About my group: Myself (48), my youngest DD (18), my Mom, my twin sister and her husband and their DS (12), and DD's (10, 7). It's my ninth cruise (fifth on a Voyager class ship), my Mom's fourth, and my sister and her family's 2nd on RCI. My daughter and I are Diamond and my Mom and sister's family are Gold Crown and Anchor members.
All my photos from this cruse can be found here: http://navigatorcruise2012.shutterfly.com/pictures/330
My DD and I flew in from DC on a non-stop flight to FLL the day before departure, 30 March. The only issue was that the plane had changed from the one we originally booked so we ended up not sitting next to each other. I noticed that our boarding passes didn't have a seat assignment after we went through security. So I went to the gate and inquired as to why. It was then the gate attendant rifled through a stack of boarding passes and dug ours out. It was then I saw that we were not in our originally booked seats. When I asked why, he stated it was because of an "equipment change." Oh well, I wasn't going to let that ruin my vacation. When we boarded I was hoping that whoever had the aisle or window seat next to my middle seat would swap with my daughter, but those seats were also taken by a family that had been split up as well. But much to my surprise, up walked the Mom of the boy in the window seat and wife of the gentleman in the aisle seat and asked if I would take her aisle seat 10 rows up. Since my DD is 18, I said sure, and swapped...my good deed of the day. After I was seated, a gentleman started to settle into the middle seat next to me, a lady one row over and up one, in a window seat, asked if he would swap since her son was in the window seat in my row. He said no problem. After the Mom was happily seated next to her son, she introduced me to her daughter that was right across from me in the aisle seat...so I asked her if she would like to swap seats to sit next to her Mom...and of course she was delighted to swap. My second good deed of the day! So after more swapping of handicapped and children who were inadvertently seated in exit rows after the "equipment change", we were finally off and made it to FLL on time.
My DD and I met my mom, sister and her family at FLL when they landed an hour after us and we grabbed two taxis to Embassy Suites on 17th St. My sister had made the reservations last fall and we were looking forward to the Manager's Reception that evening, the free breakfast the morning of embarkation, and the fact that it was across the street from Kelly's Landing, the restaurant our Meet and Mingle group were meeting for dinner that night.
When we got to the front desk they informed us that they were in an oversold situation due to extended stays and asked if we would mind staying at a different hotel at the same or higher class hotel. They were offering $50 cash per room (we had 2 rooms booked). Our first instinct was no due to the reasons listed above and the fact that the fold out couches would ensure 2 rooms would accommodate our party of 8 of varying ages/genders.
After several phone calls and about 30 minutes of waiting, this is what we were offered: 3 rooms at the Riverside Hotel in downtown FLL, transportation to and from the Embassy suites for our dinner reservation that night and the Manager's reception, as well as back to the Embassy Suites the next morning for breakfast, and then to the port....all at NO CHARGE...PLUS $150 in CASH. Wow....we may have not won the Mega Millions jackpot that night, but it was a great way start an awesome cruise!!! Thank you to Jackson, our awesome driver, who took us everywhere we needed to be that night and the next morning!!! And the Riverside Hotel was very, very nice. Plus it saved us almost $600 in hotel costs on top of dinner and transportation fees!!!
We always like to get the pier by 1030-1100 and Jackson picked us up promptly at 1045 at Embassy Suites after taking us there from the Riverside Hotel at 0830, and we made it to Port Everglades Pier 29 by 1100. We dropped off our luggage and made our way to the line waiting outside. The cruise prior to us was a Tom Joyner Fantastic Voyage charter cruise and they did not want to leave! So there was a bit of delay getting on.
Now, I had heard some so-so reviews of Pier 29, but I did not expect the austere check in conditions that we encountered at that time of day. After finally being let inside at around 1145, we found ourselves in a warehouse environment without any sort of priority check in line/waiting area for Suite/Diamond passengers, just rows and rows of chair to wait to board. But, oh well, I was there and close to boarding, so I didn't mind....just found it odd. But like I said, after reading the Pier 29 reviews, and the fact that it wasn't built for cruise ship, it didn't really matter. But much to my surprise, as our early bird group were being led to the ship, we passed through what was the "real" embarkation space, complete with the priority boarding/waiting area (can you say cookies and lemonade?). They were still setting up, so we missed that being so early at the pier....but heck....we were boarding so I didn't care.
We were on board and in the Windjammer around 1230 and by the time we finished lunch, our cabins were open...woo hooo!
We were in OS Hump cabins 1314 and 1320. Amazing!!! The balconies were ginormous...and the rooms very spacious. The only downside was that the beds in the OS's did not separate into two twin beds for my Mom and I...oh well...we're both small, so it didn't really matter. But for any one whom this may be an issue, take note. The sofa bed was also different than we were used to...it was more like a futon that pulled out from the bottom. But my daughter and nieces and nephews had no complaints, other than the fact the one in 1314 was a bit squeaky. My nieces slept on the futon bed and nephew on the L-shaped part of the couch. And my DD had her futon/sofa bed to herself in 1320...sans squeak.
Adrian our suite attendant was fantastic and was always available when we needed anything.
We loved the location of our cabins...right next to the aft elevators. So just one floor up to the WJ and one floor down to the concierge lounge. And bonus on the hump!! Only downside...kiddos ringing the door bell at random times. Oh well, that's what you get for having a door bell on a cruise ship with 1,000 kids on board.
Loved, loved having Portofino's to enjoy our meals while dining at the WJ for lunch and dinner. WJ food was as expected. But since this was our first time sailing on a 2nd generation Voyager class ship, I was expecting more Asian fare from "Jade." I don't cruise for fine dining 24/7, so the offerings were good enough for us.
We always eat at the MDR for dinner and enjoyed every meal. We weren't in an ideal location (Table for eight, third floor near the stairs), but still enjoyed the MDR experience. Our waiter Alberto, and Asst. Waiter Manolo, were outstanding. They treated my young nieces and nephew like royalty and we enjoyed each meal immensely.
We've eaten at Chops and Portofino before, so didn't spend the extra $$ to do so again. Plus the fact that my nieces and nephew were too young for those venues, so we happily spent each dinner in the MDR. We did Main Dining at 6:00, and it was perfect for our crowd. There was a table for two next to us that routinely showed up at 6:30 or later. They were from Spain and I guess on the "European" time clock -- meaning 6pm was just a "suggested" dinner time....but no matter, Alberto and Manolo took care of them just the same.
The kids loved the pizza, sandwiches and cookies in the Cafe Promenade. They're available 24/7...some passengers don't figure that out until late in the cruise!
This is the first cruise where I did not go to any of the shows nor the ice show....why you ask??? The concierge lounge now accepts passengers under the age of 18 in the evenings (as long as they are with an adult). So every night we were in the concierge lounge from 5-6 and after dinner til 8:30. From then, the little ones and my Mom went to bed and my sister, brother in law and I would find a lounge or go to the casino for a bit before going to bed ourselves. My DD is 18 so she wanted to learn roulette and the slots. We came out ahead!! Beginner's luck I am sure.
We tried the Schooner Lounge and Promenade Pub entertainers the first night and did not go back....eeeks. Did not like either of them. We did talk my BIL to being a contestant in the new "Finish the Lyric" game show one night...he came in third!! Vito, the Emcee was AWESOME...promote him to a Cruise Director STAT! And of course, we couldn't miss Quest...my sister was again a team co-captain...it was great...but I miss the old style Quest...
St. Maarten: My sister and her family, and I and my DD went on the Capt Morgan Sailing Adventure. Wasn't bad...it was a great sail from the Dutch to French side of St. Maarten, with a great view of the planes landing and taking off at Maho Beach. Just wished the snorkeling would have been better. We stopped at Long Beach on the French side and while the water was great for swimming and shore in swimming distance...there wasn't any real marine life to see other than the ravenous fish (don't know what kind) that would attack any form of food thrown overboard. After our BBQ lunch we were instructed to throw all leftover food overboard....I have never seen fish fight over pork rib remains!!! It was creepy!! But a great time was had by all...and I got a nice little sunburn.
My mom went a guided city tour, and she enjoyed that as well.
My DD and I went on the Catamaran Fan-ta-Sea excursion, my sister and her family on the Eco-Tour, and my mom on a guided city tour.
LOVED, LOVED, LOVED the Catamaran Fan-Ta-Sea!!!! There were actually 2 catamarans, the Spirit and the Eagle. Our catamaran, the Spirit, was definitely the PARTY catamaran. We sailed to a great snorkeling spot, and while I wish it had been longer, had a great time with lots of fish and marine life to see during the snorkel. After that the rum punch and local beers started flowing as we made our way to Nevis for our lunch. YUMM is all I can say! Terrific food and a nice swim at the beach followed. Then party really started for our sail back to the pier. Everyone starboard on Navigator heard us make our way back!!
Best part according to my DD: having cell phone coverage!! She was on the phone or texting whenever possible after discovering we had service while on our way to our zip line excursion.
My sister and her family and I and my DD did the Zip Line Adventure. It wasn't bad...the driver was the best...Hector....but they don't take pictures during the zips, much to the disappointment my sister as the little ones were all able to zip and they really wanted photos of them zipping. So all we have are my mediocre photos of them at the last zip. But, they had a blast!! And that's what counts.
I pestered the concierge, Karen Hernandez, since early Feb to get a cabana on Barefoot Beach and she did not disappoint. We got B1 -- a beach side cabana. LOVED it. The beach is real rocky, but once past the "drop off" about a few yards out, it was great. Our "cabana boy", Leon, would sometimes disappear when we needed something, but we made do. Having the private beach was awesome, as well as the private lunch grill, and transportation to anywhere we needed. My sister and BIL did the zip line and loved it. My DD and I did that in 08 so we were going to parasail. Unfortunately, there was no wind that day and the parasail excursions were running way behind schedule due to the fact that they could only take one person up at a time. So after waiting over an hour, and although we had already pre-booked, we bailed and decided to enjoy our beach time at the cabana instead, maybe next time.
My sister and her family at 5:30pm flights so they did the Everglades tour with transportation back to FLL and had a great time. My mom and DD and I left at our leisure (we all carried our luggage off) at around 9:30 am. The lines weren't too bad, other than those whose pre-unloaded luggage line was lined up against the customs line...they were having a hard time hauling their luggage past the customs line....so they could get in the customs line. So glad we were able to carry ours off unassisted.
My DD, mom and I were at the airport by 11ish. So after getting my Mom checked in at Terminal 1 to await my sister and her family's arrival from the Evergalde's excursion, my DD and I took the shuttle to Terminal 3 for our 2pm flight. Thankfully there had been no equipment change and we were off on time. But just a cautionary note...eat well before you leave the ship. All restaurant venues were PACKED at the airport!!! It is a zoo on embarkation/disembarkation day!!!! My DD regretted sleeping in on the ship and not eating breakfast because we waited forever just for a sandwich at a small restaurant in Terminal 3...and don't even think about going to Chili's (pre-security)...huge line!!! There wasn't even a place to sit in terminal 3 (post security) until it cleared out at about noon when the early birds left.
Change I noticed since last year:
Towels: Suite guests must check towels out now (at least on Navigator). Such a pain in the a$$ especially since the night prior to the first port there were no clean towels until after 8pm. I will bring my own beach towels from now on!
FANTASTIC cruise...we all had a great time!!! Thank you Bela and Francis in the Concierge Lounge who took wonderful care of all of us! And of course to Alberto and Manolo in the MDR and Adrian our Suite Attendant. And I have to mention Nickolai in the MDR...he was our beverage server. OMG....He was AWESOME!!!! RCI...promote him NOW!!! We gave them all WOW cards!
So overall, a big thumbs up for this cruise!