I recently returned from a 7 night Eastern Caribbean on the Navigator of the Seas. The ship is awesome and clean but size isn't everything. The big joke among passengers were the scrambled eggs at breakfast - they actually tasted bad all week. The coffee was "Seattle's best" but could have been their worst and they didn't serve half & half with it. Once you got to know your cabin steward and wait staff in the dining room, they were friendly enough but other staff walked by you without saying a thing unless you initiated it. I think she's just too big to offer consistanly good food and service.
I tried the alternate steak house for $20 but it wasn't any better than the dining room and it wasn't very special either. Embarking by tenders at islands went smoothly enough. They enlarged Labadee to accommodate the large ships and they did it right too. The cabins were skinny and long but well appointed (RCI does get in as many cabins as possible). The worse part was that if you wanted to have a cup of coffee in the open areas youhad to walk from the back of the ship's Windjammer to the pool area where there were 5 tables for 3114 guests. The ship was so large that by the time you got there your coffee was cold. I'd suggest the ship only to see all the neat stuff she has.
We sailed with a Cruise Critic group on the Navigator's Eastern Caribbean route 1/18/03- 1/25/03. Our friends Mike and Debbie, also from Louisville, joined us. We were on the Voyager the past summer and couldn't wait to book her new sister! I will compare these two ships in this review. Our friends stayed at the Hyatt the night prior to the cruise. We flew down the morning of, having stayed at an airport hotel in Louisville, then parking and shuttling to the red- eye. Very easy flights.
Arrival: It was in the low 50's and windy when we arrived at the RCCL terminal in Miami at 11:50. We had to wait in line about 40 minutes outside, which was pretty brisk. Once inside, we waited another 40 minutes in line before finally stepping aboard the ship. We headed to our room and met Wickham, our steward, who provided wonderful, friendly service all week. We gave him his gratuity up front, and later handed him another tip for the great job. I recommend tipping everyone up front; they know you won't stiff them and you'll have a chance to reward above averageservice.
The Ship: On for the tour. Right away, we saw many changes in the Navigator that we liked better than the Voyager. The art work in the atrium is stunning! The library is now separate from the computer terminals, which makes it a bit more peaceful and relaxing. After the Norwalk scare, we noticed more cleaning. The smell of bleach became overwhelming at times and burned my sinuses. The Fitness facility had better machines. They used all Lifestyler bikes, elliptical trainers and treadmills. These machines read your heart rate and have other fun features such as workout programs.The weight machines were also very nice- much better than the Reebok machines on Voyager. The temperature of the gym was cooler, which was pleasant for aerobics.I used the jogging track outdoors once- it was too windy most of the time. 5 laps to a mile, get there early before people start sitting there.
Bars: Vintages Wine Bar was our favorite addition to the ship. We went for seminars, tastings and other events hosted by an affable and knowledgeable staff .The BIG negative is they allow smoking on one side and at the bar which drifts throughout the bar. There is not good ventilation either. It ruined our first tasting when we tried to distinguish smells from fruits and compare them with wines. All we could smell was smoke! At later tastings, they asked people to refrain from smoking, but it was still allowed at other times. RCCL allows smoking in all bars- here's one where they could offer a smoke-free environment! Boleros: This replaced the Aquarium bar on Voyager. It had warm, rich tones and gorgeous glass flowers on the walls. My favorite artwork on the ship. They had the Rosario strings playing a mixture of standards and Latin music. The dancing was great! This quartet also provided tunes on the Promenade in the afternoons. They were fabulous and much appreciated.
Ixtapa Lounge: Pretty typical rock music. The Stingrays did a variety for the theme nights .They have an excellent keyboardist/singer who is the guts of the group. This lounge also hosted the karaoke nights. They are no longer contests, as the ones held in Pig and Whistle on Voyager.
Two Poets: PeteWickersham played guitar and sang a typical variety. We enjoyed singing with him and he was gracious with passing the mike . He enjoyed the harmony, and was a good entertainer. Cosmopolitan Club: Bigger than High Notes on Voyager. Also, prettier, warmer with a larger dance floor. Excellent jazz Band, the Phil Magallenes Quintet. We only wished they had played a little more swing,; we love that dancing. Pianist was one of the best I've heard on a cruise. Real pro.
Studio B: This is where the fabulous ice show was held. Do not miss it. They didn't "fly" as on the Voyager, but it was more Ice Dancing instead of the competition format. The costumes and music were stunning. On one night, a dance floor was installed, and there was a 50's-60's sock hop. Jeffrey Arpin, the Cruise Director, dressed as 'Big Daddy" and hosted a dance competition, sang and played piano! The Stingrays did the music and the staff danced as well. It was a solid hour of fun!
Schooner Bar: Usually a favorite, we weren't crazy about Matt Yee. I play piano for a living, so I am a bit opinionated. When we do piano bars, we like the crazy stuff, but it's also nice to do some standards and sing alongs. Most pianists pass the mike and make it a group activity. he wouldn't give up the Gilligan's Island stuff. In your face music. Every other song, he'd break into the song from Grease- wella wella wella UUGGHH. That's what you heard over and over and over when you passed through. I found it pretty annoying.
The Dungeon: Very cool, loved the cracked glass steps,gothic-style decor, lighting was something to see. We didn't care for the music, so didn't stay there long.
Food: Windjammer/Jade: Big improvements here! There is a lovely wood-trimmed entrance to this area with Chops and Portofino's on either side. Jade has the first buffet lines. I REALLY enjoyed the food here. I had some interesting Indian dishes, Chinese mixed veggies with Tofu ,and salad with a very spicy Indian dressing. Since buffet food tends to be bland, this is a welcome change. The buffet of the Windjammer is now set up in several stations. It keeps the lines shorter, but also has people going in lots of directions! The food was good- they had a couple of fish and chicken dishes which were tasty and had an excellent vegetable stew. I'm not a big meat eater, but my tablemates raved about the short ribs. At breakfast, you could have an omelet made at the very back line. The fruit was excellent- pineapple fresh, watermelon and cantaloupe sweet. The spicy salsa was great on eggs.
Dining Room: Food was good to very good. Lobster on Friday was superb. Many ordered two. We were booked with a group and were originally given first seating with them. The four of us from Louisville had our cards hand- marked , and we were changed to second seating on the third tier by the door at a table for 10! We got a very strange explanation when asked how this occurred. We spent a couple hours with Raj, our patient Head Waiter, trying to get it right. Many in our group were really irate! They've cruised extensively, and had never encountered such a mess. There was a large group of senior citizens who switched seats and made it difficult to rectify the situation. However, on the second night, 8 from our group were seated together on the second tier, albeit alongside the senior group. That was fine, they were very nice and we made some friends in that group. Our waiter, Tamer, was wonderful as was his assistant Richard.
Chops: We had a group of 13 at two separate tables. We arrived, got water, then waited 10 minutes for a drink order and bread. Terrible! The service was spotty all night. The filet was wonderful, and they brought all the sides on the menu served "family style." Really enjoyed that. Captain Bang's daughter was having a birthday there that night, and they shared the cake with us! The Adventure Ocean kids above us made a lot of noise during dinner.Sounded like elephants.
Portofino: Perfect service from Eva and Ernest. Food very good- atmosphere excellent. Loved the truffles after dinner!
Cafe Promenade: Loved the daily sandwich specials. Also had sweets, fruit and pizza. The Navigator is serving Seattle's Best Coffee now; what an improvement!
Entertainment: Poolside: The Mega Four was an outstanding band. They did all the standard Marley covers, plus a wide selection of Caribbean and standards. Excellent musicians; really got the party going.
Metropolis Theater: RCCL Singers and Dancers- First show, Now and Forever, was our favorite. Featured Broadway numbers. I didn't write down the names of everyone, but Stephanie Pope was featured female singer. The featured young man was an excellent entertainer, too. Stephanie is pregnant, so I doubt she'll be there very long! We heard Phil Tag, comedian, who was good and did the late adult show.Also enjoyed Don Friesen. Our favorite act was Two Funny Guys= two Argentineans Mario and Daniel who were gut- busting funny! Singer/Pianist Bobby Avron, known as the "Voice of Happy Days" proved he had many other skills, including impersonating all the popular male singers you could imagine. A real ball of energy!
Parties: We had our Cruise Critic party on Monday at 11 am. We put faces behind the names we'd seen on the Internet all those months. It was a lively, friendly group and we made many friends. (Linda and Joe from New Hampshire gave us a tour of the Royal Suite- that was something to behold! ) The Captain, his wife and family came to the party, as well as Jeffrey Arpin, the cruise director and Genie Lee, the social host. Several others on the staff attended as well. During the week, many in our group attended dinners together, had a put-putt tournament and a "White Shark" gift exchange .On the final night of the cruise, the four of us participated in the talent contest. Me on piano, Mike aka "Michelle" on lead vocal and Rick and Debbie on backup. Despite us, there was some good talent that night! This was the friendliest cruise I've been on- both passengers and staff. It was our 5th cruise, and it was a bumpy ride! The weather all over the nation was bad, and it affected the seas. The waves in the pool were soaking the deck during our "Under the Stars" dance! The towel monkey was swinging so hard, he was hitting the ceiling.
Ports: Nassau, San Juan, Labadee, St. Thomas: We did this cruise for the ship, not the ports. I can add little or nothing to what has been written. In St. Thomas, we took a cab to Red Hook (20 min) then took a 15-min ferry to St. John. That's where the beauty is! We parked at Cinnamon Bay this year. It has a restaurant, showers and facilities as well as lockers and snorkeling gear. It was too rough to snorkel, though, but you could SURF! Shopped a while in Cruz Bay- very quaint- before taking the ferry to Charlotte Amalie (45 min). We walked approx. one and a half miles through the shopping area downtown back to our ship. In Labadee, we just beach walked and enjoyed the barbecue. I swam a mile in the ocean there. Easy swimming, but the water isn't clear or pretty, and there are no reefs or fish to see. We stayed on the ship in the other ports.. Debarkation: We were in the second group (purple, blue, gray). We sat at the Cafe Promenade enjoying snacks and coffee.until called The Voyager did not offer that; what a welcome change. We were called at 10 o'clock, and by 10:30 were in the cab. Very smooth and efficient. Miami airport was a total zoo! We curb-checked, which helped a bit. The security line wrapped all over the airport and there was mass confusion about where to go. The staff could not handle it. It took us over an hour just to get through security! We spent a leisurely hour in the airport, then returned home to snow and record cold. We picked the right week to travel!
Conclusion: This was our favorite cruise so far. RCCL staff once again impressed us thoroughly. The Navigator is a stunning ship, and the changes between her and her sister ship, The Voyager, are welcome. We can't wait to book the Mariner next year! Any comments or questions, feel free to email us at LLindaC@aol.com
The ship was awsome, never did we feel like we were crowded, or bored. The room was spaced out so we could fit 2 and half large suitcases and have plenty of room to move around. All the crew members were friendly and seemed proud to be on such a nice ship. The main dinning room provided wonderful meals and service. Sometimes breakfast was a little slow, otherwise everything was great. The workout facilities were great for a ship, plenty of machines and free weigh dumbells to use, also there was a seperate room for spinning, kick boxing, and other classes.
The spa seemed to want to sell you over priced treatments, pills and other things to take home. The locker rooms had a steam bath, and sauna that were very nice, as was the hot tub. On deck there were many pools and hot tubs to enjoy, a large jogging track, we had fun rollerblading, there was miniture golf, a clibming wall and an ice skating rink that we did not try.
Over all it was by far the best of 5 cruises I have been on and highly recomendthe ship.
We sailed on this newest of the Eagle or Voyager class vessels on Sunday, December 8th, on a two night pre-inaugural voyage for the Travel Industry and press. To get right to the point, if you enjoy these floating mammoth resorts at sea, and it is hard not to, then chart your course in a straight line to the Navigator of the Seas. She's a beauty. and, to this cruiser's taste, she's far and away the most attractive and inviting of them all.
Navigator has a different look about her that's noticeable even from a distance. Her balcony cabins have a much more open design than her earlier sisters and it gives the ship a very different look. in a sense she looks sleeker. less formidable. it is hard to put the effect into words, but it is clearly evident. and to me it represents a remarkable and significant improvement.
by the way, I'm still not sure of exactly what her Gross Registered Tonnage is. Most of the material passed out on board shows her to be 139,000 GRT. Others on board, including some senior Royal Caribbean folk speak in termsof 142,500 GRT. Given her huge size, I suppose this small difference will be of interest only to cruise ship statistical gurus (nerd's?), and I suppose Royal Caribbean will figure it out before too long.
I liked each of the builds in this class and noted that each new vessel's interior seems to have been toned down from the original Voyager. While this is clearly a matter of personal taste, to me it was a good trend. What we have with the Navigator of the Seas is quite special indeed. It seems to me almost as if Royal Caribbean designed the ship and then gave over the interiors to a Celebrity designer. Navigator is a classic, top to bottom and if you've been on any of her siblings, you cannot miss the difference. Extensive use of fine woods throughout the public areas is just superb. The entire aft area on Deck 11, leading to the Windjammer Buffet area and the Chops Grille and Portofino Restaurants, is magnificent. The Royal Promenade, as breathtaking in size here as it is on her sisters, has a very different look and feel to it. It is elegant and restrained. with the addition of several new and interesting shopping, dining and drinking venues. including the much talked about "Vintages". acclaimed as the first totally dedicated wine bar afloat. If you're a fancier of wine, you'll love Vintages. it is more than just a bar. in fact, far from it. Want to learn more about wine? This is the spot!
The main dining room is a three deck high enormous space, each deck with a different theme, but all based upon ballet motifs. The effect is dramatic. Tables are very well spaced and the vast open areas make for a very comfortable noise level indeed. One can actually have a conversation with tablemates in normal tones! The room works well and is simply gorgeous!
The main theater, the "Metropolis" is stunning. If you like art deco, as I do, you will love the Metropolis. It is the most appealing and attractive new large space done in art deco that I can recall seeing. And, it works as a theater too. great sight lines across the board, easy access and all the modern gimmickry that one expects to see. What a grand and beautiful space this is. They have done some job here!
Navigator of the Seas has most of the passenger amenities found on the other ships in her class. the signature Rock Climbing Wall, Golf Course, Other Worldly Disco and a significantly enlarged Club Ocean kids facility. Of course the Casino is huge and the center bar is quite active all the time. There's an large Internet Cafe (internet connections in the cabins, too), a comfortable and fairly well stocked library, a Wedding Chapel on top of (yes, on top of) the Viking Crown Lounge and, of course, Johnny Rockets.
Speaking of food, the Windjammer is nicely laid out and functional. We found the selections at breakfast and lunch to be attractively presented, varied and good. (We understand that this is a special sailing for the Industry and Press, so it really is hard to judge the food.) The addition of Chops Grille is the icing on the cake. If I were to design a restaurant, it would come out looking a lot like Chops and I'd do exactly the same menu. New York Steak House fare. from a specially provisioned kitchen. It is a knockout! Make your reservations early. Portofino is beautifully designed too. and located just across from Chops. Then, if you're in need of more sustenance, there's a new Ben and Jerry's ice cream stand (with a charge) and a nearby frozen custard station (without a charge) and the Cafe Promenade serving sandwiches, deserts and coffee and other beverages round the clock. You won't go hungry on Navigator of the Seas.
We visited examples of most categories of cabins on the ship and they are quite similar to what one finds on her sister ships. with the exception of course of the balconies, which are a great improvement in terms of their openness and the airy feeling that creates. A great improvement is found here.
These huge vessels are not to everyone's taste. I think that serious cruisers should experience them at least once. they are very special indeed. If I were to have the opportunity of sailing only on one of them, my choice, hands down, would be Navigator of the Seas. She's a class act in every sense of the words!
Bravo Royal Caribbean. you've managed to take an innovative and spectacular class of ship and polish and hone it to a fine luster, with a good helping of taste too boot! In my mind, that is a hard to beat combination!
Just returned from a 7 day caribbean cruise (May 24-31), aboard the Navigator of the Seas and can only say: Amazing - the ship is simply breathtaking in stature and in opportunity: From the Metrolpis theater with the amazing shows/performers (from ashore as well as from the RC crew), to the promenade woth it's varied shops/services, the food, and especially the Ice Rink/Studio B. (To imagine, and then implement, ice skating on a cruise ship could only come from RCI).
All of these helped produce an absolutely magnificent vacation for my wife and myself - This is our 2nd cruise with RCI. Our 1st was on the Nordic Empress back in 2000, and despite the vast differences in the ships, the RCI standard of excellence was present, and consistent, on the Navigator: Captain Bang and the crew, the waiters/assistants, shop keeprs, etc were all extemely pleasant, cheerful, and helpful (we did have 'serious' discord with our Cabin Steward but that was mentioned in our survey at end of the cruise and did not let it affect our cruise.) Overall, our experience was rewarding and simply put - a LOT of fun... Welook forward, anxiously, to our next cruise...
This was a truly great ship - built like a classic liner! We had booked an outside with balcony on a guarantee but were upgraded to a Catagory C suite - cabin #6394 which was very large and located at the stern of the ship - our balcony was great with an unobstructed view over the back of the ship.
The service and entertainment staff were great and I highly recommend the free shopping tours they offer in the ports. It was a great way to get oriented to the layout of the port and then you could either stay with them and get a paid ride back to the ship or wander around on your own and make your own way back to the ship later.
The food was good overall - we had room service breakfast every morning so we could eat out on the balcony - everything always arrived hot and fresh and they always sent way too much food!!
The entertainment was very good and the floorshows were some of the best I've seen. I have sailed twice before on RCCL and at least once on HollandAmerica, Celebrity, NCL, and Celebrity.
I would definately plan on attending the ice show - it was a highlight of the trip and I went back twice because it was so well-done.
I am sure you will love this ship if you decide to sail on her - she is a real beauty with a great crew - say hi to Charles for me if you see him at his line dancing classes!
This was our 12th RCI cruise and our 4th on a Voyager (Eagle) Class ship, having sailed on all Navigator's sister ships: the Voyager, the Explorer and the Adventure of the Seas. The Navigator is the "spitting image" of the other three; in fact, berthed in the Port of Miami next to the Explorer, she could only be differentiated by her name. Even though, the Navigator is 1,000 tons bigger, thus making it the largest cruise ship afloat, the increase in size is only due to larger balconies, a difference not easily discerned. We eagerly anticipate each new cruise experience and this voyage on the Navigator was one to remember, not only for the wonders of a new ship, but also to visit once again with old friends and make new acquaintances. Captain Leif Otto Bang commands a bright, eager to please staff with Hotel Manager Raimund Gschieder orchestrating the superb service. Cruise Director Jeffrey Arpin sets the pace for a lively and enjoyable time aboard, and Chief Purser Jorge Lynch makes sure all sails smoothly (more about these integral men later).
The Navigator of the Seas is quickly located in port,just look for the BIGGEST. This time we saw the twin biggest! (Docked one after the other were the Navigator and the Explorer.) The aqua blue glass superstructure and the almost all glass exterior with the Crown & Anchor atop are the identifying characteristics. Be prepared to literally look down upon other ships in ports of call, since, this ship is tall: We did dwarf the Nordic Empress and enjoyed an aerial view of her in Cozumel. She is one of the older and the smallest of RCI's fleet, but quite charming with her gigantic Chess Board Game on deck and vestiges of former glory. Captain Bang speaks fondly of her.
It was an advantage to have sailed on the Navigator's sister ships and be familiar with her deck plan; comparisons and differences quickly become obvious. The Navigator's decor is elegant. There is nothing glitzy about her (no glaring neon or overly decorated areas). She is outfitted beautifully with fine woods, cleverly carved and in interesting combinations. We enjoyed her stunning grandiosity and stylish simplicity with attention to detail, a perfect combination of "beauty & practicality."
EMBARKATION As Diamond Members of RCI Crown & Anchor Society, we know well the hospitality RCI so warmly extends to repeat cruisers. Boarding was simple, since a special lounge is set up for members with seating, refreshments and a priority check-in. We arrived at the port 12:30pm and, with a minimum of security checks, were on board by 1:00pm. We went immediately to the dining room to check on our table assignment and saw a familiar face, Asst. Maitre D' Apolo Coelho who arranged for a table for two, then we were off to the buffet - - a very nice spread!
THE SHIP This 650 million dollar wonder took 18 months to build; she is 1,020 feet in length; tonnage of 139,000 tons; cruising speed of 22 knots; she can accommodate 3,835 guests (this voyage had 3,400) in her 1,557 rooms on board. Her crew numbers 1,256 and all of this on a ship with a draft of only 28 feet! These are staggering statistics, but all soon to be surpassed by the already under construction Queen Mary II by Cunard Line (150,000 tons), and the race to bigger and better cruise ships keeps on going. A hint to cruisers: Whenever on board a large ship, it is best to pick up a the deck plan early.
Deck 2 forward has the ground floor of the Metropolitan Theater, the Conference Center and Category I ocean view staterooms.
Deck 3 forward is the main level of the Metropolitan Theater, midship is the Centrum with Kirkland's "Aquatica," reminiscent of his other works on the Voyager and Adventure, a 5 deck high suspended bubble sculpture, best seen from below as the artist first conceived it. Moving toward aft is the first floor of the Dungeon Nightclub decorated with gargoyles, shields, halberds and stain glass windows. Midship is the Studio B Entertainment Complex, with the Ice Rink and Interactive TV Studio, a stage and three bar stations. In the aft is the first level of the three tier dining room, the "Nutcracker." Category H ocean view cabins complete this deck.
Decks 4 & 5 are Public Areas only.
Deck 4, the Promenade Deck, forward holds the balcony of the Metropolitan, a well-designed multilevel theater with elegant simplicity, except for the strikingly ornate curtain which depicts a dancing girl in various poses. Going midship is the Schooner Bar with its traditional odor of ropes, items of ship memorabilia and, by now, the familiar Ebbing collages of sails and sailor's knots framed with brass portholes. Next is the entrance to the second level of the Dungeon, flanked by two snarling life size guard dogs made by Ridgeway Sculpture of fiber glass resin, but very bronze looking. Inside is the Dungeon's Balcony, where the portraits of the "Executioner" and the "Executioner's Wife" (observe her hands!) can be admired. Midship is the Casino Royale with a New Orleans Jazz motif (nice and roomy not jammed with slots). Aft is the gorgeous Bolero Bar with its gigantic glass flowers by Zsiba-Smolover studio (USA), whose work we remembered from the Grandeur. Very nice to just sit or stroll around or up the glass and chrome staircase to Deck 5. Aft is the second dining room level, the "Coppelia."
Deck 5 forward is the outside prow, accessible from the side exits of the Mayan style Ixtapa Lounge or the Connoisseur Club (Cigar Bar with wood, leather, smoke, love seats and arm chairs and a Black Jack Dealer table). Midship is the Royal Promenade: An exclusive feature of these voyager class ships. This is a 5 deck high Euro style street, connecting the forward and aft centrums, boasts Bars, Boutiques, Sidewalk Cafe`, etc., etc....This atrium, longer than a football field, is comparable to a town center, where people stroll by, sit at sidewalk cafes, eating ice cream, or just watching the performances of jugglers, mimes or musicians. It definitely is the heartbeat of the ship. An eye catcher here is the blue restored Type 35 Bugatti (by the Norwegian Greve).
All the way aft is the third level of the dining room, the "Swan Lake." The three levels are linked by a huge, curvy, arched staircase with the focal point being a bronze statue of a ballerina "en pointe" ready to jete` off --- very nice. The colors of these rooms are beautiful from deep blues to celestial blues, from pale gold to warm burgundy and all complemented by an impressive central chandelier (cleaned with a "cherry picker") and the many hemispherical chandeliers surrounding the open center of the rooms. Antiqued mirrors on the walls reflecting the many crystals and lights created optical illusions as when the chandelier behind our table appeared to have blue crystals. Elegant rooms like these need little or no ornamentation. Indeed, we feel that the collage style portraits of dancers were an unnecessary addition to these rooms, they didn't enhance the beauty, rather they detracted it. Instead, by contrast, the authentic beaded costumes (of Clara and Captain Kracko from the "Nutcracker") displayed at the entrance foyers truly added to the ambiance.
Decks 6, 7, 8, 9 & 10 are mostly devoted to staterooms and suites, the majority of which have balconies. There are twenty-six wheelchair accessible staterooms, sixteen have ocean view (ten with balconies), nine inside and one with bay windows overlooking the Royal Promenade. Additional attractions on these decks are the following: Business Services (6), Library (7), Internet Hub (8) and finally the Concierge Club (9), an elegant room with an amazing collection of Amazonian Indian feathered headdresses (Kayapiz, Rio Xingu & Tapirape tribes are represented). The Concierge Roy Ellis can do anything you can do . . . . only better and faster!
Decks 11, 12, 13, 14 & 15 are again public areas.
Deck 11 forward has the Shipshape Fitness Center & Spa with machines galore and a wonderful hydromassage pool. Outside, in the Solarium, there are two huge whirlpools and a salt water lap pool - - - go early, 8:00-9:00am and the place is all yours. This Solarium is artfully decorated with beautiful horses, reminiscent of the Explorer, from the Barsanti Studios (Italy) and a lovely life size Venus of white Carrara marble stands at the steps to the pool. The enameled resin flags from the Palio of Siena were unnecessary and more of a distraction than enhancement; similarly, Parkinson's still life mosaics (fruit, wine and foods) would have been more at home in the Windjammer than out here. This whole area is made truly beautiful by amazing live plants including topiaries and miniature heather in bloom. The Barsanti mosaics depicting the Tuscan hills are excellent, especially in their perspective from an artistic point of view.
Midship on this deck is the main pool area with two swimming pools, four whirlpools and plenty of deck chairs for sun bathers. Toward aft there are the two specialty restaurants, Chops Grille (portside) and Portofino (starboard) where upscale dining with impeccable service is available for a nominal fee ($20). Close by is Jade (Asian fusion or Pacific Rim cuisine), a novelty for RCI. Finally, the Windjammer completes this area of many dining options with numerous buffet stations helping to reduce lines. We have heard that this is the preferred style of eating for most cruisers; however, we still like to sit down in the dining room and be served at the table.
Many cruisers commented on the interesting use of wood and clean lines throughout the ship. In fact, this is most evident in the Chops Grille, where we admired a quiet dark wood paneled room with a stunning magnolia tree in its center. We dined there as guests of the knowledgeable General Manager Raimund Gschnaider, who was helpful in sharing ship details with us. Cruise Director Jeffrey Arpin (witty, urbane and clever) rounded out our group. This alternative dining option is a definite must: veal chops, Boston Clam Chowder and Mississippi Mud Pie prove that passengers on cruises should never diet. The excellent dinner and the pleasant company made the evening for us. Thank you Raimund, thank you Jeffrey for the interesting conversation and a great evening!
Deck 12 is a haven for exercisers, since forward is the upper level of the fitness center, midship are the Sky Bar and the jogging track, and the whole rear of this deck is devoted to teenagers: Disco Fuel, the Living Room, Club Ocean, and an open air Back Deck (complete with with four huge prickly pear cacti). The demographics of RCI passengers with an average age in the forties ensures that this area is well utilized since many families are onboard with children of all ages. All having fun!
This is where Johnny Rockets is found, the 50's diner all decked out in red naugahyde and chrome. It's a great place for a lunch of excellent chili, hamburgers, hot dogs, French fries, ice cream floats and shakes, and that good old fashioned Rock 'n Roll. Look for the Slovakian cousins (real cousins!) Roman Lucko and Adrian Holka. They served, sang, danced and charmed their way into our hearts: Juke box magic!
Deck 13 aft has the 200 feet above sea rock climbing wall, a sports court, an in-line skating track, a sun bathing area, and a nine hole mini golf course "The Navigator Dunes."
Deck 14 forward has the Viking Crown Lounge, high above the ship, it offers the best views of the ocean and the sports deck below. Here are located the card room, Crow's Nest, the Cosmopolitan Jazz Club and the 19th Hole Bar. In the Corridor leading to the Cosmopolitan is a gallery with Gottlieb's photo prints on glass of the great ones: Louis Armstrong, Ella Fizgerald, Charlie Parker, etc. In the area outside the 19th Hole Bar there are the funniest caricatures aboard --- overlooking the basketball court, are two larger than life size figures, a tourist couple in all their "unathletic" glory, the "Beloved Passengers" by Daddona (American). Picture this: flowered shorts, striped shirts, bulging paunches, very entertaining! Actually this is the best view of the Sports deck, standing alongside these two characters.
Deck 15 holds only the Skylight Chapel. The closest thing to heaven on board. It seats 60 and is often utilized for weddings.
FOOD & SERVICE The food on board the Navigator is similar to that on all RCI ships. This line has reached a high level of homogeneity or equality of fare among the ships. Cruisers can be sure that the offerings and quality, designed for American palate, are tempting. Meats are exceptional and served as ordered, say "medium rare" and that's what comes! Portions are regular, not too large or too small; however, we still could do with less, so many times we share to avoid wasting food.
General Manager Raimund Gschaider explained the new and more stringent innovations of the Outbreak Prevention Program (OPP) and about some of the additional sanitary precautions being taken to avoid transmitting any infection brought on board. For instance breadbaskets are no longer placed on tables; instead, the bread is served with tongs by a waiter. Dining room staff and other crew no longer shake hands with passengers; they politely apologize that stringent rules are for safety of all. Ice buckets are no longer placed automatically in staterooms; however, if you ask for one, it will come "hot" from the sterilizer with fresh ice. Ill passengers are isolated immediately to avoid any possibility of transmission. Common areas, door handles, elevator buttons, rest rooms etc. are constantly being sanitized. At dinner with Captain Bang, we joked about the necessity for "Elevator Etiquette," like standing aside to allow passengers off; moreover, in these days of Norfolk virus, we also need "Sanitary Etiquette," like covering the mouth when coughing or sneezing. Passengers need to wash their hands often as a protection for both themselves and others! Whatever new procedures RCI has implemented, they seem to be working.
We found the food to be presented neatly and appealingly - - - - salads were crisp, soups were hot, and entrees cooked perfectly. However, the best meal on board was at Captain Bang's table. Mary, seated on the Captain's left, had ample opportunity to ask questions and he proved to be both intelligent and jovial. The Captain had spent most of the 18 months it took to build the Navigator at the Kvaerner Masa Shipyards in Turko, Finland. He knows his ship intimately. The conversation with the Captain and the other guests at the table made this a very enjoyable dining experience. We were also pleased to have at the table Ms. Debbie Nylund, an RCI Environmental Officer, whom we had previously met on the Radiance. Vincent enjoyed once again chatting with her about environmental activities aboard ships and other interesting topics.
Mary asked the Captain: Since the Navigator, after all, is the largest cruise ship afloat, and carries over (what some captains still refer to as) 5,000 SOULS, how does he sleep at night under all that pressure? He answered simply, "I sleep like a baby. It is 'trust' which allows me to do so. I know my bridge mates personally and for many years. I have the utmost confidence that whether I am on the bridge or in bed every regulation and procedure is followed strictly." We slept well that night, too! We had a terrific meal of Sun Ripened Pineapple Delight, House salad of escarole and oakleaf lettuce, and vine ripened yellow tomatoes (with Florida orange dressing), Lobster Tail Royale (with garlic butter, paella rice and broccoli florets), which Vincent pronounced "Excellent!" Mary opted for the Rosemary Roasted Chicken (au jus, with pearl onions and polenta fingers) all exceptional. Desserts are great on RCI, and this meal was no exception: An Almond Meringue with Tutti Frutti or the souffle from the main menu. Delicious! Service at the Captain's table was top notch by Asst. Maitre D' Apolo.
Every evening we had prompt service at our table for two, #423, in the Coppelia Dining Room. Head Waiter Christopher Renford kept a close eye on everything and our Waiter Koray Baysal was affable and quick. His Asst. Waiter Antonio Gordon has a good teacher and is learning the ropes.
Service all over the ship was excellent. We used Room Service for breakfast every morning and it was friendly, accurate and quick.
CABIN We had booked stateroom #7600, but we received our third upgrade in thirty-three cruises to #1268, a Category B Suite, thanks to the friendly Chief Purser Jorge Lynch. It was lovely, and contributed to making this cruise unforgettable.
When entering on the left there is a full bath with double sink, tub/shower (granite, marble and tile abound) Look for a mosaic of the "Wind God." Next there is a desk/vanity, a queen size bed with nightstands in a drapery enclosed alcove and a large screen interactive TV.
When entering on the right there are four mirrored armoires, a full Bar Island with refrigerator, dining area, large coffee table, hide-a-bed sofa, lamp table and two upholstered barrel chairs. The far wall is windows to the oversized balcony and the sea. The draperies and linen in this room are quite nice: heavy woven brocades in blues and gold. There were three framed silk screens of cymbidium orchids and narcissus on the walls.
Our first steward seemed a bit distracted; we later found out he was ill. His replacement Marvin was terrific. The opportunity for a simplified method of tipping the service staff is great. We had the recommended amounts charged to our account and, on the final evening, envelopes and vouchers were delivered to our room. Yet, we always feel free to tip on a daily basis anyone who is helpful and we added cash to the prepared vouchers; after all, excellent service deserves a reward!
ENTERTAINMENT The heart and soul of a ship, as Captain Bang explains, are the people on board. The daily COMPASS is the best guide to activities, and the Navigator has more fun opportunities than any other ship. Cruise Director Jeffrey Arpin has a huge assignment and he executes it with aplomb. He is funny, friendly, and fast on his feet since he travels between so many venues - - - keeping all the balls up in the air. This ship is a "destination in itself." Sports, dancing, music and spectacular shows nightly. The Navigator, like her sister ships, boasts of her ice shows, and she should: "Ice Dancin," with Violetta & Peter Dack and the International Ice Cast lived up to the publicity: EXCELLENT! The regular shows with comedians Rodney Johnson and James Stephens III and the production shows by the RCI Orchestra, singers and dancers are quite good. Perhaps the most memorable single act was the "Duo Iouvilov," a combination of dancing and acrobatics. We didn't think those positions were possible! If passengers prefer to rest in their stateroom, many of these attractions are shown on their cabin's TV.
PORTS OF CALL As frequent Caribbean cruisers, we have seen all of these ports many times over, but every cruise is different and the dynamics are always changing. The weather can change plans, but when on vacation it's best to go with the flow.
Sunday: Sea Day. Monday: Labadee, Haiti Arrival: 8:00am Departure: 4:00pm Tuesday: Ochos Rios, Jamaica Canceled due to high seas Wednesday: Grand Cayman Arrival: 8:00am Departure: 4:00pm Thursday: Cozumel, Mexico Arrival: 10:00am Departure: 7:00pm (delayed for 30 late passengers) Friday: Sea Day
CONCLUSION The more we cruise, the more intrigued we are by the artwork on each ship. Suddenly, we are more interested in what differentiates one ship from another and what gives each ship her "personality." We admire unique pieces of art and frequently recognize recurring themes from ship to ship, especially on those within the same class, e.g. the Voyager class. On recent cruises, we made a point of visiting each ship from top to bottom (or vice versa), to see and enjoy her art collection; it is like Art Appreciation 101 or maybe 102. But it gives us pleasure and we are improving at recognizing common characteristics and styles of certain artists whose artwork is frequently present on various ships of the same cruise line. Sometime the names are not easily remembered, but once identified, we can recalled them as authors of other pieces on other ships. We were told that the art collection on the Navigator costs $ 8.5 million. Surely, she can be compared to a nice art museum.
We enjoy cruising, especially on new ships. The smell of new, the desire of seeing, feeling and comparing the new ambiance with that of other ships are the reasons for booking cruises early on the ships' inaugural season (or voyage). We are ready to book cruises on both the Serenade and on the Mariner for this coming fall; however, we have already booked three cruises on RCI ships, two in May on the Grandeur (back-to-back, transatlantic and Baltic Capitals), and a family reunion in October on the Explorer (Western Caribbean). It'll be nice to revisit both ships; it will be our third and fourth cruise on the Grandeur and our second on the Explorer. It looks like this will be for us another year of intensive cruising. Happy Cruising!
I can't believe my dream vacation is over. I planned this vacation for more than a year, checking prices and information frequently to build up my excitement. Now the vacation is over, and it is my turn to put my memories into words.
Jan. 10(Friday): Pre-Cruise stay. We flew from cold Boston to Miami a day early to ensure that no cancellation or delay would affect our cruise. We stayed at the Doubletree Biscayne Bay downtown. For a one-night stay, it was fine. The room was huge with a marina view, and I could see Navigator docked at the pier. We went to the Bayside Market for some shopping and dining. For the price I paid through Hotwire, $53, it was nice way to start a vacation.
Jan. 11: Embarkation. After breakfast, we grabbed a taxi to the pier, and got there around 10:30 a.m. Since the ship's passengers from the previous cruise were still disembarking, we had to wait about an hour. Once we got to an agent, it was very quick and we were in our cabin by noon. We grabbed lunch at Windjammer and started to check out theship.
The Ship: Navigator is a beautiful ship. All the public areas, the Royal Promenade, from the dining room to the pool area, were tastefully done.
Our Cabin: 9690, an aft corner cabin. I made a reservation based on recommendations from fellow cruisers. And they were absolutely right. It felt very small after our huge hotel room, but as the day went by, we started to feel it was just right. All the space was used perfectly and everything was accommodating. What can I say about the balcony? It was wonderful -- the perfect place to have room service, take the sun without fighting over a chair on the pool deck, and to check out the views of each port. Although our cabin was smaller than the next one (9692) due to its triangular shape, it was very private. I asked my cabin attendant, Lisette, to bring us bathrobes and lounge chairs, which she brought us right away. There is a porthole window you can sit in because it is pretty deep. All in all, I loved this cabin!
Activities: We had a lifeboat drill at 4:30 p.m. Then we headed to our balcony for the sail-away. There was a Bon Voyage parade on the Promenade.
Dining: We were worried because we were assigned to a small table. I am happy to say it was a waste of time to worry. Our table-mates Kenny and Carole from Buffalo were the best companions we could ask for. They had a good sense of humor and kept us laughing all the time. Every day we had great conversations.
Jan. 12: At Sea. This was my Birthday. We enjoyed on-board activities today -- played mini-golf, spent time at the swimming pool, and played Scrabble at the Seven Hearts game room. There was an ice skating show, and it was phenomenal -- beautiful costumes and amazing talent! Since this was a formal night, we headed back to our room to change. Many people got in line to have a formal photo taken, and so did we. We had a great meal in the dining room with Kenny and Carole. While we were having dessert, an old lady behind our table had a birthday cake with a song by waiters. Then Carole asked me, "When is your birthday?" I said, "as a matter of fact, today!" So she bought me a shot in a red metallic glass from the bar waiter to celebrate my 30th. Sure enough, my husband asked our waiter to bring me a cake and I received one, too. It was a great way to mark my 30th.
Jan. 13: At Sea/San Juan. We basically had another sea day since we didn't arrive until 4 p.m. We have been to San Juan before, so we just strolled around old San Juan and went to El Morro. It was already dark, so we headed back to the ship and relaxed until dinner.
Jan. 4: St. Maarten. A beautiful day at a scenic port. Disney Magic, Golden Princess and Radiance were also there. We took a tour to Orient Beach with "Beach Rendezvouz." They provided us a comfortable transfer bus and reserved deck chair plus lunch at a restaurant. We had a choice of entrees and took the fish plate. But the fish was too dry and tasteless. A waitress changed our order to the chicken plate, which was very tasty. The beach was beautiful, with emerald green warm Caribbean water. We had a brief shower twice while at beach, but it didn't ruin our day. After that, we went to Phillipsburg to check some stores and saw "Everything Cool" beach. The water is much nicer at Orient Beach, but there was a fun atmosphere at Everything Cool. After a day on the beach we were so hungry and couldn't wait for dinner, so we decided to go to Johnny Rocket's. We ate and had a yummy milkshake and felt so sleepy at 7:30 p.m....Alas, we woke up at 11 p.m. and realized we had missed dinner.
Jan. 15: St. Thomas. Another day in paradise. Because we stopped at a non-U.S. port yesterday, everyone had to go through immigration at designated areas for U.S. citizens or non-US citizens. We had a BOB (Breathing Observation Bubble) excursion starting at 7:30 a.m., so we had a quick breakfast at our balcony and left at 7 a.m. for immigration. Not many people were there yet, so it only took three minutes to get our passports back. The BOB excursion was a good alternative for us since we usually snorkel or lie on the beach. It lets you move around underwater with a kind of individual motor scooter that has a breathing apparatus/helmet. You can easily operate it with a button and a handle at a maximum speed of 3 mph.
There were 30 of us on the boat for this excursion and it was divided into six groups. We were the last ones to use the BOBs, so we did snorkeling first for about an hour. There were so many staff divers and swimmers around us, we never felt unsafe. The view from my own BOB was amazing. The fish looked very tiny and right in front of me through the glass. We were underwater about 20 minutes and it was great. After the excursion, we headed back to ship for lunch and took a tram to Paradise Point for a beautiful view of the island. At dinner, we had a long conversation because we'd missed each other the day before. It was a wonderful day.
Jan. 16: At Sea. Now we are heading back to Miami. We sat on our balcony to take the sun for a while. Then we enjoyed some on-board activities and relaxed.
Jan. 17: Bahamas. We arrived at Nassau around noon. The temperature was pleasant, in the upper 70s, but chilly for swimming. The view enter to Nassau's harbor was beautiful from our aft balcony. We saw the lighthouse and Atlantis resort perfectly. We decided to go to check out the famous Atlantis resort on Paradise Island. We took a water taxi for $6 per person roundtrip. After we spend about two hours at the resort, we headed back to the Straw Market near the pier. We did some shopping there and returned back to ship for the last night's dinner. It was very sad to pack our suitcases.
Jan. 18: Debarkation. When I woke up at 7 a.m., we were already in the Port of Miami. We called Enterprise Rent a Car to pick us up at the pier, and drove to Key west. We checked in at the Hyatt Key West for two nights before heading back home. On Monday, we drove back to Miami Airport in about three hours. When we get back home in Boston, the temperature was freezing. Wish I could go back!
I hope your cruise vacation will bring you lots of wonderful memories as I had. You can check out some of our pictures at http://community.webshots.com/user/marinecruiser.