This is a review of the Navigator of the Seas, sailing date Nov 17, 2012. Our group was my wife, myself, our children (ages 20, 12, and 12) and my wife's (mid 70s) parents.
As a general statement I believe the crew on any given ship will make or break the entertainment value of the vacation.
The crew on the Navigator just didn't seem to care and weren't trying to hide it. We are a pretty laid back, self-entertaining group and don't expect to be waited on hand and foot, so we can and did have a good time despite the crew. That said I could not in good conscience recommend this ship/itinerary to someone.
I don't like reviews where someone just says a cruise or hotel room is bad or good. I need to know *why* you thought so. If I know the why then I can better determine if that would be good/bad for me. So I want to provide a review where I detail what was good/bad along with some of the 'why.'
We flew in the day before and spent the night at the Embassy SUites. At 12:30pm We walked the two blocks to the whale lot where there were porters loading luggage onto carts. There was a bit of confusion because some folks who were Carnival passengers were trying to give them luggage. Our bags were already tagged so it was a quick drop and go situation. The porters tagged you bags if you didn't already have them. Note that the Riverwalk access to the cruise ship walkway (it's still marked like that) is closed. The doors have a heavy chain and padlock on them. It's easy enough to walk in the street, about 1 block from the whale lot to the terminal. There was a police officer (where the port road turns onto Julia street) managing the vehicle and pedestrian traffic.
At this point organization took a vacation. We didn't know it at the time but a lot of the embarkation problems were related to the fact that the Navigator had just come trans-atlantic. I was later told that because the ship was previously trans-atlantic and "new" to the port all the various authorities were being more detailed in checking things out. This applied not only to disembarking passengers, but also checking out the crew. (Imagine Coast Guard, and Immigration and CUstoms officers diligently following the rules.)
I'm not saying anything is wrong with this, just making note that it cause a lot of confusion and delays. I hope this experience was not indicative of a normal boarding in NOLA, because it was hands down the worst I've experienced out of 7 cruises. I'll give an example:
One RCL employee was telling embarking passengers to go back the other way because there were still 500 passengers from the previous cruise still disembarking. We ignored him along with a few others and asked a bit further down and another RCL employeed told us to continue ahead as they've been boarding passengers for the last hour. We then were able start the boarding process.
The dancing shows were fine. (Nothing spectacular or particulary impressive.)
There were two different comedians which were both very good.
There was a Platters group that was fantastic.
Our group agreed that overall this was weak. This was compounded by the fact that the first two days were sea days. There was just very little going on those two days. This was especially disappointing to me since I enjoy having a drink on the pool deck and watching contests or listening to music. Two days at sea and the highlight of the pool deck was the ice cream machine.
The bingo was run well
The trivia and sudoku contests in the schooner bar were okay
The movie selection in the theatre was geared towards a 20-40 crowd. I would liked to have enjoyed more movies there but the seats were were so incredibly uncomfortable I couldn't make myself go back. My father in law went once also and said it was like sitting on a board.
MDR: The food was good, the service decent. Nothing spectacular. The service of course varies from table to table. For some odd reason they served the Thanksgiving meal on Wednesday night.
Windjammer: Only once did I find the Windjammer crowded. It was a sea day right at noon. Any other time we have no trouble getting a table or having to wait in line for food. The food itself was fine and well kept up. The only issue I had with Windjammer was it closed at 9:30 pm every night. Which would not have been a problem except there were no late night buffets, so you were left with room service or the Cafe Promenade (See below.)
Cafe Promenade: This place was just downright awful. I've seen it well done on the Freedom of the Seas, so I know it can be done. I was served the worst Starbucks latte I've ever had. I threw half of it away. The worst part though
was the service. I'll give an example: There is a sign with the available kinds of pizza. (Only once was I ever there and they actually had all 3 kinds listed on the sign.) I asked the woman at the counter what kind of pizza they had since I could see there was only 1 pan under the heat lamp. She gave me a dirty look and gestured at the sign. So I play along and ask for pepperoni which was listed on the sign. She turned around and looked at the pan, turned back around and told me they only have cheese pizza. Which wouldn't be so bad except that cheese pizza wasn't one of the kinds listed on the sign.
I've been on some ships where I felt like I was constantly getting mobbed by bar service folks. That was definitely not an issue on the Navigator.
Soda Package: In my opinion, the soda package on the Navigator is a complete waste of money. They have apparently changed how this whole situation is handled because if you have the soda package you either get fountain soda or soda poured from a 2 liter bottle. The problem with the 2 liter bottles is every time I got it, it was flat. I'm convinced others figured this out as well which further aggravated the problem. What then happened is people would not get soda at the places that had the 2 liters which caused long lines at the other places. Most often those places were the bars, which then angered the bartenders and others waiting for alcoholic drinks.
I honestly believe you could solve the issue by not having the bottles at all or marking them with a timestamp. Note that if you didn't have a soda package they would whip out a cold can of soda and provide glass. (I'm tempted to write letter to the Coca-Cola company about the issue.)
I'm not sure I will ever buy the soda package on RCL again because of this.
This ship does not yet have wifi throughout the ship. I was able to get a very weak signal in our room on deck 9 forward but never enough to actually get a internet connection.
I never had any trouble getting a connection on the pool deck, windjammer, royal promenade, or of course in the internet cafe.
Teen club: My twins went to the 12-14 club and activities. My daughter didn't enjoy it and gave it up after the second day. My son kept going throughout the entire cruise. Most of the activities did seem more boy oriented. The only issue I had was once when I went to check on him in the teen club room. I stepped inside the room and the RCL woman freaked out and ran over at me. She kept telling me that I couldn't come in there. She wouldn't shut up so I started talking over her and said I came to check on my son. She kept saying I can come in there. I asked how to I get a hold of him, and she said I would have to talk to her and she could get him. I then asked how if she was also in the room how could get a hold of her without coming into the room? At that she stopped talking and just stood there with her mouth open like that had never occurred to her. By that time we had the attention of all the kids in the room.
I just talked to my son quickly and then left. (I've never had a problem stepping into the room to get the attention of staff on the Carnival kids club.)
Our excursion in Grand Cayman was cancelled due to high wind. We had left early to catch the tender and shop a bit so we didn't find out it was cancelled until we were standing there waiting for the group to show. I did discover that the excursion desk had left a message on our room phone indicating the cancellation. So I give them props for trying to contact us.
It wasn't as bad as embarkation, but having been through many others this experience was consistent with rest of the voyage.