Number of Cruises: 1
Cruise Line: Royal Caribbean
Ship: Navigator of the Seas
Sailing Date: January 8th, 2005
Itinerary: Western Caribbean
This was my first cruise and I wanted to do as much online research as possible so I could enjoy the experience and become familiar with the ship before boarding. I visited the Royal Caribbean website, reviewed the ship's layout and read every cruise review reported on this website (Cruisereviews.com) from the last two years. The main reason for this cruise was work related (for my husband). We had the honor of hosting 625 other passengers as part of our group. As a rule, I am not too enthused about these annual business trips to various destinations, but I was excited about the cruise as I had heard so much about cruising throughout my life and it sounded like such a romantic trip.
We spent the evening prior to our cruise departure at Miami's Hotel International. We weren't impressed, and it was very expensive. I won't tell you what we found in my husband's breakfast fruit cup (room service) but suffice it to say he stopped eating. The good thing about the hotel is that it is very close to the pier where the Navigator is docked. Royal Caribbean provided us with a shuttle bus and took care of our luggage. When we arrived at the terminal, it was crowded, but the embarkation, customs and boarding process was pretty smooth, taking only about 50 minutes. We were issued our SeaPasses, which really made any subsequent purchases on the ship very easy.
We found our way to our balconied stateroom (#1688) easily and thought it was plenty big enough for the two of us. The bathroom is small, but we didn't spend more time than necessary in there. Our shower had curved shower doors which I had read about in previous reviews on this site. The water was always hot (very hot) and the water pressure was pretty good too. We had one incident the morning after we left Labadee when the hot water turned rusty, or reddish-brown in color, but that passed as more water was used. We never received an explanation of what that was about. The bed is quite another story. Our twin beds had been moved together, and a sort of "spine" had been run down the center to form one bed. It was most uncomfortable. Luckily the gentle rocking of the ship put us to sleep quite easily, as long as we each stayed on our own side of the bed. The mattress is no more than 4-5 inches thick and sits on a slab-like platform configuration. The pillows had a faint bad odor to them, so I slept with a towel on mine for the duration of the trip, but I just may be overly sensitive to smells. On that subject, the ship allows smoking in most areas, including the staterooms, so the cigarette and cigar smoke wafted quite readily throughout the hallways and common areas.
A word about the safety drill that occurs at 4:30pm the first afternoon that you board. It was very confusing and not at all efficient. I would dread to see what would happen if it was a real emergency. There are many staff members placed throughout the decks, but few of them spoke English well enough to answer questions, or they said they were "new" and that they were unfamiliar with the ship. Eventually we all ended up where we were supposed to be (Assembly Stations) but there was no attendance taken to be sure that all passengers were accounted for.
Regarding the food - there is plenty of it. We ordered room service on 3 breakfast occasions and they were prompt and called when they were on their way. The food, however, was dreadful, which is odd because the food in the dining room (The Nutcracker) was generally good to excellent. We decided to stop ordering room service unless it was for cold cereal, milk and juice. The coffee throughout the ship is dreadfully strong. Go to the Cafe Promenade where you can cut the coffee with hot water and prepare your own blend. Speaking of the Cafe Promenade, the small sandwiches and pastries there are great and it's open 24 hours. I was under the impression that there was a midnight buffet each evening (again, only my impression) but there were only 2. We missed the first one because we didn't know about it and we viewed the 2nd one. Our group was assigned to the 2nd dinner seating each evening and I think that an early dinner would be more conducive to attending shows, bars and seeing more of what the ship has to offer. The late dinner lasted until approximately 10:30 pm each night and by that time (due to our business obligations) we were too tired to do much of anything but return to our room and get to sleep.
I found that most venues on the ship closed very early. I was under the impression that the ship was open all night. (though I hadn't read that anywhere) The only places open late were the Dungeon nightclub (catering to the 18-30 year old crowd) the Casino (which is smoke filled) and the Cafe Promenade. It would have been nice if the Cosmopolitan Club was open later than 1 am. A nice surprise was the Two Poets Lounge, with guitar minstrel James Blakemore. He would sing any song requested and even encouraged members of the audience to go up to his small stage and sing with him.
We also attended the Ice Dancin' show and the Karaoke Idol contest which were enjoyable. Many of our co-cruisers (our tour group) went to the comedy shows and said they were fabulous. Because we had "official duties" my husband and I didn't attend as many shows as we would have like to.
I'd like to say a few words about the ship's staff. Everyone was friendly, saying hello each time we passed them, but we never met our cabin steward and saw our cabin attendant only twice. The dining room staff was pleasant, but there were not the "great bonds" formed between us and our waiter, ass't waiter nor our head waiter, that I had read about in other reviews. Our waiter, Sam, was attentive and happy but the others were pretty invisible.
The only seriously negative event to report was the method used to request tips for our Cabin Attendants, Head Waiter, Waiter and Assistant Waiter. The "strong urging" began on Wednesday with "suggested amounts" to tip noted in the Cruise Compass daily newsletter. On Thursday, we received vouchers and envelopes reminding us of how well we were treated. Our large group's gratuities were included in the fare, so I found this bid for more money particularly annoying. It would have been nice if we could have fooled ourselves into thinking that our good service was because the staff prided itself in doing a good job, but instead we were made very aware that it was simply for tips. These tip requests repeated themselves until we disembarked.
With regard to the ship itself... The Navigator of the Seas is simply beautiful. The artwork on each floor landing (near the elevators and staircases) and throughout each venue is stunning. There are glass blown pieces, oils, and sculptures throughout the vessel. I would have been happy just to tour the ship and look at the art! The ship is well maintained and clean.
I visited the ShipShape workout area and found that the treadmills and other machines were in good working order and if you scheduled your visit wisely, it was never so busy that you had to wait. I didn't visit the spa, but other guests on our tour said that the treatments were very expensive and would not recommend them.
A short note regarding the ports we visited... Labadee, Ocho Rios, Jamaica, Cozumel and Grand Cayman. My husband and I only left the ship at Labadee. I wasn't impressed (I was more depressed) by this stop and although our co-cruisers did visit many of the other ports, the consensus was that they were saddened, hounded, mistreated and generally unhappy with what they experienced. The poverty is overwhelming and the begging is incessant. One of our guest actually had to hand over her wristwatch when the $70 she had in her wallet "wouldn't cover" the cost of some trinket she accidentally broke while visiting a small shop in Cozumel. The vendor followed her all the way back to the ship badgering her for more money. That should not be a cruise memory for anyone.
Disembarkation was easy. We were given color coded luggage tags on Friday evening. We needed to be out of our staterooms by 8am on Saturday so our luggage needed to be packed and left outside our doors by midnight Friday evening. Remember to leave disembarkation clothing out for the next day! On Saturday morning, after receiving our final bill and checking it for accuracy, we went down to one of 3 "holding" areas and waited for our tag color to be called. The entire process, including the wait was about 1 and a half hours. We then boarded a shuttle bus (taxis are also readily available) and headed to Miami airport to catch our flight back home.
Overall, my ratings would be:
Navigator of the Seas, 5
I guess my dream cruise (if I go again) would be fewer passengers, no ports and bright sunny skies... but then, I am a dreamer.