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Bernie

Age: 65

Occupation:retired

Number of Cruises: 5

Cruise Line: Royal Caribbean

Ship: Navigator of the Seas

Sailing Date: 2012-01-15

Itinerary: Caribbean

A total of 36 members of our community participated in this 7-day cruise, which visited Cozumel, Grand Cayman, Falmouth (Jamaica), and Labadee (Haiti). The cruise staff were extremely friendly and helpful, and the embarkation and disembarkation process was both rapid and efficient. The specialty restaurant "Chops Grille" offered what the majority of our group believed was the finest meal we have ever experienced on any cruise ship. In general, food was good, but not great, in both variety and taste. Entertainment was good, with the exception of the Ice Dancing performance, which was outstanding. That said, a major negative was the fact that RCCL, and specifically, the Navigator, permitted smoking in the casino on all sea days. In addition, smoking was allowed on balconies, much to the displeasure of non-smokers in adjacent cabins, and along one side of the pool area as well as on the walking track on the 4th deck. This included cigars! None of the 36 members of our group smoke and all indicated that this would be a major factor in determining if we ever used RCCL again. Unlike its subsidiary, Celebrity, or Holland-America, RCCL does not allow ANY alcoholic beverages, including wine, to be brought on board. Overall, a good, but not great, experience but the smoke from tobacco still provides the single biggest irritant and cause for pause before considering a future cruise with RCCL.

We all took advantage of the Chops Grille, which offered outstanding quality in both selection and taste, presented by an extremely attentive and personable wait-staff. Otherwise the food in the main dining room as well as in the Windjammer restaurant was good but not great. The wait-staff, again, was extremely friendly and accommodating. A peeve about Johnny Rockets, which is essentially a hamburger joint, required a $4.95 fee just to enter. Our entire group of 36 declined to patronize the place.

Most of our group opted for balcony rooms. Compared with cabins on other cruise line ships, we found considerably more storage space, although the total size of the cabin was similar to others. The balcony was not as deep as on other ships.

Members of our group participated in a miniature golf tournament, which was free, as well as in several trivia-like games. One of the coordinators did not appear to fully understand what he was doing. The ship advertised that it had a golf driving simulator, but we opted not to use it when we learned that there was an added charge and reservations were required. As noted above, we avoided the casino on sea days, when smoking was permitted. From a purely business profit standpoint, it is hard to understand why RCCL permits this. None of the 36 members of our group use any tobacco products, and I am willing to bet that the vast majority of the passengers do not either. Even on "non-smoking" days, the aroma still lingered. Moreover, a number of the RCCL staff have to work in such an environment on a repeated basis.

A number of us opted for an excursion to Montego Bay in Jamaica, which included a snack break at a very picturesque ocean-front restaurant and a stop at an up-scale outdoor shopping mall. No bargains to be had, but an enjoyable trip nonetheless. Having been to Grand Cayman before, several of us chose to hire a local guide/driver for a tour of the island, rather than booking through RCCL, and saved a considerable amount of money in the process. The RCCL port area in Falmouth, Jamaica is filled with a variety of shops and a safe environment. The RCCL beach in Labadee is a must-see.

Overall, a good time was had by all as we took our annual escape from winter, but as I indicated above, we would have to carefully consider using RCCL again, unless and until they dramatically changed their policy with respect to smoking.

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