Number of Cruises: First Cruise
Cruise Line: Royal Caribbean
Ship: Navigator of the Seas
Sailing Date: January 14th, 2006
Itinerary: Eastern Caribbean
This was our first cruise and despite reading SEVERAL reviews about the ship and ports of call, nothing could have adequately prepared us for the grandeur of the ship.
Embarkation: We arrived at the port at 11:30 for a 12:00 embarking. We took a cab from Miami and did not use RC transportation. We found things to be a bit disorganized after getting out of the cab as there were thousands of passengers leaving and thousands more arriving. Signage was not the best, but a porter approached us and said that he would take care of our bags. I tipped him well ($10.00) and then we headed off to the line-up.
The entire embarkation process took about 2 hours. People in line complained, and many said that they had sailed on RC before and the process being employed this time was different (and according to them, not as effective).
I would like to offer some advice at this point….you are on vacation – RELAX!! People in the line up who complain and moan, merely make the experience less tolerable for others around them. If you despise line ups, arrive at the pier around 2:30 or 3:00 (for a 5:00 sailing). People who arrived then, breezed straight onto the ship.
First Impression; Go ahead, be a kid again if only for a few moments, and let your breath be taken away by the grandeur of the vessel. I commented to my wife as we first set foot on the Navigator “we are not in Kansas any more Toto” (and we come from Canada). Allow yourself to be overwhelmed…and this is just the beginning. The ship is maintained in pristine condition and looks like new, except perhaps for the carpets which understandably show a bit of wear.
We found our way to our cabin and then set out to explore the ship. All of the pictures that I have seen online do not do justice to the vessel. We were like 2 kids in a candy shop and could not wait to set sail and let the cruise begin.
Our Cabin; We had a balcony stateroom (8570) near midship on the port side. The room was immaculate and much more spacious than my wife had anticipated. Our luggage arrived before we sailed and we managed to unpack all of our clothes into the closet and drawers, and stow our suitcases under the bed…no small feat considering the amount of clothing we both packed.
The beds had been set together and for all intents and purposes formed one large (approx king size) bed. They use a special pad to fill the gap between mattresses and it is very effective.
There is a sitting area with a love seat, coffee table and TV. The washroom was adequate size and the round shower stall unique. The water pressure in the shower was fine and we never had a lack of hot water.
Our stateroom was always tidy – the only clutter accumulating from the literature that we retained about the ships activities and in-port shopping tips.
Facilities; Although we did not see all of the ship, every part that we did see and utilize was flawlessly designed and immaculately maintained. We did not see Studio “B” which is the ice skating rink. Being from Canada on a Caribbean cruise in January, the only ice I wanted to see was the kind that floats in my drinks.
We were seated on the lowest level of the dining room (access from deck 3), and I don’t really think that any level provides better amenities than another. The view is a non-issue as all outer windows are draped over during the dinner seating. Good conversation with tablemates overcomes any need for a view anyway.
We ate our breakfasts and lunches (when we had room) in the buffet. The two buffet services (Windjammer and Jade) are combined in one large room, with Jade being the first one you encounter as you enter. Each of the 2 offers a different menu, with the Windjammer providing what I refer to as more “standard” buffet fare. Jade serves food with an Asian influence, and was our favourite for lunches and breakfasts. My wife said that she could not get used to fried rice at breakfast…but it worked for me.
I learned after about the 3rd day, that menus are posted at the entrance way and are worth checking out. This way you can determine if you would prefer the food at Jade or Windjammer – or a combination of both.
We were amazed at the size of the plates that are offered, and more so by the fact that some people actually managed to fill them!
The pool decks are the most popular place on the ship…and why not? Sun, entertainment, activities, music, and RELAXATION! We didn’t find a “bad” location to sit, although we did prefer to find a spot where we could stay in our chairs and look down at the pool to see the activities and the band.
Royal Caribbean does not allow “reserving” deck chairs, and it amazed me at how considerate many people were….they would lay out towels, sunglasses and reading material for our enjoyment. If you find the same, please go ahead and take advantage of it! In reality, RC says that they do not allow chairs to be reserved, but they never enforce the policy (I wish they would). I never minded people saving a couple chairs for their friends, but when 6 or eight chairs sit covered by towels, but unoccupied for hours on end, I get irritated.
There are countless levels and “balconies” overlooking the pool – each offering a fantastic spot to enjoy the surroundings.
For a quieter time, and a place protected from the breeze, move slightly aft to the solarium pool. This area is reserved for adults and provides a quiet (too quiet for us) spot to relax in sun or shade.
The evening shows take place in the Metropolis Theatre and they are amazing. I commented at one point that I had to keep reminding myself that we were aboard a ship, in the middle of the ocean.
Food & Wine; People who complain about the quality of food aboard a ship are likely to find fault with everything in life. The food at the buffet (I can only comment on Jade) provided great variety. It was hot and fresh, and was far from bland.
Dinners in the main dining room also offered an extensive variety. Some meals were better than others and some were just average, but overall the experience combined with the service more than compensated for any meal that was not above par. Also, if you didn’t like the selection you made, the waitress was pleased to bring you an alternate choice immediately.
On one occasion I asked her recommendation on which meal would be best, she said “why not have both?” You could eat as MUCH as you wanted here! On a couple nights my tablemate and I opted for 2 different main course selections.
I heard rave reviews about the food in Portofino, but we stayed with the main dining room because we enjoyed the company and the atmosphere.
The wine selection was actually very good. We enjoy our wine and thought that we would easily consume more than one bottle in an evening, but there doesn’t seem to be enough time at dinner to do so. Despite the fact that we had the late seating, and were often the last ones to leave the room, dinner was usually complete by 9:30 – 10PM
We often ordered a bottle to our room and sat on the balcony for a drink.
Staff: Nothing short of spectacular here. From Eliza, our stateroom attendant who met us in the hall each AM and would NOT let us disembark without a big hug, to Jason Cross – the BEST poolside server of them all. Jason would brighten EVERYONE’S day with his antics, humour, and positive outlook. People actually looked forward to his visits as a highlight of the day. You will recognize Jason from his distinctive shout “here I am”!
Service in the dining room was very friendly and efficient – even toward a rather “obnoxious” tablemate of ours who requested a very special appetizer and on the following day had his request granted.
I have read about how you only see your headwaiter on the first and last days, but ours was there every night, checking on us and serving the wine.
Staff would never hesitate to engage us in conversation. One waitress in the Cosmopolitan lounge stood for 45 minutes and talked to us, telling about life on a cruise ship.
We will miss the “friends” that we made on board who all helped make our experience so enjoyable.
Activities; We never participated in the formal activities, opting instead to relax in the sun and observe. The options for activities were plentiful and well organized.
Shopping; We were amazed to find that the ship employs 2 full time shopping consultants who provide advice and recommendations on making purchases in port. We found their advice helpful and they also gave us a certificate in honour of our anniversary. We bought a diamond ring for my wife in St. Thomas at Diamonds International. We were very pleased with the service which was not too pushy and with the product selection.
I also purchased a Movado watch for $150, which retails in Canada for $450.
You can get all the shopping advice you need from a special TV channel onboard the ship. Just tune your in-room TV to the right channel and your shopping questions will all be answered.
San Juan, Puerto Rico, we arrived mid afternoon and strolled through the streets of San Juan. The architecture was incredible and stood out above all the other islands we visited. There were plenty of shops to visit, but we didn’t make any purchases – opting to wait for the shopping hubs in St. Thomas and St. Maarten. Old San Juan offers some very unique sights, so be sure to take plenty of pictures, like the old men sitting and playing chess by the courtyard, or the small boy running through a flock of pigeons to chase them into flight. Notice the blue cobblestone roads and how narrow the streets are.
St Thomas, USVI – despite our shopping desires, we did see more of the island than just the mall. Meghan’s Bay was our destination, but the taxi driver told us that they were not taking tourists there on this day due to high waves. Instead she offered to take us to Secret Harbour and we accepted. This is a beautiful small beach with only 1 hotel. It is very secluded and as a result very hot – no breeze makes its way in.
One thing that struck us about this beach was the proliferation of iguana’s who were so bold that they would crawl right onto your towel. Thanks in no small part to people like our neighbour who kept feeding them. Be careful if you fall asleep on a blanket – you may wake up with an iguana on your chest.
The water was crystal clear, but the bottom was rocky and rough. It was a better spot for snorkeling than for frolicking in the water.
Do stop and check out the deals in the shops – the clerks were not pushy (for the most part) and you don’t feel as if you are being “preyed” upon.
St. Maarten – Our main objective on this island was to visit Orient Beach, so we went right from the ship to the taxi centre. Be warned that if you stand in line for a taxi, you will be herded into a van along with 12 other people, all going to the same destination. Some of the passengers in our van objected to this, yet still wanted the reduced fare of $5 each. I was disappointed upon arrival because I had wanted to be dropped off near Pedro’s (the spot that separates the nude beach from the regular section) but the taxi dropped us all at one central location.
Although the waves were high on this day, the beach was lovely. A word of caution – don’t take the first chair that you come across. We were charged $25 for 2 chairs and later found them for $7 each (including a free drink) just a few yards down the beach.
We strolled the length of the beach, including the nude section. It is amazing at how quickly the nude bodies become the “norm” and those of us in suits seemed overdressed. It is a very relaxed and laid back atmosphere. If I return to Orient Beach, I will sit in this section.
Finding a cab back to town was easy, but we again waited until the van was full.
Downtown St. Maarten has an abundance of shops along with a fabulous, laid back Caribbean atmosphere. Check out the Guavaberry Emporium and try some of their special liquors (I came home with 2 bottles).
There is a long boardwalk beside the beach near the harbor (sorry, I don’t know the name of the beach) and several cafes where you can enjoy a cocktail and snack. We found it a great place to people watch while sipping a favorite beverage.
At the end of the day, you may wish to jump on a water taxi back to the ship. It only costs $3 and gives your tired feet a break.
Nassau – The least favorite of our ports. You have to run a gauntlet of people trying to take you on a tour or give you a ride before you can even get to the street. There are a number of high end shops (Chanel, Gucci, etc) that you won’t find in other ports, but we were also struck by the number of people just hanging around the street corners. Brown paper bags with alcohol inside are abundant, and people drink as they walk.
In hindsight, we would have enjoyed this port much more if we had made our way to a beach and enjoyed the beautiful blue waters.
Disembarking; I had read many reviews with horror stories about spending hours waiting for your colour to be called. RC offers a WONDERFUL new service called express departure and I highly recommend it.
You need to visit the guest relations desk and tell them that you want express departure. It is limited to the first 400 guests. You don’t need any tags for your bags and you don’t need to put your luggage outside your room the night before. On the morning of departure, you must leave the ship between 6:30 and 7AM. You take your own bags…wheel them to the elevator, get off at the proper deck and walk through customs. It is REALLY that easy!!!
We left our stateroom at 6:45 AM and were in a taxi headed for Miami by 7:15. There were no line ups and no waiting. This enabled us to have a full day in Miami instead of waiting on the ship to get away. It also eliminated the need to identify our bags amongst all the others.
Summary; There is SO MUCH to tell after 7 days aboard a floating paradise, that I know this review will fall short. We have been unable to adequately articulate the feelings that one gets aboard a cruise. Our tablemates were also first time cruisers and had booked two more cruises before they disembarked. My wife put it best when she said that it is magical. It is as if all your cares and worries are land locked and on the open sea there is only fun, relaxation and romance. Let yourself be swept away in the experience and enjoy every single moment! We did!
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