Number of Cruises: 3
Cruise Line: Royal Caribbean
Ship: Navigator of the Seas
Sailing Date: March 8th, 2003
Itinerary: Western Caribbean
Coming from Toronto on one of the biggest travel days of the year in Canada made this process very UN enjoyable for the six of us coming on this trip who were my mom, dad, me and three family friends because we had to be at the airport at 4:30am plus we had to stop for an hour in New York. A good 11 hours later we finally arrived at the port of Miami and the line was huge! But is moved faster than I expected which was about 30-45 minutes. When we finally did check we were given the wrong dinner seating and there was a room mix-up (which may seem like hell but wasn’t too bad). When we finally did get on the ship we had to spend another 20 minutes to do the muster drill. After being on two previous cruises this was less than impressive but it did manage to get better quickly.
THE BAD PARTS OF THE CRUISE
Once we got all our problems solved we met my uncle and aunt who were cruising with us (they live in Miami so they weren’t as tired as us) and we went on to get coke stickers for me and two of my family friends which gives unlimited coke, sprite, etc. for $20, for children this is a must. We all decided to eat and since it was so late the Windjammer café welcome aboard lunch was finished so the bartender recommended Johnny Rockets or café promenade (I’ll talk about these later in the review). We decided to go to Johnny Rockets, which was a mistake because it was packed and took forever. However after this was over with we got unpacked and it was time to explore.
Our stateroom was a deck 2-ocean view stateroom and for anyone who hasn’t cruised before the rooms might seem small but they are sufficient considering how much time you will spend in it. However we had 4 people in our room and it was crowded (they’re really only meant for 2 people). Rooms on higher decks might be more appealing but the advantage to being on a lower deck is that there is less movement when the ship is in motion.
When we first began to explore the ship it’s immense size was a bit intimidating but we got used to it rather quickly and there is some very amazing features and places which is nearly impossible to see all in a week, here is a list of the some I visited.
Royal Promenade – This is basically meant to mimic a city street, it is four stories high and about 2 football fields long connecting the ships two centrums. It consists of several shops a café with one of many ice cream stations that are located thought the ship and a place where you can get food 24/7, the café also has a bar but it isn’t open all the time. There is usually some kind of event such as the captain’s cocktail party or a parade going on daily here (the first night there was a Mardi Gras type parade).
The Sports Deck – This is located on the top deck of the ship behind the Viking crown lounge and it consisted of the rock climbing wall, the basketball/volleyball court, the mini-golf course, golf simulator, and inline-skating track. The mini-golf and basketball were open play except when tournaments were being held (note. basketball or volleyball were open play at different times of the day). The rock-climbing wall was open all day with demonstrations every hour and kids under 18 needed a waiver signed by there parents. The in-line track was open for anyone during the day but a waiver also had to be signed for this like the rock-climbing wall. The golf simulator, which I didn’t use was reservation only and costs $25 an hour.
The pool area and Solarium – These areas are really nice on the voyager class ships. The solarium contains a pool, two large spas and several lounge chairs. There is also a bar here. Note. People over 16 are only allowed in the solarium.
The main pool area is for everyone and there are 2 pools and 4 spas 2 big 2 small. Lounge chairs surround the pool area and there are two bars here one on the pool deck and one on the deck above which is the sun deck where there are lounge chairs and the jogging track.
Adventure Ocean Youth Center – Because of the size of this ship this area was quite impressive with a quite large arcade that featured video games which was interest any kid. There was also an area where anyone between 3 and 17 could relax and hang out. The teen disco which was also here was called “Fuel” and is larger than it is on vision class ships and what was cool about this disco was that it had a small outdoor area for teens to hang out at the back of the ship.
Studio B and Center Ice – I must admit that an ice rink on a cruise ship is totally ingenious and also because that it is usually about 80 degrees outside makes it even more so. However I only managed to skate on the rink once because it really isn’t appealing in the tropics. The ice show was very good and I highly recommend it but the skaters are by no means Olympic quality. I only say this because I am warning everybody not to expect a Michelle Kwan level of skill.
An interesting thing
about Studio B is that a retractable wall can cover the rink and many other
shows like the farewell show are held here. Skating is offered during the day
but children must be accompanied by someone 18 or over.
The Dungeon Nightclub – This was a very different experience compared to older ships where the adult disco is held in the Viking Crown Lounge. I have to say that having the club on the lower decks is much better than at the top of the ship (it was on decks 3 &4) because it connects easier with the rest of the ship. Anyway the dungeon was much bigger with more seats for people to relax (like you really can in a club) and the dance floor was bigger. The club had two decks with a bar and an overview of the dance floor on the upper deck. The lower floor had another bar, the dance floor and the lounge area. The architecture was generally good with the club being decorated with skeletons and gargoyles. What I didn’t like was that the stairs blocked the dance floor from the lounge area so the dance floor couldn’t be seen that well from some places.
The Casino – This is probably the biggest one at sea and it ran underneath the promenade with a staircase connecting the two. The casino was well designed with the tables on one side and the slot machines on the other being separated by a bar and the staircase connecting it to the Royal Promenade. Games available were Blackjack, Caribbean Stud Poker, Roulette, Craps and various slot machines.
The Ixtapta Lounge and Metropolis Theatre – These areas were the same as other RCCL ships but there were just larger and could hold more people.
The Viking Crown Lounge – This area is at the highest point on all RCCL ships and it is the easiest way to identify one. However on a Voyager class ship they are far different from other ships because it contains much more. First of all this lounge has a sports bar called the 19th hole, a jazz club, a martini bar, a card room called Seven hearts and a wedding chapel that holds about 50 people. From what I’ve heard is that after a wedding the lounge is closed off to people on the ship so the reception can be held there.
For anyone who had cruised before they already know how easy it is to eat a lot on the ship. Navigators of the Seas along with many new ships have several alternate dining options other than just the Windjammer Café and the main dining room. This ship contains 3 other restaurants and 1 buffet and they are as follows.
Jade – A buffet adjacent to the Windjammer specializing in Asian cuisine.
Portofino – For a $20 dollar reservation fee people could have an intimate Italian dining experience. I heard that this place was out of this world but we didn’t really want to pay money when we could eat in the dining room for free.
Chops grille- A steakhouse that you can eat at for a $20 reservation fee and we didn’t eat here for the same reason we didn’t eat at Portofino.
Johnny Rockets - This was a 50’s diner where you could get old-fashioned milkshakes (these are not free) and grilled hamburgers plus other things that I will leave for you to figure out. In all this place is not half bad just don’t go there on the first day because it will probably be over crowded.
The Service in the dining room was very good and except for a small wine issue there wasn’t really be anything to complain about and the food was typical of my previous cruises both here and in the Windjammer, which is far better than anything you can’t get at most land restaurants.
The entertainment on this cruise was generally good but the Broadway style shows didn’t appeal to me probably because they’re meant for the middle-aged audience. However I highly recommend any of the stand-up comedy shows in which there is usually 3 to 4 on each cruise, also at least once of the nights there is a band playing out on the pool deck late at night in which the cruise staff usually organize a dance theme (also this band usually plays periodically during the day at the pool deck). My other recommendations are the ice show as well as Bingo especially in the latter days of the cruise where the jackpot is usually 5 figures.
PORTS OF CALL
Labadee, Haiti – This is a small island off the northwest coast of Haiti and it is for RCCL guests only. There is plenty to do here such as parasailing, beach volleyball, wave running, banana boats, or you can simply just relax on the beach or rent a water mat and relax on the water. There is also an aqua park where they can play on trampolines, teeter-totters, and clime icebergs in the water Kids are welcome to play here but waiver must be signed. I highly recommend this because it is very fun. Lunch is served on the island and it is ok, but the food on the ship is better. I don’t recommend however going into the shops because the locals will try and hustle you to buy their merchandise.
Ocho Rios, Jamaica – This was the best stop of the four on the itinerary and I highly recommend climbing Dunn’s River either independently or with the cruise line. We did it by ourselves because several of the people in our group have climbed it before and if you climb it as an excursion then everyone holds hands and they all go at the same pace. Note it is absolutely necessary to have aqua shoes to climb the falls, which you can rent or buy at the falls, or they can be bought on the ship as well either way they cost about the same at about $20 US. Afterwards if you have time I recommend going to Margaritaville and the surrounding shops that are the best here than any other port and Margaritaville has a huge party atmosphere that must not be missed.
Georgetown, Grand Cayman – Here we didn’t go on any excursions and all we did was to seven-mile beach and relax. Also the beach was very crowded because there were 5 ships there that day and just about everywhere was crowded making this more of a place to relax more than any other.
Cozumel, Mexico – This is a very good place to party and shop it you don’t plan to go on any excursions. I highly recommend taking a taxi into town and if you don’t have any young kids going to either Senior Frogs or Carlos and Charlie’s which are both bar’s/restaurants and have a very huge party atmosphere, just be warned especially at Senior frogs because they’ll pressure you into shots that may seem free but they’ll charge you for them and they cost about $3.50 US (this might be because it was spring break though) and there was a lot of students on the cruise ships and probably a bit at the Cozumel all-inclusives.
Although not mandatory you are asked to tip specific individuals at the end of the week for their hard work as giving the best vacation possible. Envelopes will be dropped off in your stateroom halfway through the trip with suggested amounts and they are:
Stateroom Attendant - $3.50 per guest per day
Main waiter - $3.50 per guest per day
Assistant waiter - $2 per guest per day
Headwaiter – At your discretion
Maitre’d – At your discretion
Tips can either be charged to your sea passes or you can put cash in the envelopes.
This was a very smooth process compared to my previous cruises the port of Miami knows what they’re doing to make this an easy process compared to other ports. Forms will be left in your room asking for flight information along with US immigration forms. Your flight information determines what color tag your receive and a pamphlet is given to each room with the time each color will be called. If the color given to you is wrong change it at either the purser’s desk or ask your stateroom attendant for a different color. Remember to have your luggage outside your room door by midnight the night before Disembarkation and that you haven’t packed anything you need in your suitcases as you will not see them until you’re off the ship.
MY TIPS FOR FIRST TIME CRUISERS
- If possible, cruise with a group of people such as relatives or family friends. This makes the experience a whole lot more fun because I find it easier to meet people as a group than as an individual.
- Buy the unlimited coke sticker for $20 if you bring your kids! I only suggest this because a soft drink costs $2 and after a weeklong cruise they will spend much much more than $20 on soda I guarantee it.
- Don’t let the first day ruin the rest of the cruise. I only say this because the ship’s crew has only about 12 hours to get 3,000 people off the ship with their luggage, get 3,000 more people on with luggage, and load all the supplies they will need for the week. The crew is swamped so if mishaps occur be patient and they will be taken care of in good time.
- If it is possible to do so fly to the city of departure the day before the sail date and spend the night in a hotel before boarding the ship and also do the same thing when getting off and leave the following day. This will go a long way to making the most out of your cruise by avoiding huge rushes of people getting on the ship on day 1 and getting of it on the last day.
- Book excursions early! They fill up fast, however the voyager class ships allow you to book them through your TV to avoid lineups.
- If you lose your sea pass go to the pursers desk immediately to get a new one. One of the people cruising with us lost his and by the time he got a new one there was a $40 arcade charge on it that we had to pay for.
- Buying liquor on the ship might seem like a deal and it is but there is a catch. The cruise line will hold it until the last night of the cruise and then deliver it to your stateroom. If you wish to drink the liquor on the ship they will charge about $10 extra making it no longer a deal. They will do the same thing to you if you buy it port as well. However if the liquor is clear and colorless water bottles come in handy here to be able to bring it on the ship without paying a service charge (wink, wink)
In all the experience of cruising had led to the best vacations of my life up to this point. Royal Caribbean International knows how to make their cruises like no vacation on earth (which is their slogan). If you embrace a cruise and make it what it can be you will be hooked and want to go again and again. I know this because it has happened to me and honestly what other vacation can you have where you go to sleep after visiting one country and wake up and the ship in docked in another country. All-inclusives might cost less than a cruise but they don’t go anywhere and a cruise ship does. I hope you enjoyed this review and if your have any questions just e-mail me.