the themes of the parties were (OK, if you ask, Ill tell). Sound systems, DJs and lighting were all brought on board for this cruise.
Service: Service across the board was excellent. I saw very little complaining by passengers, and I think in general, the staff really appreciated and enjoyed serving this specific crowd.
Ports: San Juan: not enough time to really see the island. We saw the Fort, walked around Old San Juan, had some drinks, bought lots of liquor, and went back on board St Maarten: If you do nothing else on this cruise, take the America's Cup Sailing Regatta shore excursion. It was the highlight of the trip. We were on Stars and Stripes, I was a "rear stay grinder" and we won the race. It was unbelievably fun and unique. The crew was blast. Labadee: We were the only ship there. Beautiful beaches, views, rock formations, and yes, although the Haitians were pushy, keep in mind that you make more in an hour than they make in a week. But do bargain! Friends of ours wanted two large wood carved masks. They were $120 each. They got them down to $50 for both, and they threw in a small painting.
Children's Facilities: never saw them, there were no kids on this cruise. Average age was about 35.
Debarkation: This took a loooong time, but mostly because there were only a handful immigration agents for all these passengers. Here's a tip, on the last night, ask your cabin attendant for a white "early debarkation" tag. Then you can get off the ship when you want, and your luggage will already be there waiting for you.
This is an amazing ship with excellent swimming pools including an adult only section. Our deluxe balcony cabin was good and compared well with other cruises we have taken. The shows in the evening were OK but not outstanding, the exception was the show on the ice rink which was first class. The big letdown was the food in the formal restaurant, this is not four star and in our opinion was three star or less.
The formal menus read well but in reality were very disapointing. The problem was they were plated meals, at best cool and at worse cold of indifferent quality, badly prepared and presented with very slow service. If you wish you can pay an extra $25 each per night to eat in the specialty Portofino restaurant which we found excellent but expensive. The buffet option for breakfast,lunch and dinner was acceptable but not outstanding.The formal lunch was again of indifferent and variable quality, we only went once. Royal Cabribbean have a overal quality control problem with their formal dining which they need to address. Very simply other cruise lines do a much better job.
We sailed on Navigator of the Seas December 4-11. This was our second cruise; our first was three years ago on Carnival Triumph. While we were very satisfied with Carnival, we thought the bigger RCI ships looked pretty neat. Overall, we thought Royal Caribbean was a notch above Carnival in many respects. We had a wonderful experience and would definitely cruise with RCI again.
We decided to fly into Miami the night before departure, which we recommend to anyone. We stayed at the Sofitel (a very nice hotel-we used Hotwire and got a room for $77), then took a taxi to the pier (cost: about $24 for 4 people). We met a very nice couple from England and split the tab. We got to the pier about 10:30 a.m. and were inside within minutes. We then went through the necessary procedures at the front desk. The very first RCI person we ever met was extremely nice, a pattern that was followed for the week to come. We had to wait in line for about an hour after we got our cards, etc., because they didn't let people on the shipuntil noon. Once they opened the doors, we were on within minutes.
We went to our room (an interior cabin toward aft) and found it to be acceptable. The room was set up much better than Carnival and had lots of mirrors, which made it look big. It also had a lot of storage space. We always think it's worth saving the money by booking an inside cabin because you're hardly in it anyway.
We then went to check out the deck. We sunned for a while and then took a run on the running track (a very nice track for the ship, but an obstacle course on later days when everyone was sunning). We found running on Deck 4 to be much easier -- even though the signs said to not run there, no one said anything to us. It was in the shade and much less crowded.
Our first day was at sea and formal night. They had the first of the Broadway-type shows at night, which was fabulous! We thoroughly enjoyed it. Also a plus -- they did not push Bingo before the shows like they did on Carnival; you could go play Bingo in a separate area on the ship if you wanted to (we never did).
The ship stopped in the afternoon and in retrospect, this was the port where we probably should've arranged for a shore excursion. By the time we got off the ship and to the taxi, it was about 3:30 p.m. We had wanted to visit the Bacardi Rum Factory but found out that we wouldn't be able to get there before it closed. Instead, we met a very nice family with whom we shared a taxi to downtown and the fort ($3 per person each way). Downtown was nothing special although they did have a Walgreen's, which was kind of nice. The fort was neat and made up for the disappointing shopping.
A beautiful island; we went to the shopping area by taxi ($6 per person each way) and picked up some rum for a fair price (we found it cheaper later at the pier in St. Maarten). We also did the necessary hair-braiding, which took up most of our stop (we found this probably was cheaper in Nassau; but it saved the hassle when on the next stops, the braiders saw I already had braids). Others we talked to went to Magen's Bay beach and said it was nice. As with all of these islands, we left feeling that we could definitely visit again and have more things to do.
We took a taxi ($5 per person each way) to Orient Beach. There was a taxi line just outside the pier so it was very easy. On our first cruise we did some shore excursions, but decided this time we'd save the money and go on our own. We generally found it to be much cheaper and less structured. Orient Beach (clothing optional) was absolutely beautiful. We rented a jet ski for an hour and that was a really neat way to take in the island. We slept on the beach a while and returned to the pier. There were lots of little shops near the pier and this satisfied our shopping for the day (same stuff, different island, basically). We had the second of the Broadway-type shows this night, and this was as excellent as the first. The singers were amazing, sets and costumes were awesome.
The fifth day was another relaxing day at sea. These days were wonderful and allowed us to take in the ship. It was another formal night, and this time we got tickets (free) to the ice show, which was fabulous! It's hard to believe something like that can be on a ship.
We had a lot of fun going to the Straw Market. That's our kind of shopping --bargaining. We got some good deals and the necessary souvenirs, bought some more rum and headed back to the ship. If you don't like being hassled, this might not be the place for you. We found out near the end it was best to tell them how much money you had left and they'd get the price down to where you wanted it.
On the seventh day we were back in Miami. We had packed up the night before and waited around, sadly, for our colors to be called. It took about an hour after our colors were called to get through customs and off to the airport.
The food was absolutely excellent the entire time. We never tried Chops or Portofino restaurants because the dining room food was so good. Even the Windjammer café was very good with its buffets (hard to believe they can cook so well for so many people). And the little café on the promenade also had good food to snack on. We tried Ben and Jerry's -- it was okay but not really worth the extra money. We also tried Johnny Rocket's -- same thing, good onion rings and sundaes, but not really worth the $3.95 per person cover charge when the other food was so good. The drinks were not too pricey, and we found they were poured very generously, which made them worth the money.
The service was very good as well. We didn't get to know our waiters quite as well as on the last cruise, but the staff was generally very attentive, helpful and courteous, making sure everyone was satisfied. Our stateroom attendants were excellent and provided the necessary towel entertainment each night. It was amazing how they could slip in and out four or five times a day and make sure everything was neat and clean.
The entertainment was much better than on Carnival. Also the games were very good and RCI gave away some nice gifts rather than the plastic gifts on Carnival. The cruise director, James Andrews, was very funny and very good at his job. We saw him around the ship all the time. The parades on the Promenade were also very neat; we thought it would've been a treat to have one of the rooms that overlooked the Promenade for these.
The mini golf was fun. We didn't experience the casino, bingo, rock climbing wall, spa, gym or kids' programs, so we can't speak to those things. The kids did put on a fun program at dinner one night. We were amazed that all the kids seemed generally happy; maybe this was due to the fun stuff they had on board for the kids. We were glad to have left ours at home, however.
We did a lot of research and read a lot of reviews before going on this cruise. Our overall impression is that the people that have so much to complain about really must have much higher expectations than we did. When we tried, we were hard pressed to think of anything to even complain about. It's all what you make of it, and what your attitude is. RCI was awesome, the ship was just beautiful and very clean, and we would definitely sail with Royal Caribbean again.
The Western Caribbean on the Navigator of the Seas 11/27/04 ~ 12/4/04- what a way to spend our 33rd wedding anniversary. I will only go over some of the highlights of a fantastic cruise.
Embarkation Since our 4 Points of Sheraton Miami Beach checkout was at noon, we went directly to the ship. What a beautiful sight as your cab drives up. The process of check-in was done very quickly. A Royal Caribbean representative noticed that my sister-in-law was wearing a walking cast and escorted us onto the ship by another entrance. It was really appreciated. I was so impressed by all of the RCCL employees and the high level of service.
Some of Our Meet and Mingle group met early and it was fun. Captain Band and his wife were a pleasure to meet and my wife even won the RCCL mouse (which is now on my computer).
The ship This was our first RCCL cruise and the first time on something as large as the Voyager class. The ship is an absolute marvel. I do not feel that you can truly see this beautiful ship in only a week. Ican understand why people do repeat sails on her.
The E1 balcony cabin was a pleasant surprise. Even with three adults in the room it never felt crowded. We had standard balcony rooms on the Coral Princess and it seemed like there was more room even with the small sofa and coffee table. I also liked the Navigator's shower much better. It had a rounded sliding door vs. the shower curtain (that seemed to have cling appeal, if you know what I mean).
While this may sound like a trivial point, there is a difference in size of the table on the balcony. The Princess's table was about twice the diameter of the Navigator. It is fine for a single person, but not large enough to have breakfast for two. I realize that it allowed for more room on the balcony, we missed having breakfast in the morning air.
The food The dining room food was excellent and very good in the Windjammer. The coffee is a brand called Seattle's Best and is pretty strong for my taste. It took me a couple of days to find the right mix of cream and sugar (I normally drink it black). If you do not go to the main dinning you are missing a great experience. Our waiter (from Turkey) and assistant waiter (from Malaysia) were a joy. The highlight of the formal evenings were all of the serving staff singing in chorus. They deserved the standing ovations and provided such memories that you cannot help but smile. The nightly menu provided new experiences and opportunities to expand my tastes.
Entertainment Ken Rush was the Cruise Director and proved to be a good host. The Royal Caribbean Singers and Dancers were outstanding. And do not miss the Ice show. You can see that a lot of effort was made to provide a high level of performance. Also of note was the musical performance by Las Vegas' Glenn Smith on day 2. Great!!
Disembarkation The wait for our color to be called seemed to be forever. Once it was called we were processed pretty quickly. It was surprising that American Airlines has a baggage processing right at the terminal but it sure did save time and effort.
Summary The cruise was extremely comfortable and relaxing. The weather clear and clam, the ports of call were all exciting and offered new adventures (especially the Grand Caymans). We will definitely be sailing on the RCCL again. Ron
Our party of 9 went on the East Caribbean cruise of RCI's Navigator of the Seas on August 28, 2004. The cruise was supposed to be 7 nights/8days but it ended up being a 9 nights/10 days cruise due to Hurricane Frances. So we got to stay on board for 2 extra days FOR FREE. THAT WAS AWESOME!!
We had to compliment our captain, Rick Sullivan, for keeping us away from the hurricane at all times. We were at least 200 nautical miles away from it so we did not feel any discomfort while on board. I must admit that at times it was quite windy especially during the times when we were having our morning jogs.
Although the original itinerary included 4 ports (Nassau in Bahamas, Charlotte Amalie in St. Thomas, San Juan in Puerto Rico & Labadee in Haiti), we had to cancel most of them due to different routing. We were still pleased to be able to visit St. John's in Antigua (a very nice substitute) and St. Thomas. It was a pity that all water activities including the submarine, aqua park and BOB (underwater scooter) had tobe cancelled but we had a great time doing land tours. The beaches were absolutely fantastic! I will talk about those ports in detail later on.
When we chose our cruiseship in January, we wanted to go for RCI's biggest ship. It was proven to be a very wise choice as we had so much to do on board on sea days that we never got bored even though we had to stay for extra days. RCI definitely had the BEST children's program as our kids (two 11 & one 15 years old) LOVED it! Disney is too young for them and all other cruise lines' are not as well-organized. Activities like ice skating, roller blading & rock climbing were all free (not even any charge for rentals) but make sure that kids (even teenagers) can find you whenever they want to go & play as parents/guardians have to sign waiver forms & be with them while they play.
Let's talk about our pre-cruise activities first!
Flying from Toronto to Miami & Car Rental It was great that we arrived at Miami 3 days before the cruise so we could enjoy SOBE before the hurricane attacks - another piece of luck! We arrived at MIA (Miami International Airport) at around 12:10 p.m., and got our baggage from Section G (flying from Toronto on Air Canada) at 12:30 p.m. Since we had booked a rental minivan (Thrifty's special deal for US$38.99 per day) in advance, our party of 7 (2 seniors were joining us 2 days later) boarded one of the many Thrifty shuttle buses (they run non-stop) right outside the terminal. The shuttle bus took us to the rental car office (all rental car companies are located outside of the airport) in 5 minutes. With 3 big suitcases and 6 carry-ons we had no problems to fit all 7 passengers and luggage in the Grand Caravan. We left Thrifty at 12:50 p.m. and started to drive to Eden Roc Renaissance Hotel in Miami Beach.
Eden Roc Miami Beach, a Renaissance Resort & Spa We were at the hotel for 2 nights and were absolutely impressed with the excellent service that the hotel staff provided. The check-in staff was helpful & efficient & upgraded our 2 rooms to Ocean & Bay view with no extra charge. The partial ocean & bayview rooms were the best as you got spectacular views of 2 stretches of water on both the left & the right side of your room. The extra bucks for a full oceanview room was totally unnecessary especially for us who will be going on a cruise. The concierge, especially Luis, gave us helpful and practical suggestions for dining options and useful info regarding our trip to Key West.
The hotel was easily accessible from the airport and the drive was only 15 minutes. Without a car, Eden Roc would not be a good choice as it's quite far from Ocean Drive & SOBE downtown. However, if you love night life & traffic jams, go for those fancy hotels like Crowne Plaza & Loews or the more economical ones like Holiday Inn (20 mins. walk to Ocean Dr.). The beach off Eden Roc Hotel was amazing. No one was near us when we swam at around 6 p.m. It was like a private beach. Umbrella & chair rentals, however, were not available for those late hours. The hotel outdoor pool & the whirpool were clean and well-maintained. Even more so, due to hotel renovation (4th floor only, but we stayed on Floor 10) during the time of our stay, the hotel sent us a $50 resort credit (which could be used for parking, food or other resort facility rentals) for each of our 2 rooms before we left for Miami, and we could also use the $100 Marriott Bonus Bucks coupons (around $30 through eBay).
The hotel lobby was classy and they offered free sampling of wine every evening we were there. Starbucks coffee was available even in the lobby bar, which was quite unusual. One thing you have to be careful was tipping. On top of the $20 daily valet parking fee, porters asked for tips when they unloaded luggage from our van just to the front lobby, then the luggage was transferred to the bell boy & we'd have to tip again when our luggage was delivered to our rooms. So if you can manage without the luggage cart, you'll easily save another 10 bucks.
SOBE (South Beach) Miami When we were there on Aug. 25 & 26, we wondered where the tourists were as we could easily find meter parking right in the heart of South Beach (only $1/hour, same rate as the big parking lot off Lincoln Rd. & 17th Ave.). Just make sure you have lots of quarters!! Parking for the weekend was $5 flat rate per day in public car parks without in and out privileges, go for meter parking if you need to use your car around for short trips. For dining in SOBE, I highly recommended the 2 restaurants we went to, Nexxt & Van Dyke, and they're both in the famous Lincoln Rd. Mall. If you have a small appetite, share your dishes as they're HUGE.
Key West The drive from mainland Florida to Key West was about 3½ hours each way and we went on 42 bridges before we were at the southernmost point of USA. Although we didn't have a lot of time to spend there, we did manage to stop at the Big Lobster on our way & took some pictures. The Big Lobster there was definitely less famous than the world's largest lobster in Shediac, New Brunswick in Canada, but it still looked quite real and more 'fierce'.
The Conch Train Tour in Key West was really worth it as you did not have to drive your own car around the little streets & got bombarded by tons of those trains. We bought the Miami/Florida Keys Entertainment Book for $10 in July and got 3 buy-one-get-one-free coupons all in one book, that saved us $66.
Shopping in Key West was unbelievable. Shells were beautiful & souvenirs were way cheaper than those in SOBE. My husband got a beautiful silk-like Caribbean/Hawaiian shirt with beautiful palm trees & beach print for $9 and a matching long sarong for ladies was only $10. Make sure you bargain & you could get really good deals. Another point to remember was the heat in August; it was so hot that even though you're in an air-conditioned shop you would still sweat non-stop. Think of that as free saunas and you'd feel much better.
Hyatt Regency Miami We switched hotels because Hyatt was way closer to the Port of Miami than Eden Roc and it was closer to Downtown Sheraton where we had to return our rental car from Budget. Originally, we planned to return our van from Thrifty right at Hyatt but the Thrifty office was closed a couple of months ago, so we had to switch from Thrifty to Budget. It was OK since I had to go to the airport to pick up my parents one day before our cruise, so it was alright to switch cars too. We got a really good rate at Hyatt; the senior rate was only $44.95 for a very spacious room. Upgrading to the Regency Club floors was only $32 extra & we had free buffet breakfast for 4 ($15 each if we had to pay). I reserved the hotel rooms way in advance in January, so the rate was absolutely unbeatable.
The front desk staff was not as helpful as those in Eden Roc & less friendly. When I asked for directions to go on the free Metromover (Miami's downtown skyrail) to Bayside Market, they told us to get off 2 stops earlier so we had to walk under the unbearably hot sun for 10 minutes. I personally did not like Bayside Market as the merchandise was not as cheap as SOBE's and the quality of food in the food court was only average. Basically, no one wanted to shop in the market stalls as there was no air-conditioning and even the air-conditioned food court was not cool enough. However, the air-conditioned Disney Store there had some excellent T-shirts for $5 and stuffed animals like a one-foot long Nemo was only $6.
Then the real excitement came when we had to board the famous Navigator of the Seas Embarkation Boarding the cruiseship at around 11:30 a.m. was quite easy for us. From past cruise experience, I found that since we always check-in according to deck levels, it's best to go for staterooms on the very top deck where the Royal Suite & other grand suites are located. Based on the fact that there're less passengers on that deck and most of them are Crown & Anchor platinum & diamond members that they don't have to wait in line, we could go to the check-in counter without a wait. It was awesome when you saw that other decks were packed with 50-100 people in line and we were the only group at the counter. We simply completed our check-ins in less than 10 minutes. One thing that didn't please me at all was the Welcome Picture that they took. You could see thousands of people behind you and beside you & it was not 'personal' or special at all.
Superior Oceanview Stateroom with Balcony Another good point about being on Deck 10 was the efficiency and superb service that you could get from the housekeeping team. At least one member of the team would be there for us whenever we needed them for anything, since they're always cleaning the suites beside us. Definitely the suites are more spacious but you have to pay an extra tip of $3 per passenger per day. However, the suite would be cleaned EVERY TIME when you stepped in & then left. What a service! For us, we got 3 superior oceanview staterooms with balcony side by side and 2 of the rooms were connected (the connecting door had to be unlocked by the stateroom attendant & will be left unlocked for the duration of the cruise), so it was good enough. I honestly believe that having a balcony stateroom was worth the money. Every one of us (even our pre-teen and teenage girls) felt so relaxed when we just sat and chatted on the balcony. After all, having some privacy while enjoying the gorgeous view of the Atlantic Ocean on a 3000-passenger cruiseship was a great way to relax and reduce stress, right?
Food on Board Many reviews have commented on the setting & food quality of various dining rooms and restaurants so I'm not going into great details. However, we found that we're constantly eating on board. Breakfast at 9:30 a.m. after our morning jog & swim, then lunch at 1 p.m. Dinner was at 6 p.m. and you couldn't be late as they still had to serve the 8:30 seating. We just couldn't have a chance to get hungry. The food in the Nutcracker Dining Room was above average & the food in Windjammer was great for the buffet style.
Kids dined at Johnny Rockets once since we got many coupons for being the Crown & Anchor members. They said that the food was mouth-watering and waiters' singing and dancing were very entertaining. They mentioned that even if they had to pay they would still choose to eat there, so the food must be very good. Besides, ice cream machines were available on the top decks close to Adventure Ocean (kid's program), and soda cards for kids were around $35 each ($52 for adult). Those were good as you only had to pay a few bucks each day for numerous drinks. If you only like juice, milk or ice tea, you could get those free when Windjammer on Deck 11 was open or from the Promenade Café (open 24 hours) on Deck 5 where there's always a line-up.
We didn't eat at the Portofino but Chops Grille was absolutely amazing. The cozy & romantic setting was great, service was excellent and the steaks were very tasty. It's definitely worth the extra $25 per person. Bear in mind that both specialty dining locations only welcome guests aged 13 or above, so pre-teens & little kids need to be taken care of elsewhere. We did it on the night that the 11 year-olds were having pyjamas party with Adventure Ocean and the adults & my 15-year old had an excellent time there.
Fitness, Spa & Salon The fitness centre was very well-equipped & there was no line up for any machine when we were there. The solarium pool and whirlpools were way less crowded than the main pools and the whirlpool inside the spa (free of charge) was always nice & quiet. Shipshape centre offered a lot of classes & some were easy workouts which were good for those who didn't usually go to gym.
I tried the facial on port day ($99 special) & my appointment was at 8:30a.m. so I could still enjoy my land tour after breakfast. Book early if you need one & they'd give you freebies like $40 eye treatment. The service was good, the atmosphere & music were soothing & relaxing. That's why you wanted to be pampered while on board. The aesthetician asked me to buy over $400 of products & I found her a bit pushy, so I only agreed to buy a cream that reduces the redness of my skin. I go to spa regularly so I have my own skin care products & really can't be bothered with others.
The salon was spacious & the hair dresser was very quick. A wash & blow-dry only took less than 30 minutes & it cost $50. I was hoping that some kind of scalp massage would be done & was quite disappointed when it was not applied. I guessed they were very busy on formal nights, that's why they're SO EFFICIENT.
1st Port of Call - St. John's, Antigua As the captain was trying his best to stay away from Hurricane Frances, we had to change our route so this stop was a bonus as we had to sail down to the West Indies which was further than where we planned to go. The merchandise there was very cheap but most shops did not have air-conditioning so it was boiling hot there. We managed to get a cab for all 9 of us for $100 & the driver was called Mr. Tie as he loved ties so much that we was wearing one with a T-shirt. In his van he had about a dozen of ties hanging down the mirror, we should have given him a tie to get a greater discount. The van was air-conditioned but we were still sweating like crazy, so we opened the windows instead to get more breeze.
Our tour was almost 3 hours long. First we went to a scenic lookout to the English Harbour, and then we drove to the other side of the island to Nelson Dockyard. Since we didn't have a lot of time we didn't pay to visit the historic fort, but the people there were kind enough to let us use the washrooms. There was a tourist info office with only a few brochures - not much help if you want to gather info. Then we went to Turner's Beach where the water was clear and the beach was lovely. Non-swimmers could relax in the breezy under-cover shelters overlooking the beautiful beach. Drinks there were reasonably priced and if you want to braid your hair, it's only $1 per braid. In St. Thomas it's $2 and $5 on the cruiseship. You could also bargain to get a cheaper rate.
2nd Port of Call - Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, US Virgin Island The next day we were at St. Thomas. The port was very nice and houses were better-kept and we could tell right away that the island was much better maintained than Antigua. We docked side by side with Holland America's new Zuiderdam. It was really spectacular to see 2 big cruiseships from the Mountain Top. It was a big shame that all water activities had to be cancelled because of the poor water quality after the storm as we were so looking forward to being on the BOB (underwater scooter). Even the tram going up the mountain was closed due to the strong wind.
We were absolutely appalled by the fact that cab drivers were bugging us so much. We were hollered by tons of them, each offering a cheaper price than the one before. They argued among themselves about who the first one was to approach us... and so on. However, when we asked them where they would take us, the route and the length of the tour varied so much that we had to bargain over and over again. We finally were able to get a cab for $140 to go to scenic spots and stop for swimming & snorkelling at Sapphire Beach, which was beautiful but not as famous as Magen's Bay, one of the world's top 10 beaches.
The cab was converted from a pick-up truck (most of the cabs in St. Thomas were like that) and it could seat 12 people, so it was quite roomy for the nine of us. As there was no windows, it was great to take pictures when we passed by attractions and the breeze was great. It was definitely a more enjoyable ride than the one in Antigua the day before. Although Budget and Avis Car Rental offices were right at the dock, it was not easy to drive in St. Thomas as they drive on the left side of the road with right-side driving; it's like using an English car to drive in N. America, how awkward! Taxi drivers were always zooming by or stopping suddenly, and there were always traffic jams near the dock, so we didn't go for a rental car although it's cheaper.
We went to the famous Mountain Top where we could see the pier with 2 cruisehips and shopping there was amazing. Just make sure you have enough time there. Definitely things were cheaper at stalls but the heat was quite unbearable. Nevertheless, St. Thomas was undoubtedly a shopping paradise.
The reason why we didn't go to Magen's Bay was because each person had to pay a few bucks to get in and with the very limited time that we had it was not worth it. However, we got to see the beautiful Magen's Bay from the mountain top and were really impressed by the long and beautiful U-shaped sandy beach. Swimming in Sapphire Beach was our alternative. We rented snorkelling equipment there for $10 an hour and had a lot of fun with the very clear blue water. There were lots of fishes around and the beach was not crowded. There were lots of rocks and pebbles as we were walking in the water, wearing aqua shoes would be perfect. We got those for $12 a pair in Antigua & it was $19.99 on the ship.
The girls wanted to get their hair braided so the cab driver dropped us off in a mall which was a 5-minute walking distance from the pier and we could have a nap in the air-conditioned hairdresser for 1 hour while the girls were having their hair done. It was only $15 per head. What a good deal!
Disembarkation The night before we got off the ship we were given colour tags to put on our luggage. Ours were orange (2nd group off) so we could get off pretty early at around 9:00. The baggage claim area was quite spacious and the luggage came out in carousels according to colour groups. We were very lucky that we didn't have to stand by for any flights as we originally planned for some post-cruise activities like visiting the alligator farm and going on an airboat. Although Hurricane Frances did cause us some kinds of inconvenience, we thoroughly enjoyed the extra 2 days on board. We were really thankful that it was a big ship with a very good cruise director, Becky, who was able to arrange extra ice shows and night entertainment so we never got bored.
In general, we were very pleased with our cruise and will definitely sail with RCI again.
Based on our experience, we do not recommend Royal Caribbean as a family vacation. We completed a cruise from Saturday, July 31 to Saturday, August 7 on the Navigator of the Seas.
The first three nights we suffered distress due to loud and profane neighbors. We heard: Saturday night: repeated cursing about a storm at sea; Sunday night: cursing and an argument followed by obscene noises; Monday night: obscene noises, louder and more vulgar than the previous night. Normally we do not complain, but deciding the activity would not cease and concerned about the impression on our daughter, who had fortunately slept through most of the noise, we asked Guest Relations early Tuesday morning for a different room. Their response was inadequate and misleading. They said no rooms were available, not even a downgrade. We again requested a different room that afternoon and were told the ship was completely booked, and any room change was impossible.
A frequent cruiser intervened Tuesday evening on our behalf. With this help, a room suddenly became available. We are distressed that as average cruisers no help was available. Guest Relations had not been honest and was indifferentto our child's welfare. My wife was actually in tears when we initially requested a new room. Without the intervention of a higher-status, frequent cruiser, we would have remained in an environment potentially emotionally unhealthy to our daughter. I urge all parents to think twice before considering a cruise with your children on Royal Caribbean.
My wife and I just returned from the January 10, 2004 sailing of Navigator of Seas to the Western Caribbean. As the parents of five children, it's been 14 years since we last cruised, and our financial focus was on getting all through college. When our youngest graduated this past May, we thought it would be great to book another cruise and to compare our experiences with the ships of the early to late 1980's with today's mega-ships. Our last cruise was in 1988 on Royal Caribbean's "Song of America".
Navigator of the Seas is an engineering and design marvel. It's gigantic in size, but exudes a genuine warmth and charm. One of the things I always liked about cruising was if I wanted to be around lots of people in a high energy atmosphere, it was easy to do. Conversely, if I wanted some peace and quiet and a bit of solitude, a more serene atmosphere was always easy to find. I really wondered if this is still the case on a ship the size of Navigator filled with well over 3,300 people. To my surprise, it is.
Thepool areas are perfect examples. One pool was always rocking with great music, lots of people, high energy, and fun activities - like a sexiest men's legs contest (lots of laughter at that one)! Yet just walk a little bit further down the deck and you come to the Solarium, a quiet, adults only pool area with plenty of space for peaceful reading, napping, or just gazing off into space.
I found all the public areas on the ship to be extremely well designed, very well appointed, and never felt crowded.
We arrived at Miami airport a little after 10 AM. We gathered our luggage and had no problems finding the Royal Caribbean bus, as we booked transfers from and to the airport. We departed the airport promptly, but were stuck in a traffic jam near the entry to the pier due to construction. It took about 45 minutes to go less than a mile. Once off the bus (by now about 12 noon), we experienced no delay getting checked in but the ship was not yet ready for boarding. We waited in a long line for about 30 minutes, and then were able to board the ship. We dropped our carry-on bags in our stateroom and enjoyed lunch, toured the ship, and by 4 PM our checked bags were in our stateroom.
I tend to be a bit claustrophobic, so opted for a bit larger stateroom. Cabin 9308 is a "C" category junior suite, listed at 268 square feet with a 68 square foot balcony. When it comes to cruise ships, pictures are not always worth a thousand words, and I was a bit skeptical after viewing the "virtual" photo tours on the web. Nevertheless, I must say this accommodation far exceeded my expectations. It is very generous in size featuring a walk-in closet, nice size bathroom (including a tub), tons of storage space, a small sofa and a very comfortable easy chair and ottoman. The balcony is fantastic.
Dolores, our stateroom attendant, was fabulous. The cabin was immaculate when we arrived and remained immaculate throughout the entire cruise. We never saw Dolores, except when she seemed to miraculously appear on the few occasions when we needed her for one small thing or another.
Food / Service
The dining rooms are another example of how well designed these mega-ships are. The three-story dining area seats 1,700 people, yet is open and airy because of a central atrium. Each level features lots of nooks and crannies, where only eight or ten tables seem to convey that you have your own "private" dining room. We were at a table of 10 next to a window on deck three.
Overall, we found the food to be very good. Some entrees were terrific. I thought the rack of lamb was the best I've ever had, a true compliment as I travel for a living and have had the pleasure of enjoying lamb in some of the country's finest restaurants. In general all the seafood dishes we had were very good. a few entrees were marginal and one, the New York strip steak, was poor. The menus offer good variety, and no matter what your tastes run to, you will always be able to find something to enjoy.
Service is extremely attentive. Our waiter was excellent, the head waiter actually performed services for you, and our assistant waiter tried very hard. He was very accommodating, would do anything to please, but being from Chile, he struggled with the language. He frequently misunderstood requests.
We tried "Chops" the specialty steak restaurant on deck 11. We enjoyed the food, the service was excellent, and felt we got a good value for the $25 per person surcharge.
Food offered in the Windjammer, a buffet restaurant open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, was generally fair to good with an excellent variety.
Don't miss the ice show, it's a real treat. We also really enjoyed the production show in the theater (lots of energy, singing and dancing to music from recent Broadway productions), and the farewell show Friday evening was terrific. The comedian was very talented and funny.
Ports of Call
By coincidence our last cruise was to the western Caribbean so we were familiar with each of the stops. We only booked one excursion, preferring to spend only a few hours at three of the four stops. To be honest, we enjoyed the ship so much we spent most of the time at the pool, on our balcony, or just walking around the magnificent Navigator of the Seas.
We did book a jeep "safari" excursion on Grand Cayman. This is our favorite stop. Cayman is immaculately clean with the most beautiful water and pure white sandy beaches. The 4x4 jeep was old and beat up, but fun to drive as it is a manual transmission. It also takes a little concentration, as the steering wheel is on the right (hence you're shifting with your left hand instead of your right), and traffic flows as in London, the opposite of the US.
Leaving the ship was a breeze. We were in the second color group and walked off the ship a few minutes after 8 AM. Getting through customs was very smooth and the customs agent was pleasant. To our surprise and pleasure, American Airlines has a check-in area at the dock. We were able to have the bags inspected, check our luggage to our final destination, and get our boarding passes at the dock. The bus trip to the airport was uneventful and we were in the terminal waiting for our flight less than one hour after leaving the ship.
My wife and I thoroughly enjoyed our week on the Navigator of the Seas. We always felt cruising provides a fantastic value for the money charged, and this was absolutely the case again. The ship is truly magnificent, the food certainly above average, the weather fantastic; all in all a wonderfully relaxing week.