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Jim Cochran

Age: 46


Number of Cruises: 3

Cruise Line: Royal Caribbean

Ship: Navigator of the Seas

Sailing Date: April 1st, 2006

Itinerary: Western Caribbean

This was my third cruise, second cruise with my wife, and first cruise for our three teenagers. While at the airport waiting to go home last year, people from the Voyager and Navigator were raving about their vacation. We decided at that point we would make this a family vacation for this year. This was definitely a significant event for our family of 5. We had never been on a ship of 3000+ passengers and no idea what to expect, the reviews were quite mixed on the crowds. The ship overall is spectacular in design and layout. The only draw back is the elevator situation. They have 14 passenger elevators, which seems adequate, but for 3000 passengers, your cruise would be over before the elevators would service the decks below Deck 8. Be prepared to use the stairs.

Embarkation: This went pretty smoothly. We arrived at 12:30, porters were waiting at curbside to collect our bags and take them to the ship. We tipped the porter $10 for 10 bags, which seemed enough since they did show up, although at 7:30 at night. The security and boarding process was painless and took about 15 minutes start to finish. There were long lines but they moved very quickly. We were having a buffet lunch in the Windjammer by 1:30 after viewing our statrooms, Cabins 6322 and 2566.

Staterooms: These were very well kept, Ishmail our attendant was excellent throughout the cruise. The rooms had a stocked mini-fridge and a balcony which is a little larger than what we had seen on other cruise ships. The "spacious" bathroom was efficiently layed out. Our large suitcases fit under the bed quite nicely with scuba equipment and formal wear in the closet.

I had ordered some welcome gifts for the family, non-alcoholic champagne, some White Star, and robes and adventure gear online several weeks prior to departure. Some of it was in the room when we arrived, we spent an hour showing people our reciepts before it all showed up. Definately keep your receipts, you will need them throughout the cruise.

Dining: All we had was our pool wear for the first night since the luggage was so late. I stopped by the dining room and was told casual wear was required, by someone in official looking red jacket, seemed to be having a bad day, but we never saw again on the cruise. This was unfortunate because we found out later that on the first night they would make exceptions for the luggage situation. So instead of main dining at 6:00, we went to Johnny Rockets, what a mistake. There is a cover charge and the shakes are extra, $45.00 for one of the worst dining experiences ever. The hamburgers were dry and the fries and onion rings exetremely greasy. We love Johnny Rockets in Albuquerque, but this one does not even come close to their usual standards.

The next food option is the Windjammer and Jade buffets. We also found these to be awful by food standards in general, let alone by cruise ship standards. The lines were not long and there was always seeting available, but the food is bland, fruit drinks watered down, there is no variety, you will see the same food on the last day as you did on the first day. Totally unsatisfactory.

Main Dining Room: We chose first seating dining at 6:00 pm. Hard to choose since 6:00 is too early for us, and 9:00 far too late. We definitely love "freestyle" dining offered by one of their competitors. Our table was 570, Kal (head waiter), Nelish (Waiter) and Adrian (Assistant Waiter) offered great service throughout the cruise, truely first class! The food was pretty good, except for the New York Strip Steak (that was awful) and the mild case of food poisoning I had on Monday night. They offered a wide variety of choices each night. If something was not to your liking they would bring anything else out you wanted to try. They even had the chefs make some custom order foods on a few nights.

We went to Portofino, their upscale Italian Restaurant, the food was excellent, but the service was slow and no where near that provided by Nelish and Adrain in the main seating dining.

We tried getting into Chops Grille, but were always told they were full. Each time we stopped in the restaurant was half full, but they still would not seat us without a reservation.

Gala Buffet: They had a gala midnight buffet one evening, the staff really talked it up during the day. They open at 11:30 so everyone could come in and look at the presentation of food and ice sculpture and exotic foods, this was very visually appealing, but we noticed the food was not covered and many people were coughing over the food as they took pictures, it was somewhat disgusting so we left without eating.

There were hand sanitizers throughout the ship, but we never saw anyone using them. On other ships, we were required to use them at several intervals, such as coming on the ship and before dining. None of that here, and we never really saw anyone wiping down the stair hand rails (you use them alot, see Elevator comment). With all the problems cruise ships have with virus outbreaks, I think this one could improve greatly.

The wine list featured primarily California, and many wines were out of stock during the voyage.

Bars and Nightlife: This ship has exceptional bar and lounge facilities, you can always find a quiet place with a great view or atmosphere, or the enjoy the crowd at the Dungeon. There is always something going on, you can find music and atmosphere to suite your tastes. The Viking lounge is a great place at the top of the ship.

The Two Poets was the only place I think they could make some improvements. An English pub with only two English Beers, come on!

My son is writing his own review, but the kids loved the teen disco, game room and activities in general.

The Royal Promenade is the center of the ship, what a great feature to add to a ship, it is spectacular.

Cruise Activities: We looked forward with great anticipation to seeing the ice skating performance on the ice rink on Deck 3. We had looked forward to this event with anticipation. We were very, disappointed in the quality of the skaters, there were more falls and stumbles that at a hockey game. There was one Russian Skater however that was spectacular in her hoop display.

My daughter was looking forward to skating but there was only two days skating was allowed and it was limited, my daughter never was able to get in.

Rock Climbing was another limited time activity and was crowded, again my daughter missed out.

Despite this, there were a multitude of activities to pick from, keeping the kids constantly on the go. They were never bored, and were out until midnight or later every night.

The Ship Shape center is large but a very busy place. The ship also has 1/5 mile track that is nice, but difficult use after 10:30 when the sunbathers show up and the chairs start creeping onto the track.

There is Bingo with Sugar Shane (over $10,000 in prize money given away and also a free cruise, art auctions (with free champagne), a casino, all to fill your time while at sea.

Entertainment: There was great entertainment for the most part. The 2 tier theater is impressive with almost no seats that have ‘blind spots’. In fact there are a very high percentage of outstanding seats.

The Broadway Musical Review was a joke, most people starting leaving after the first 20 mins. The headliners they brought in however were excellent. The rock'n'roll review with Bowzer from Sha Na Na was great, even though the kids had no idea who he was, they enjoyed it greatly. The autograph signing session the next day on the Royal Promenade was equally entertaining. He posed with fans for pictures, made alot of jokes and just made sure everyone had a great time.

Ports and Shore Excursions:

I signed up for shore excursions online. This was very efficient and easy to do. However, when the actual tickets showed up onboard (they deliver to the stateroom), the information was all wrong. Again, several hours spent trying to get it straightened out onboard. Keep those online reciepts. What the ship receives from their processing center is not what you sign-up for.

Labadee: This is RCI’s private “island” (a peninsula) on Haiti. You have to be Tendered to shore, however this process is very quick. We booked the adventure wave-runner experience. We had a great time it was a great tour around the bay on the wave-runners. The other activity that looked fun was the para-sailing. This is a very poor country, and while the lounge chairs/hammocks are free, the local staff rushes to position them and carry for you, hoping for a tip. Snorkeling was okay—nothing spectacular, but local rule required you rent a vest and wear it. This was a bit of a rip off with no added safety for the wearer. The lunch BBQ provided was okay, and we also had several “Labadoosie” beverages, a definite must in the souvenir cup. We attempted the local market, however the VERY high pressure sales were a turn-off so we never went into the flea market.

Ochos Rios: We booked Dunn's River Falls and the Dolphin Swim through the ship. We went to Dolphin Cove and waited around an hour before finally being led to our team that would swim with one of the dolphins. This was a good event including picture taking amd a DVD of the actual event. It lasted about 45 minutes. You get to touch the Dolphin, learn about them, get a kiss and kiss the Dolphin.

Be prepared to wait to get you pictures and to get lunch which took over an hour and a half. After all, this is the island of "no worries mon".

We never made it to Dunn's River falls. After waiting for the shuttle for 45 minutes, we just went back to town to do some shopping before the ship left. We really missed out by not being able to get to the falls.

The flavored rums are definitely a treat.

The Ship offers a shopping guide booklet for $20 which supposedly has major discount coupons. Read the fine print on the coupons. If you present the coupon before agreeing to the price, you generally paid more, and the coupons are not valid on most high-end items like Mont-Blanc pens, watches or jewelry.

Georgetown, Grand Cayman: Based on web reviews and my own email correspondence with Grand Cayman Excursions, I booked a Stingray City Dive trip. My son and I fed stingrays and even more exciting, a green moray eel. It was quite "tame" and obviously very comfortable around people. Something we would never do anywhere else. We got some great pictures. My Wife and the girls went on a Stingray City snorkel tour booked through the ship and had a good time. We did a little shopping before returning to the ship. Shopping is not particularly noteworthy, but most people had a good time regardless of the tour. Grand Cayman was struck by a hurricane two years ago and is finally recovering. On last years cruise, the ship tried to stop, but the harbor master would not let the tenders come out so we sailed on.

Cozumel: This was our fourth time to Cozumel, it is tragic to see the devastation the hurricane did to it, but it is starting to recover.

My son and I booked a scuba tour through a ship. We thought this would be great since the ship has an exceptional dive shop (good pricing on good equipment) and staff on board, however, this was a bad assumption. We ended up on the boat called the Sand Dollar with 30 beginner divers that had just completed the ships discover scuba program. I almost got off thinking this was a very dangerous situation. One of the new divers let a pressurized tank fall over shearing the high pressure hose as we went out to the reef. They were short on weight and equipment.

The reef, Santa Maria which we had been too several times over the years was devastated and filled in with sand. The second reef, Paradise, survived pretty well.

Experienced divers should book their own tour, they will enjoy it more.

The shopping is always good in Cozumel and did not disappoint this time either.

Those that went on the Mayan Ruin tours were all upset at the waiting time in both going on the tour, and waiting to get back to the ship. This robbed them of any shopping time in Cozumel. The ship left port an hour late because of the delay in getting everyone on board.

Photos: This was a high-lite of our trip. Every evening at dinner (except last night) we were offered portrait opportunities both on formal nights and casual nights. We ended up with some great family photos that we will use for the coming year and this year's christmas cards.

Debarkation: You have to have the bags outside by midnight (remember to keep out something to wear for trip home). They will color code your luggage and debarkation time. We went for our final meal in the Wind Jammer (same old food we had been eating all week), and then left at 9:00 am.

The Customs line was long but again the line went very quickly. Collecting our baggage was another story. Took over an hour to get all our luggage. It was a good thing that we did not leave at 7:30 when they called our color, that would have meant 2 1/2 hours to get our bags.

The receipt for the onboard purchases was supposed to be delivered the night before, it never showed up, the line at the customer service desk was long so I figured I would get one at the onshore facility, I figured wrong. I am still trying to get a receipt sent to me.

Summary: Now I know I listed a lot of negative things here, far more than the other cruises I have been on. However, overall, our family had a fantastic time and I would have to say I recommend this ship to any family thinking of cruising. The worst thing that can occur on a vacation is bored whiny kids. This will not happen on this ship! The time flew by. This is the shortest 8 day vacation I can remember. My kids want to know when the next cruise is.

We intend to do one cruise a year, how many of those include the kids will remain to be seen (LOL).

I would not recommend this cruise for couples that want to get away. There are far better ships out there that will cater more adequately to those needs, and that will have better food and adult entertainment.

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