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Tom OggReviews at aol.com

Age: Baby Boomer

Occupation:Self Employed

Number of Cruises: Lot

Cruise Line: Royal Caribbean

Ship: Navigator of the Seas

Sailing Date: October 2nd, 2004

Itinerary: Western Caribbean

Tom Ogg
CruiseReviews at aol.com

The setup:
I was the seminar leader and group escort for a group of 37 travel professionals on a Western Caribbean sailing of the Navigator of the Seas. I had been at a conference in Hong Kong the week prior to the sailing and had decided to fly from Hong Kong to Miami to meet the cruise. Since I was speaking at the conference on the day prior to the cruise, I had booked myself on Korean Airlines from Hong Kong to Miami with stops and layovers in Seoul, Korea, Tokyo, Japan, Los Angeles, California and Atlanta, Georgia. The entire trip took almost 48 hours and I must admit to being quite exhausted, especially with the 12-time zone difference. I was never so glad, as when I checked into Miami’s Crowne Plaza Airport Hotel. I slept like a baby for almost 12 hours.


The Navigator of the Seas Group

After enjoying the excellent continental breakfast (included in the room price) I negotiated to have a taxi transfer me to the port. After grabbing my luggage and checking out, I was on my way to the Port of Miami and Royal Caribbean's Navigator of the Seas. Check in was not as smooth as I have normally experienced with Royal Caribbean, but I later found out there were numerous international groups boarding the ship and the new federal immigration laws were playing havoc with the process. Not only did Royal Caribbean have an exceptional amount of international passengers, but they also had new and stringent policies they had to follow to comply with the new law. While U.S. citizens were not really affected, some alien passengers took well over two hours to process.

Summary in Advance
This review is more of a pictorial of the Navigator of the Seas than a thorough review of the ship. I did it this way so you can see the diversity of activities the ship offers and get a feel for the ship itself. You could actually sail on the Navigator of the Seas and never get off the ship and have the best cruise of your life. The Navigator of the Seas (and the other Voyager class vessels) truly have no competition and are unique onto themselves. They are destination enough to warrant taking the cruise. Any ports that you might visit are just an added bonus to the experience. If you are comparison-shopping for a cruise, here is how to tell if you should pick this ship. The Navigator of the Seas is, without question, the best choice if you fit any of the following profiles.

Families or Family Reunions: Do yourself a favor and don’t even think about another ship. There is such a diverse amount of activities and entertainment on the Navigator of the Seas, that there is lots to do for everyone. I saw families bonding everywhere. I only regret that the Voyager class ships didn’t exist when our son was younger. I just don't think there could be a better choice for family reunions.

Honeymooners: There were 50 some honeymoon couples on this cruise and they were all ecstatic. Royal Caribbean has many amenities for honeymooners that make this an excellent choice. The ship is large and diverse enough to satisfy anyone’s tastes, but it also offers a level of privacy that honeymooners sometimes do not get on smaller ships.

Business Meetings: For the same reason this is the best choice for family reunions, it would be the best choice for meetings. There are so many team-building opportunities on the Navigator that it is almost unbelievable. The Conference Center is state of the art (as good as you would find in any hotel) and the idea that many of the usually variable costs are controlled, makes the Navigator of the Seas an incredible meeting venue.

Groups and Friends Traveling Together: If you belong to a group of some sort or travel with other couples, the Navigator of the Seas offers enough diverse opportunities for activities and entertainment, that everyone will be pleased. Having the group come together for meetings and meals, shore excursions and cocktail parties while pursuing individual tastes, makes for a happy cruise.

About the only folks I wouldn’t recommend the Navigator of the Seas as the best choice would be those that prefer smaller, more intimate ships and singles traveling by themselves. Because of the number of passengers, number of entertainment venues and overall size of the ship, it would much more difficult to make a connection with other singles. However, Royal Caribbean does an excellent job of offering single's events, so it just might be my observation rather than a matter of fact.

One thing is guaranteed. You will be in awe of this ship and remember your cruise for a good long time.

The Ship The Navigator of the Seas is one of five of Royal Caribbean’s Voyager class ships. At 142,000 gross tons, she is massive. She is also well evolved, as every detail in her construction and décor is simply beautiful. The attention to detail (in the flooring, walls, ceilings, wall coverings and art work) is simply awe-inspiring. Everywhere you look you are treated to visually stimulating design. For this reason I have included a good number of pictures so you can begin the visual experience with this review before you get on the ship.

Cabin 8335:
I was located in cabin 8335 located on deck 8. I was in an inside cabin, but found it ideal for sleeping (something I did a lot of during the first couple of days). I had a very comfortable queen sized bed with excellent bedding. There were two nightstands with individual reading lights that were quite effective. There was a large sitting area and coffee table. Across from the sitting area was a large desk area with 2 110v outlets (American) and 1 110v outlet (European). This proved to be an excellent feature. The Navigator offered unlimited “in cabin” Internet access for only $100 for the entire cruise. Of course, I immediately took advantage of the offer and the good news was that the telephone used to gain access came equipped with European sockets that worked perfectly. There is a television with a substantial amount of programming, a safe and ample storage for clothing items and miscellaneous items. A closet lines the cabin entrance way and offers a good amount of storage for hanging clothes, as well as shoe and miscellaneous storage in the shelves on the right hand side.

The bathroom was well-designed and offered ample storage for toiletries and other items. The shower offered excellent temperature and water flow controls and I very much liked the sliding door that allowed you to completely enclose yourself while showering. There was no shower curtain interfering with your shower. I don’t understand why every cruise line doesn’t adopt this feature, as it makes showering so much more enjoyable.

Exploring the Navigator of the Seas
The best way to explore the Navigator is to start at the very top and work our way to the bottom, so that is how I will conduct the visual tour. So, if you will join me for a ride up the aft elevator to deck 14 and then walk up the stairwell to deck 15, this is where we will begin.
The Intimate Skylight Chapel Deck 15
Up the stairway from the Viking Crown Lounge one finds the intimate Skylight Chapel. It gets its name from the stained glass skylight that resides over the pulpit. This is a gorgeous chapel and would be a great place for a small wedding.
The Viking Crown Lounge Deck 14
The main lounge here is Royal Caribbean's signature Viking Crown Lounge and it offers music, dancing and a good number of places to hang out and enjoy a cocktail. We met here one night for a computer session and it was not at all crowded and proved to be an excellent place for an impromptu meeting that could easily accommodate all of us. The Diamond Member's meeting also took plaaace here and I believe that everyone was impressed with the event, as it was enhanced by the Viking Crown Lounge location.
The 19th Hole To the rear on the starboard side behind the Viking Crown Lounge lies another wonderful bar, the 19th Hole.
The Seven Hearts Card Room On the port side of the Viking Crown Lounge is the Seven Hearts card room. I never saw it busy at all. The Cloud Nine piano bar is aft of the card room and the Cosmopolitan Club (a cigar bar) is on the starboard side of the ship.
The Navigator Dunes Miniature Golf Course Deck 13
When I hear someone say ”I don’t know, I think I might get bored on a cruise” I think of deck 13, as to why everyone would love this deck. First let’s go all the way aft to the golf course. The Navigator offers a wonderful miniature golf course (The Navigator Dunes). You can simply grab a putter and a golf ball and play all you want. It is expansive and a downright fun course.
The Navigator's Inline Skating Track On the port side of the gold course is the inline skating track where one can race around the Le Mans type track, as much as they would like. Directly in front of the miniature golf course is the golf simulator. While I didn’t get a chance to use it, those that did really enjoyed it.
The Basket Ball Court and Royal Caribbean's Signature Rock Wall Standing in front of the golf simulator you can hear the cheers from those climbing the rock wall that towers above you, but also the cheers from those playing basketball on the full basketball court (it is heavily used).
The Navigator of the Sea's Basketball Court Surrounding the area is a number of ping pong tables. I noticed a good number of families that were using them and having the time of their lives. This entire area of the ship is dedicated to sports and activities that you normally would not find on any other ship. Moving down the aft stairwell to deck 12, we enter the first deck that traverses the entire ship.
Deck 12
Johnny Rockets Main Entrance Johnny Rockets is a favorite with the teens and offers a full selection of burgers, fries, onion rings and malts. It has implemented a $3.95 cover charge per person for dining at Johnny Rockets.
Johnny Rockets Interior, Look Familiar? There are both typical indoor and outdoor dining options. The entire structure on the aft section of the ship contains the various kid’s clubs.
Adventure Ocean Kid's Club The Adventure Ocean kid's club is made up of several rooms specifically designed for various age groups. Each of the five age groups enjoy clubs that are planned and staffed for the kid's enjoyment.
Adventure Ocean's Video Zone

This video arcade had a ton of video games.


The Teen Disco

This is a really cool disco that teens can relate to. It is only used by certain age groups at a time, so you don't have to worry about your young teen hanging around with older teens.


The Aft Deck of Adventure Ocean

Altogether, there is over 22,000 square feet dedicated to the Adventure Ocean Youth Program.


The Navigator's Walking and/or Jogging Track

Between the aft building and the forward building on deck 12 is a large area for sunbathing and a jogging/walking track that is heavily used.


The Sky Bar

The Sky Bar resides in the center of the jogging track and is a great place for a refreshment out of doors. Looking over the pool area, it is also a great place to watch the pool games and other pool-side activities.


The Entrance to the ShipShape Spa

The Navigator's “ShipShape Day Spa” resides in the forward section offering a full beauty salon and spa services.

Deck 11
Deck 11 is the first ship-length deck on the Navigator and is also full of leisure opportunities. If we move down to deck 11 from deck 12 and go all the way forward, we are on top of the bridge and there is a very outstanding area where you can watch what is going on in the bridge area. Known as “Bridge Overlook”, it is well worth a visit if you are interested in the operations of the ship.


The Stairway Leading to the Fitness Center
(From the ShipShape Spa, deck 12)

By taking the stairwell down from deck 12 in the ShipShapre Spa, we can access the fitness center.


ShipShape Fitness Center The ship’s “Ship Shape Fitness Center” resides on deck 11 and offers an excellent collection of free weights and Cyber machines.


Navigator of the Seas Cardiovascular Machines

There is also an excellent collection of cardio machines with excellent views of the ocean.


The Aerobics Room of the ShipShape Fitness Center The Navigator of the Seas had a very good aerobics program and the classes were heavily attended.
The ShipShape Fitness Center Don't miss the large Jacuzzi at the entrance to the Fitness Center if you want a little peace and quiet.
Solarium Pool Heading aft, one enters the Solarium. This is truly an excellent area, as the pool was open to the sunlight the entire trip while the surrounding lounge chairs were covered and offered protection from the sun. There are two large (I mean LARGE) Jacuzzis in the Solarium area and an active bar as well.


The Navigator of the Sea's Pool Area

The pool area just doesn’t seem large enough for a ship this size, yet it was never so crowded that I couldn’t find a lounge chair. The Navigator has an interesting towel policy, as you are issued two beach/pool towels in your cabin at the beginning of the cruise, but are charged $20 if you lose one. While I am sure the ship is trying to control costs from laundering and replacing towels, the result is that very few folks leave them on deck chairs when they depart. For this reason, it always seemed easy to locate an available lounge.


Another View of the Pool Area and Pool Stage
(Taken From the Sky Bar)

There are 4 Jacuzzis (2 are huge) that are heavily used by everyone. Aft of the pool area is one of the main dining venues on the Navigator of the Seas. One enters the area through the main entrance to the Windjammer Cafe, but will shortly be presented with the entrance to the two alternative restaurants on board the Navigator.


Portofino Restaurant

Upon entering the Windjammer Café, you will see the Portofino Restaurant entrance on the port side and the entrance to Chops Grille on the starboard side.


Chops Grille

Both of these dining venues are specialty restaurants that require reservations and an extra gratuity. I did not get an opportunity to dine at Portofino restaurant, but a group of us dined at Chops and loved the experience.


Jade

Moving aft we enter the area of the Windjammer buffet known as “Jade”. I loved this spot and ate here more than anywhere else. It features Asian dishes for breakfast and lunch and was popular with the Asian community of the Navigator and those that love Asian food. However, there was never any sushi. If you like Asian food, you will love Jade. Many people made the mistake of thinking that Jade was the main buffet as I was the first to be presented to folks arriving for a meal.


The Windjammer Cafe

Aft of Jade is Royal Caribbean’s signature buffet, the Windjammer Café. This is the main buffet area of the Navigator. The Windjammer is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner and offers numerous selections. It is a major buffet with lots of different areas so you will want to explore it before settling into a line to start picking your dishes for your meal. The salad bar is good and there is always healthy choices offered at each meal. In the aft section of the Windjammer buffet is an omelet station that then becomes a pasta station for lunch. All the way aft, is a fresh waffle station that also offers unique selections. The Plaza Bar serves the entire area and there are always waiters on hand if you want a cocktail or glass of wine.


The Windjammer Cafe Set Up for Dinner

Dinner brings a more formal environment for the Windjammer Cafe and many people chose to dine here rather than the main restaurants.

Deck 10
Deck 10 is entirely made up of passenger cabins. Deck 9
With the exception of the Concierge Club, deck 9 is made up of passenger cabins. The Concierge Club actually wears two different hats.
The Concierge Club By day, it is where folks staying in suites at the Concierge level can make reservations for various things and use the concierge to help make their cruise more enjoyable. In the morning and the evening, it turns into a lounge where breakfast or cocktails and other beverages, along with hot appetizers are served to those in the concierge level suites, as well as Diamond loyalty members.


Concierge Francois Roux

The Concierge on the Navigator, Mr. Francois Roux was one of the best Concierges that I have ever seen. There was a passenger on the ship that took great pleasure in trying to irritate Francois and would take hours of his time each day requesting information, asking questions, making complaints and generally being a nuisance. Francois never so much as gave it a second thought and maintained his professionalism at all times. I was greatly impressed. If it had been me, I would have told the passenger off for being such a pain.


Royal Caribbean On-Line Deck 8
With the exception of “Royal Caribbean Online”, the Navigator of the Sea’s Internet Café, the balance of deck 8 is made up of passenger cabins. The Internet Café itself is slow and cumbersome, but The Navigator of the Seas offers “in cabin” Internet access for a flat fee. I paid $100 for the cruise and was able to go on-line 24 hours a day with unlimited access. It is truly a great deal and a reason to select the Voyager class ships of Royal Caribbean if you are a heavy user. However, they only have a limited number of sets of equipment to make it happen. If you want to get access, visit the Guest Relations Desk as soon as you board to sign up for the service. While access is still slow, it doesn’t matter because you enjoy unlimited access for one low rate.
The Navigator of the Seas Library Deck 7
With the exception of the library, deck 7 is made up of all passenger cabins. The library offers a good selection of books, but is smaller than one would expect on a ship of this size. Deck 6
The Loyalty Ambassador's Office Once again, deck 6 features primarily passenger cabins. However, here is where you will find the Loyalty Ambassador and the ability to sign up for Royal Caribbean’s Crown & Anchor Society. I would highly recommend that you do sign up, as the benefits are excellent. The Navigator of the Sea’s Business Service Center is located adjacent to the Loyalty Ambassador’s office as well.
The Royal Promenade Deck 5
Oh boy! This is the deck that you will remember from this cruise (well, I am sure you will remember everything about this cruise). When you first see the Royal Promenade, it is simply breathtaking. It is difficult to believe that you are on a ship.


Three Stories of Wonderful Restaurants

Starting with the Swan Lake Dining Room at the very aft end of the ship. You realize that this is something special. The three-story dining room complex carries a different name for each restaurant on every deck to make it easier for folks to remember where their restaurant is. The dining room is simply beautiful and while large, because of the way it is partitioned into small areas, is quite intimate.

Moving forward past the elevator banks, you enter the main part of the Royal Promenade. On your left is the popular Champagne Bar. This was one of my favorites, as they also have an excellent wine list to go with the Champagne that they serve. The bar is broken into small and intimate areas for casual conversation.


Guest Relations and the Tour Desk

On the right and in front of the Champagne Bar, is the Centrum and on the starboard side you will find Guest Relations and the Tour Desk.


The General Store

Moving forward, you pass the General Store on your starboard side and the Tommy Hilfiger logo store on your port side.


The Navigator of the Seas Logo Shop

Next to the General Store is the Royal Caribbean Logo Souvenir Shop where you can find everything imaginable with Royal Caribbean logos on it.


The Entrance to Vintages Wine Bar

Vintages Wine bar is directly across from the Logo Shop and I loved this particular venue. It is set up with a wonderful bar and several areas to sit in and relax.


Vintages Wine Bar

They have an excellent wine list and always have several chilled bottles available to try by the glass. If you like to drink wine, don’t miss this little jewel. Look for the blue sports car.


Two Poets Pub

A tad forward and on the port side is another lounge venue, the Two Poets Pub. This pub-like atmosphere serves ales, beers and a full mixed drink venue and normally has a guitarist/singer playing in the evening to add some entertainment. While I didn’t use this particular lounge, it always was packed with people.


The Cafe Promenade

On the Starboard side of the Navigator forward yet (under the bridge), is the Café Promenade. This is a great spot. There is coffee and tea set up all day and a bakery serving freshly baked coffee cakes, and such in the morning, and then the offerings turn to fresh cookies during the day. Several other dessert treats are offered during the evening.


The Promenade Cafe Bakery

There is no charge for the bakery goods. Fresh sandwiches are made right next to the bakery and are available all day long. The adjoining bar features specialty coffee drinks, as well as a full assortment of cocktails, beer and wine. A Ben and Jerry’s ice cream outlet is right next to the Café Promenade.


The Perfume and Cosmetics Shop on the Navigator of the Seas

The port side of the ship offers more shopping opportunities with the perfume shop and fashion boutique.


The Beautiful Entrance to the Ixtapa Lounge

Leaving the Royal Promenade, you enter the Ixtapa Lounge. This is one of the main entertainment venues and is always active.


The Ixtapa Lounge

The Crown and Anchor Club met here for the members that have sailed on Royal Caribbean before. The Connoisseur Cigar Club resides just outside of the entrance to the Ixtapa Lounge and has that “club” feeling for those that want to enjoy a glass of brandy and their favorite cigar.


The Metropolis Theater

Deck 4
Heading down the forward stairwell we arrive at the upper entrance to the Metropolis Theater. This is the main showroom on the Navigator and it is beautiful indeed. You can enter the theater from three different decks, but I found this was the best way to enter the showroom. Just aft of the Metropolis Theater is the Schooner Bar.
The Schooner Bar The Schooner Bar is the signature bar for the Royal Caribbean fleet and this particular one is superb. We met here on a number of evenings and had a great time. There is always a pianist/singer here entertaining everyone and the mood is fun and jovial with sing-a-longs after dinner.
Dungeon's Entrance from Deck 4 On the port side, one sees a weird doorway entitled “Dungeon’s”. I didn’t explore it until later in the cruise, but you should walk into it the second you see it, as it leads you into the ship’s 2-story disco area, which is surreal.
The Casino Royale Entrance Moving aft, we enter the Casino Royale. This is a major casino that offers much gaming opportunities and I heard a number of people say that the slots were somewhat loose. The entry way is wonderful, as you walk across plate glass enclosing many treasures.


The Casino Slots

There are a ton of slot machines and other games that were always quite busy. Many folks actually walked off the ship with a positive cash flow from gambling. The tables were also quite busy every time I walked through the casino.


The Centrum

Until you see the Centrum in person, you simply cannot believe how beautiful it is. No matter how I tried to capture it on my digital camera, it just came up short. You are going to have to cruise on the Navigator to get the real feel of it.


Boleros

If you like Latin music, song and refreshments, then you will love Boleros. This restaurant and lounge is lots of fun and filled with salsa atmosphere. Aft of Boleros is the second level of the dinning room, the Coppelia Dining Room.

Deck 3
The lower level of the restaurant, the Nutcracker Dining Room resides on deck 3 aft.
The Photo Gallery In order to get to the other parts of deck three, one must move up to deck 4 and move forward to the Centrum and then descend back down to deck 3 where they will find the Photo Gallery. You can imagine, with 3,500 people on board, how many photographs must be taken on each cruise. Finding them requires some time and energy, but they have them organized in a way that makes their presentation logical.


Studio B Ice Arena

The entrance to Studio B resides just forward of the Photo Gallery and what an impressive feature on a ship. While I didn’t attend any of the ice shows that were put on during the cruise (which I heard were excellent) I did sneak in one afternoon to watch folks skating their hearts out. It looked like so much fun! To think of an ice skating arena on a ship is over the top.


The Dungeon

In order to move forward on the ship, you will need to go up to deck 4 and go forward to the forward Centrum and then descend back down to deck 3. If your destination is the ship’s disco, the Dungeon, you can enter it on the upper floor through the tunneled entrance. Once back down to deck 3, you will see the main entrance to the Dungeon. This is a really excellent disco. There is a great sound system, plenty of seats and great service. Forward, you will find the forward entrance to the Metropolis Theater.

Deck 2
Deck 2 is primarily all passenger cabins with the exception of the lowest floor of the Metropolis Theater all the way forward and the Conference Center directly aft of the Metropolis Theater.


Entrance to the Conference Center

The Conference Center is awesome. It has several break-out rooms (I counted 5) that are excellent for groups of 3 to 40.


One of the Conference Center's Break-Out Rooms

They also can be combined into two large rooms that could house a very good sized meeting.


The Conference Center's Screening Room

They offer all of the techno stuff one could possibly want for presentations and they are set up for professional level meetings.


The Boardroom

The Boardroom is on the starboard side and seats about 16 people comfortably for more formal meetings and negotiations. All in all, if you are looking for a ship to have a meeting on, this is the one!

The Cruise
Saturday, October 2nd, 2004; Miami, Florida
I was checked in and in my cabin by 12:30. I immediately went to customer relations and confirmed the group's arrangements, and also signed op for in-cabin Internet access. The is a great deal on Royal Caribbean’s Voyager and Radiance class ships. For only $100 for the entire cruise, you can gain unlimited Internet access from your cabin. You will need your notebook computer equipped with a modem, but once you have it set up, you can go online whenever you want and stay online for as long as you wish. If you are a serious Internet user and access is important, this is a key feature of these ships.

Having had a late breakfast, I skipped lunch, and once I had delivered the group flyers, took a nap until the ship’s boat drill that took place at 4:30 pm. The drill was actually quite painless, which was appreciated by everyone. Because of the stiffer immigration laws, the departure was delayed until 6 pm. Once again, I returned to my cabin and took a brief nap until about 7 pm when I dressed for the group’s arrival cocktail party that was held in the Dungeon Disco. It is always fun when I first meet the groups, as the first impressions tend to set the stage or the cruise experience. I was really looking forward to the cruise after meeting the folks in this particular group. After a 90-minute cocktail reception we made our way into our first dinner.

I love the main restaurants on the Voyager class ships. There are three separate restaurant levels, with each level having its own name. We were located in the Coppelia Restaurant on deck 4. Our Assistant Maitre d’ was extremely attentive, as was our waitress and assistant waiter. Everyone had a great first night's dining experience and was looking forward to the cruise. I went to bed right after dinner and slept the entire night.

Sunday, October 3rd, 2004; Day at Sea
My coffee came right on the dot at 7:30 am and I was in the shower and then dressed making my way to the conference center for the first of our two seminars on the cruise. People started arriving at 8:30 am and by 9:00 am, everyone was ready to start. The seminar went quite well, and the three hours flew by. The group turned out to be just as nice as my first impression suggested that they would be. After a quick lunch, I decided to take a nap to try to catch up on the time zone difference and lack of sleep I experienced while traveling from Hong Kong. I awoke in time to get ready for the first formal night of the cruise and visited the Concierge Lounge for a glass of wine.

Being a Diamond member with Royal Caribbean’s Crown and Anchor Society has numerous benefits, and the Concierge Lounge is one of the best in my opinion. The Lounge offers an open bar from 5 pm until 8:30 pm and is a wonderful place to meet other Diamond members for a pre-dinner cocktail. There are always hot and cold appetizers to enjoy and the ambiance is sophisticated. It is truly a major benefit. The Concierge on duty, Mr. Francois Roux, is a delightful gentleman who will help you with the various details of your cruise, and gladly take care of ice show tickets, alternative restaurant reservations and other assistance that you might need. While I never visited the lounge for breakfast, it is also open in the morning offering a continental breakfast.

I met a good number of the group members at the Captain’s Welcome Aboard cocktail party and enjoyed a wonderful dinner in the main restaurant following the party. Having just come from the Norwegian Star and Freestyle dining in Alaska, I realized how much fun it is to have the same waiter and assistant waiter every night. We were blessed with an excellent team that became part of our family by the end of the cruise. After dinner, you guessed it, I went straight to bed convinced that I had narcolepsy.

Monday, October 4th, 2004; Labadee, Haiti
A group of us were to meet in the Solarium and take the 10:00 am tender to Labadee, but somehow got derailed, so a small group of us made our way over to explore Labadee’s beaches and shopping. It was a great beach day with lots of sunshine, food, drink and activities. It had been a couple of years since my last visit to Labadee and I was struck with how much development had taken place. Additional beaches had been cleared and developed, a marina added, a water park, and hundreds of dining tables and other infrastructure had been added. The marketplace has grown to include many outside stalls and a substantial arts and crafts building. Unless you just do not like the beach, you will find Labadee a wonderful way to spend the day.

We liked Labadee so much, that we ended up on the last tender. That is when I realized that I had lost my eyeglasses. Unfortunately, I possess extremely poor eyesight and am dependent on my glasses for acceptable sight. Even then, my eyes are not correctable to anything resembling 20/20 sight. Back on board the ship, the other shoe dropped when I realized that I had left my contact lenses at home. I use contact lenses for surfing and I had taken the pair out of my travel bag for a surf session on the way home from being picked up from the airport on my last trip. I was destined to either walk around blind, or wear my prescription sunglasses and look rather odd at night. I opted to go with no glasses.

Since this evening was the repeater’s party, I met the Diamond members in our group at the Concierge Lounge and then attended the repeater’s party. It was a great party and everyone liked the Captain’s wit and humor. A group of 12 of us had decided to try the Chops Grille specialty restaurant, so I had made reservations for this evening. We were treated to excellent service and thoroughly enjoyed the restaurant. Chops Grille has a $25 service fee, and it is well worth it. Even though Chops is a steakhouse, I ordered salmon. My advice would be to order the filets and other steaks, as the salmon was just OK. I managed to stay awake for a quick nightcap with some in our group, before turning in for the evening.

Tuesday, October 5th, 2004; Ocho Rios, Jamaica
We arrived in Ocho Rios right on schedule. A small group of us chose to do some shopping, hit Margarittaville and then sample some lobster at a local spot I learned about from one of the agents on my last visit to Ocho Rios. We headed directly to the Ocho Rios flea market where one of the agents negotiated a purchase of a tree trunk that had been carved into 9 life-sized parrots clinging onto what appears to be a tree. While it was interesting, it weighed about 200 pounds. Since I was involved in the negotiation, I offered to carry the tree trunk back to the ship. By the time I made it, I was ringing wet.

After a quick change of clothes, we made our way to Margaritaville to enjoy a refreshment and some entertainment. It rained quite heavily and when it finally cleared, we went down to the beach in front of Margaritaville and then turned left to the creek that empties into the ocean next to Margarittaville and followed it up to the footbridge. We crossed the creek on the footbridge and entered the local fish camp. There is a fish market for the local folks here and a couple of open air restaurants that serve primarily local folks. I recognized the one that I had been told about and went to see if I could negotiate for a lobster lunch. Dave, the guy running the restaurant, was quite a character. We settled on a nice large lobster and he opened the foil exposing an absolutely beautiful lobster treat. We enjoyed it so much that Dave gave us a smaller lobster, which we immediately devoured. After finishing the lobster and looking around a bit, I decided to take Dave’s picture for PortReviews.com. I gave him one of my cards and told him to look at the site in about 4 weeks.

So here is my recommendation. If you want great “caught today” lobster at a reasonable price in a totally local Jamaican environment, go see Lobster Dave (my name for him, not his). He is a great guy and deserves your business. I guarantee you that you will remember it for a long time and go back every time you visit Ocho Rios. However, here is my disclaimer. If you are the nervous type that doesn’t like to adventure into unfamiliar settings, you might feel uneasy penetrating the fish camp. As the Jamaican saying goes “Don’t Worry, Mon,” everything is going to be OK.

Back on board the Navigator of the Seas, I spent some time n the Jacuzzi and then dressed for dinner, met my Diamond member buddies in the Concierge Lounge and then made our way to dinner. After we had enjoyed our appetizer at dinner, one of the group members presented me with a cane that they had had made in Ocho Rios. It was painted white with a red tip and had a bicycle toot horn attached to it so the user could let people know that they were coming. Everyone howled and I have to admit, I found it quite funny myself. Well, that started the tooting in our group’s section. Our waiter used it to get everyone’s attention, the Maitre d’ sat on it making toot-toot sounds. By the time the evening was over, everyone had laughed so hard they were crying. I had taken a liking to one of the group members and decided to join them in the casino bar while his wife played the slot machines. It is funny how cruises seem to bond people together into fast friendships.

Wednesday, October 6th, 2004; Day at Sea
The itinerary called for a port call at Grand Cayman Island, but the effects of the hurricane season rendered Grand Cayman almost destroyed, so all port calls had been cancelled for the foreseeable future. I enjoyed the day at sea spending time in the sun and also visiting the Solarium’s pool and Jacuzzis. A group of us spent the day chatting about business and getting to know one another even better. By now I had fallen into my evening’s routine of cocktails with the other Diamond members in the Concierge Lounge, meeting others from the group for a pre-dinner cocktail and then dinner at our group of tables. By now, our group had come together and the waiter, assistant waiter and Maitre d’ were all having as much fun with us, as we were with them.

Thursday, October 7th, 2004; Cozumel, Mexico
We arrived in Cozumel right on time at the International pier. It was an unusual visit, as there was only one other ship in the entire port; the island felt empty. A small group of us had decided to check out the new Paradise Beach Club that was the focus of one of the on-line discussion groups that I visit every now and then. After reading the comments about it, I was sure this was going to be an excellent new “find” and I wanted to write a “feature review” on Paradise Beach for www.PortReviews.com. As luck would have it, after meeting in the solarium and debarking the ship, a young lady who claimed to be the bartendress at the Paradise Beach Club, handed us a flyer about the club. While I had suspected that much of the chat on the bulletin board discussing Paradise Beach Club was staged, at best, I found the aggressive sales tactic inconsistent with something rising from word-of-mouth chat room discussion.

We negotiated a taxi and started our adventure to the Paradise Beach Club looking forward to a great beach with free use of everything and reasonably priced food and drink. I was especially curious as to its location, as I know Cozumel very well and couldn’t envision where it was located. I suspected that there was a heretofore undeveloped cove along the coastline that had been opened up by the club.

When we finally reached Paradise Beach Club, I was shocked to find it was directly adjacent to Playa San Francisco. In fact, the Paradise Beach Club resides on what used to be the southern portion of Playa San Francisco. As we entered the main building, employees of Paradise Beach Club confronted us to purchase wristbands that would enable us to use the facilities. At $5 each, we decided to only check out the beach club, have a beer, take a swim and then move on. When we declined the purchase of wristbands, you could see the animosity on their faces. We moved onto the beach in front of the little dolphin carvings that used to mark Playa San Francisco’s beach and set up on a couple of beach chairs. We were immediately asked to purchase drinks from the not-so-nice, but insistent waiter. We asked for the drink menu and found the drinks to be quite expensive. Just out of spite, I walked over to Playa San Francisco and purchased 5 "Sol" beers for our group and brought them back to the Paradise Beach Club. We swam for a few minutes and then got out to dry. We looked at the food menu, but decided to move on as the food was just as expensive as the drinks, and I suspect would be as disappointing. I photographed the club in its entirety, so if you are interested you can see pictures of it by visiting here. We packed up our things and decided to move on. The Paradise Beach Club feature review that I was going to write became simply a mention in the “Cozumel’s West Coast Beach Review” special report with the suggestion that you do the same; move on.

Since some in our group had not visited the rest of the beaches on Cozumel, we decided to hit the best, just to compare them to the Paradise Beach Club. Our first stop was Nachi Cocum. Look, if you are looking for a beach club that is truly wonderful, this is the one. It is just a little further out than the rest, but the taxi ride costs the same. You will find the club everything you are looking for. We stopped at Playa Palancar, as one of the agents with us was a diver. Here is another excellent beach and if you are interested in diving on of the world’s best reefs, this is the place. You can also snorkel Palancar Reef from this beach (a boat ride is necessary). We had a snack and libation at Coconuts Restaurant on the eastern shore and were well in place for a downpour that lasted about 30 minutes. Coconuts Restaurant offers great views, good food, reasonable prices and that good old Mexican hospitality. Check out their “scrap books” for some fun other visitors have had while visiting Coconuts. We then backtracked down to Chen Rio. Chen Rio is without question, the finest beach on Cozumel for just about everything you might want to do. The restaurant specializes in seafood (try the seafood platter for multiple people) and offers lobster, fish, shrimp, octopus and other delicacies. The beach is to die for and best of all, it is never crowded with cruise people. We selected to dine at Coconuts, as some of the people in our group didn’t

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