Our family decided to try the Grand Suite luxuries on the Navigator of the Seas as our first experience with Royal Caribbean and our first experience leaving from Port Everglades. We flew into Ft Lauderdale on Friday, March 30th and stayed at the Hampton Inn North for the night--nice room, free airport and cruise port transfers--good value. Sailed March 31st, Easter Caribbean itinerary. The ship is beautiful and we had a good time, however, the process of getting on board was greatly disappointing and left us rethinking our decision. Arrived at the port at 10:30, left our luggage outdoors with the porters (which was our first head-scratcher)and headed to the terminal. Not much organization outside the building while we waited, but oh boy, what a surprise awaited us when we got inside! The place resembled a warehouse--concrete walls with a few random RCI posters stuck to the walls and a check-in desk that looked temporary at best. Exposed ventilation ducts, industrial lighting, noisy, etc. Chin up--we still had the "priority boarding" area for GS and above to look forward to..and what a WOW factor THAT turned out to be(and not in a good way)! After check-in, ALL passengers were directed to large lines of connected chairs to await boarding---our "priority boarding" area was a roped off area of about 4 lines of these pretty-disgusting looking chairs. Ugh! Our rows WERE called first to board, but not at ALL a good first impression of RCI, and everybody knows what they say about first impressions.
On Board a little after noon, we were told our cabins would be ready by 1:30--no big deal, we headed for lunch at Windjammer. Looking around the ship, we were impressed by the decor and especially the Grand Promenade. Beautiful! This ship really doesn't show it's age. Before going in to eat, we noticed it was raining outside, quite heavily, too. Nice buffet, good meal, and we were impressed by the number of choices.
Our cabin, our Grand Suite, was ready as promised and it was beautiful! Birthday decorations were in place on the door and in the room for my daughter's birthday to her great surprise. For our family of four, there was more than enough room and tons of storage space for our things. We knew our bags would be delivered at some point, so we kept checking back throughout the afternoon to see if they arrived. Alas, they did not arrive before dinner. We like to dress for dinner but were forced to enter the beautiful Main Dining Room for the first seating in very casual clothes. We weren't alone. Checking our cabin after dinner, our bags had arrived---four out the the six were WET! Not sure why some of the first bags to arrive at the dock were STILL not on the ship or at least under cover in their trolleys or a holding area by the time that rain came. First the warehouse, now this? Time to find out how our GS Concierge service worked. Quite well, it turned out. Concierge Karen Hernandez is wonderful! Her customer service skills are outstanding. Commiseration, free laundry service and a bottle of wine later, we left her lounge happy. She must have been inundated with similar problems that day, but never appeared frazzled---what a gem she is!
The Sail Away "party" was another disappointment--they just kept coming on Day 1 for us. This ship seriously is not for families with children--this "party" was a dud and we left.
After that first day, things did get better. The ship is lovely, beautifully appointed and well-maintained. The cabin stewards are very friendly--we had Ray and he was terrific (although he did miss a pair of undershorts tucked into the vanity chair during the quick turnover from the previous occupants---or maybe that was just another perk for a GS?). I loved the day-of-the-week inserts in the carpeting of the elevators. Usually crowded though, and Spring Break travel brings lots of unsupervised teens who would quickly press ALL the buttons before exiting so that the cars stopped at all floors. Not impressed by how some parents can't teach their kids to behave. Our cabin doorbell was rung late hours a couple times, the Happy Birthday poster on the door was stolen, and, on the last day, the "make up the room" card was cut into pieces and inserted back into the door slot on just about every suite that we saw on our way to the aft elevators. The Casino was great fun, but the theatrical performances were blah-the RCI lip-syncing "singers" and dancers were not that good. The ice show was a WOW! The comedian Bobby Collins was hysterical--wish he had been booked for TWO shows. James the jewelry guy wasn't a favorite--I won a necklace in one of his drawings(on Day 2)and chased after him until Day 7 before I got my prize(thank you Karen for helping!). Labadee was beautiful--Barefoot Beach was beautiful and I'm SO glad I rented a cabana(B2)--it was comfy for the family and we had our best day there. Grandson loved the kid's club on board--the counselors there kept the children engaged and active in fun games and competitions. One of the nicest perks of the GS was the valet luggage service for debarkation--sign up with Karen early for this! We received our special tags for our bags, set them outside our door and off they went at 11:00pm the night before debarkation, not to be seen again until Baggage Claim at your home airport. No searching through the warehouse for your color section, no lugging them through customs yourself or shuffling them to transport. WOW!
Overall, we liked this cruise although you might not be able to tell from all the verbiage above. WE had a great time despite the diversions. Will we cruise RCI again? Probably, but not soon. And never again out of Port Everglades. Overall, not even the Suite life can lure us away from our favorite, Disney. Our next cruise is booked on the Fantasy.