This was our first cruise so we really didn't know what to expect. Prior to cruising I had done lots of research on price and the different cruise lines. Cruise Critic was an invaluable source of information as I prepared for our first cruise.
I was able to book an eight night cruise out of Fort Lauderdale on Royal Caribbean Navigator of the Seas for just under $400 per person. I ended up booked a guarantee inside cabin, but was upgraded to an ocean view cabin on the second deck.
When we found out about our cabin location we were thrilled to get a window, but We were a bit concerned about the possible noise since our room was close to the engines and just below the main dining room. We never heard any sound from the dining room above us and the engine sound was limited to a slight constant rumble (like the sound you hear riding in an airplane). We noticed the engine sound when we stepped into the room but since it was constant we quickly were able to totally block it out. We did notice some loud banging noises in the mornings. Some of these were when the ship docked since we were close to the water line we could hear the ship being tied to the dock. We also noticed another bang sound in the morning that we think was due to water being turned on and off in the showers in the cabins near us. I say this because my wife said she heard it loudly when I turned on our shower one morning. Overall however, these bangs were nothing to really bother us. At most they lasted for less than an hour first thing in the morning and were only a few times during that time period.
Since it was our first cruise I really don't have anything to compare our cabin with. I will say it was small. But I was expecting that. the bed was supposed to be a queen bed, but it seemed larger than that to us. In addition to our bed our cabin had one easy chair and one desk chair at the built in desk. The bath was tiny but big enough to do what you needed to do in there. The TV was old and small (they really need to upgrade to flat panel monitors). Overall out cabin was fine.
The ship was amazing. First off it's HUGE!!!!!! we often caught ourselves having to remember we were on a ship.
We loved the Promanade which is a three deck tall shopping area that runs the length of the ship. We aren't much of shoppers but it was lots of fun to stroll along and just enjoy the people watching. Plus several times during the cruise they had parades or other party type events that ran along the pramanade.
There were plenty of activities and things to do while at sea. We enjoyed the Solarium which is an adult only area with a pool, hot tubs and deck chairs. By adult only I mean that it was a place designated for adults to enjoy without having to deal with kids everywhere. The mini golf was fun too. We didn't try rock wall climbing but enjoyed watching those who did.
There were a variety of lounges and other places to relax and enjoy a drink. I personally enjoyed the cigar bar very much. This space was smallish and very quiet. It was decorated with leather chairs and distinguished art. I loved it! The attendant did a great job of serving us when we wanted but left us along to enjoy our stoggies as we wished. I didn't buy any cigars on board, preferring to purchase some at the posts we were visiting. But I did notice that the prices posted on the cigar menu were very reasonable.
The entertainment on board was fantastic. We loved the production shows and thought the concerts and special guest performers did a great job. I was wowed beyond belief by the ice show. That ice show was as impressive as any ice show I have ever seen anywhere. The ice rink was tiny which did limit a few things, but on the other hand I was able to have a seat one row off the ice with a perfect view of everything.
As for the food as we were preparing for our cruise I had read several reviews about the food on Royal Caribbean stating that it was industrial at best. So honestly going in I was a little concerned by this. What we found was that it all depended on where you ate. We found that the Windjammer Buffet was noisy, crowded and served very institutional food. We didn't particularly enjoy the Windjammer so we avoided it. But we had fantastic experiences in the main dining room. We found that breakfast and lunch in the main dining room was enjoyable with great service a pleasant atmosphere. And dinners in the main dining room were wonderful. The food was consistently good and if you didn't like what you had ordered simply ask for something else. And the service for dinner in the main dining room was the best service I have ever had anywhere in my life! We felt totally pampered by our wait staff who knew our names and remembered our drink preferences after the first meal. Additionally we really enjoyed the little bistro that is on the Pramanade. They were open 24 hours a day and served pizza, sandwiches and some of the best rum raisin cake I have ever had. Several nights we had dinner in the main dining room then would go down to the bistro on the pramanade to grab a cup of coffee and some desert to go and enjoy them from a deck chair as we watched the sea go by.
When I booked the cruise I booked at the last minute so I didn't have a choice of which dining we were to have. We were assigned late dining which means dinner was at 8:30pm. We were concerned about this at first since we normally eat at about 6. But we found that late dining was great. The advantage was that because we dined late we were not hurried when we got back from a shore excursion to get ready for dinner. We also found that on at sea days since early dining is the most popular we would have the pools and the deck chairs almost to ourselves after the early diners went to get ready for dinner.
As for the ports of call. We thought St. Maartin was okay, as I mentioned we aren't shoppers but we did enjoy the beach. St. Kitts was fantastic (I booked a tour of the island from a vendor that I read about on Trip Adviser. I saved a lot of money over choosing the cruise line tour and I found that the service was better). San Juan was lots of fun, we simply enjoyed walking around the old city. The only thing about San Juan that was a bummer is that Royal Caribbean had some sort of stink with the stink so now Royal Caribbean ships dock there really early in the day (7am) and leave mid afternoon (2pm). As a result when you get off the ship most things aren't open yet and you only have time to really enjoy one thing before its time to get back on board. Before our cruise I really didn't know what to think when I saw that we had a stop in Labadee Haiti, they call it an island but its really an peninsula on the main land. I imagined abject poverty and total destruction. What we found was that Labadee was a very well thought out resort area. It was a great place to enjoy the beach for free. You could pay for an over priced zip line ride or an equally expensive coaster type ride. But really the best thing to do was just to swim and enjoy the beach. There was also a Haitian Market area that had some highly screened locals selling stuff. As I have said we aren't shoppers so that didn't appeal to me and from what I saw the vendors were very pushy. Royal Caribbean provides a buffet BBQ on shore at Labadee which was really good. The price of this buffet is included in your ticket. The only thing disturbing about our visit to Labadee was that occasionally if you walked close to the fence you would see people begging for food on the other side of the fence (I know that's a reality of Haiti but it was hard to see).
We had a great time on our cruise. We thought the staff did a great job of taking care of us and we found the ship to be everything we had hoped it would be.
One thing I found out as I talked to people on board is that as a Cruise Critic member we could have signed up for the "Cruise Critic Crawl" where cruise critic members get a chance to see the different cabins on board and to tour the ship. Next cruise I will make sure to sign up for this. I had no idea about it until the day after it had happened.