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Bob Shaw

Age: 60+

Occupation:Home-Based Cruise Agent

Number of Cruises: 20+

Cruise Line: Royal Caribbean

Ship: Navigator of the Seas

Sailing Date: November 26th, 2005

Itinerary: Western Caribbean

Overview: This was definitely a significant new experience for my wife and myself. We had never been on a ship of 3000+ passengers and were braced to deal with the crowds. The overall ship is a wonderful facility. The sheer size is impressive and the various amenities in this ‘Voyager’ Class ship is worth a close look for every experienced cruiser. For 1st-time cruisers with children, you may be spoiled for other ships forever. Our reactions are a bit mixed since we would chose this large ship only if we were doing a family cruise event.

Waiting in Lines: Perhaps the only time that the waiting became a problem was as we first arrived at the ship. Over 2 hours in lines became frustrating as we were anxious to get on board and begin exploring. The terminal and port staff doesn’t seem equipped to handle 3000+ people in a short period of time. This should not be the case since RCI has several ships this size now and it seems would be pretty good at moving this many people. This is the only area of the cruise that really needs major improvement.

All other waiting in lines were not bad at all. Getting off and on the ship was done very nicely, even with the 2 ports that ‘tendering’ was necessary. The final morning to leave the ship was just about the same as other cruise lines even though coming back through customs did cause some slow movement.

Waiting in lines on the ship was not bad at all as RCI has done a nice job of spreading the facility and entry points out so you are not faced with massive conjestion points.

Congestion Points: As mentioned above RCI has in total done a very nice job of not putting you into congested areas on purpose. Examples of this have always been traditionally on cruise ships at dinner time, waiting for the evening show or getting off the ship in a port. Here RCI deserves high marks. There are a couple places on the ship where congestion is somewhat of a problem at times: around the photo area at the popular times got a bit scary as folks became anxious to find their special photo and the crowds hampered this effort. Also, the center promenade or interior boardwalk in the evening tends to get too full at times and around the large pool area at popular times. This really isn’t surprising on a ship that has 3000+ passengers. These are not easy problems to solve though they got a bit scary for folks that struggle with tight crowds.

Cruise Highlights: We looked forward with great anticipation to seeing the ice skating performance on the ice rink on Deck 3. We enjoy ice skating shows so we had looked forward to this event with anticipation. We were very, very impressed with it all! What a unique event. For such a small area the skaters do an impressive job and the staging & costumes are top notch for sure! Since seating is limited, don’t miss it as a special memory! Our second highlight event was eating at the steak house dining venue. The entire experience was top notch! We have dined on premium level ships’ steak houses and this facility, food, service and value takes a ‘backseat’ to none. We were very impressed.

The final highlight for us was a casual lunch at ‘Johnny Rockets’. We feel this is RCI’s best kept secret. What fun and a great change of pace from the other dining venues. For those of us from the 50’s & 60’s playing the juke box’s old songs, having a burger & shake and having the staff perform disco in the aisle to the Bee Gees was just a real delight. The small charges were minor and it was fun for us and the younger folks seemed to enjoy it as much as we did!

Other Key Observations & Comments: Most of the following are comparative since we have done so many other cruises. We may be a bit spoiled in some areas yet feel it is important to share our thoughts, bow to stern.

• The 3 level performance facility is impressive with almost no seats that have ‘blind spots’. In fact there are a very high percentage of outstanding seats.
• We were surprised that the evening headliner shows did not seem to fill the facility for either the early or late show. With so many people on the ship, that defies logic a bit.
• The RCI singer and dancers were excellent! Both of their full shows would rate with us as ‘top 10’ performances. The 4 vocalists are top notch New York talent. The dancers and their routines are not elaborate or complicated but are very effective, well rehearsed and professionally performed. The live music group was also tops in their support too.
• Other evening performances covered the whole spectrum from outstanding to average at best. This is not bad just a point that all cruise lines need to continually work to improve.
• The health club area was impressively filled with new equipment and an impressive spa atmosphere. A lot of money was spent in this venue and if it is your thing, you’ll enjoy all aspects of it.
• A final bow observation comes from enjoying being on deck when the ship arrives and leaves a port. This ship excels in excellent visas on the bow from several decks and vantage points. Since the ship is so tall, it is amazing how far you can see beyond the shore from the top deck!
• Deck 4 has an exterior promenade which does not completely encircle this deck like smaller ships. Since I exercise each day, one windy day at sea that prevented me from using the top deck, this deck was perfect and you can circle the entire ship if you are willing to climb a set of stairs near the bow which adds to your exercise. If you are looking for a quiet place, this is one of your best bets, particularly on the stern.
• Speaking of quiet places, if you seek to be away from the noise of the pool area try the following: the library - deck 7, the business lounge - deck 6, Viking Crown Area – deck 14 or Internet Café at time – deck 8.
• Speaking of noisy places, we found to be a problem on at certain times of the day. We first noticed it from our inside cabin as it faced the interior boardwalk/shop area on deck 7. Amazingly enough it was only a problem for us the first night. After that the evening commotion, late-night parades and music did not keep us awake.
• Our cabin was a bit small in comparison to what we are use to on other ships. By square footage it was about 20% less space than on their competitor’s ships. Since we were in an interior cabin, this made it a bit more apparent since we normally are in a balcony cabin.
• Storage was adequate but again on the small side in comparison in both the drawer and closet area. For a 1-week cruise it was not a major problem as we have learned putting unused items under the bed gives you floor space.
• The bathroom was nice, clean and adequate. For me the shower was too small. I am over 6’ 2” and 200+ lbs. and could not bend over to scrub any part below my knees. It was funny as I dropped the soap once and had to open the door to pick it up. Again for just a 1-week cruise it was not irritating.
• The main dining room was most impressive! The 3 deck arrangement makes it ideal for handling the large numbers of passengers at 2 seatings.
• The dining room staff was excellent, well-trained and added to the evening meal experience.
• The food seemed to us to be average and not to the level of many of the other cruise lines. This would include the appetizers, salads, soups, meats, vegetables and deserts. Seldom did we get a dish that we could state it was excellent. Almost all of them were average at best. This is an area that RCI could work to improve.

Summary: Sometimes it is important to balance the very best with the not so good. There are few cruise ships that provide the perfect cruise vacation. That is the very reason there are so many ships with so many different appeals to various folks. We liked this ship. The highlight for us was the skating show. We would do this ship again only if we were taking family of various ages and needs. We did have a very nice time, just not spectacular!

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