Cruise Review of Navigator of the Seas, December 8, 2012 About me: Love cruising - like to be active. Easy to please. Best thing: service, both housekeeper and waiters Worst thing: casino because of smokiness
Getting there. We live nine hours from New Orleans and four hours from a good airport, so we drove. Spent the night at a nice Sleep Inn ($59) near the airport - pick up a coupon book to get this rate. Visited the French Quarter in the morning, and stopped by the interesting old Catholic cemetery. Then used GPS to go to the port's parking lot. That was a mistake. We got a zigzag tour of the underbelly of the port area. Next time I will go back to I-10 and use the road signs to find the cruise port. Parking lot was poorly paved, and cost us $112 (could have saved $28 by parking offsite, but I would be in a hurry to leave New Orleans after the cruise.) We didn't see a porter until we'd walked most of the way to the terminal. Arrived at 2:30 in an attempt to let the crowds get on the ship -- didn't help, there was one slow line after another. Guess I'll go back to arriving early.
The first thing we noticed about the ship was the slow elevators. As the cruise wore on, the elevators got slower and slower. Maybe it was because most passengers wanted to ride rather than to walk up or down a single level.
Departure. The ship got away two hours late; I'm afraid this was because somebody had heart problems during the lifeboat drill. Kids on a riverboat tour went crazy when we waved at them. Another riverboat gave us a calliope concert. We passed a cruise ship while on the Mississippi River. Being on the river is a great part of a cruise out of New Orleans.
Dining rooms. The main dining rooms are on decks 3 through 5, towards the rear of the ship. They are open in the middle, and it feels like one huge dining room. The chandeliers are spectacular. Noise level is low. The cafeteria is on deck 14. It is a no-frills place, with buffet lines in the middle of the cafeteria, but lots of seating near the windows.
Breakfast. We always ate in the restaurant; breakfast was quite good, and there was no reason to go anywhere else. The menu had several selections, plus there is a buffet with fruits, yogurt and cereals. The cooks got my eggs right every time. One day my wife sent her Eggs Benedict back because the whites were runny. The host fills up each table, so there are lots of people to talk about the previous day's activities. Breakfast was the best part of most days.
Lunch. The restaurants weren't open long for lunch. Since we had late seating supper, and usually ate breakfast fairly late, there was no opportunity to eat lunch in a restaurant. I ate in the cafeteria. The lettuce salads were fine. The hot food was poor, with the same selections every day. Bread pudding was good, but the other desserts were terrible.
Supper (late seating, 8:30). Food was excellent. Even the frozen fish was cooked well. Wonderful prime rib, served on two different nights. Lobster was plentiful; one guy ordered and ate three lobsters. The cold, sweet soups were too sweet for my tastes. No escargot during the week. Chocolate desserts were tasty, and the parfaits were good. There were four of us at a table for eight -- we had very attentive service.
Cabin. We had a balcony cabin. The balcony itself felt like public space; we couldn't see anyone, but we heard many conversations. Romantic, it was not. The cabin itself was roomy. Lots of sitting space, including a couch. The bathroom was plenty large, and the shower was big enough. Closets had lots of space. The dressers were way too small, but there were several shelves in the closet. The room was very quiet. We slept with the balcony door open on the first and last nights, as the weather was cool near the mainland. In the Caribbean, the weather was way too warm to enjoy being outside on the balcony at any time.
Music. Ship band (big band / jazz) was mediocre. Pool band (vaguely reggae) was very good and had a wide repertoire. Jazz combo was pretty good. Violin and piano duo were nice. Other music was not impressive. There was little live music for such a large ship.
Comedians. Azeem was hard to understand, so I didn't laugh much. He did a late night, "adult" set which I missed (poor reviews from people at breakfast.) The other comedian told the stalest of jokes; but a young lady sitting near us thought they were hilarious.
Ice skating program. Surprisingly good. I'd rather pull out my fingernails than watch ice skating on television. But these were real people doing honest ice dancing. If they missed a jump or had to recover from an awkward lift, it just made the show all the better.
Musician Travis LeDoyt. Elvis impersonator. He performed as the young, rockabilly Elvis. He also did some Jerry Lee Lewis style music. Crazy entertaining.
El Gaucho. Musician, visual artist, and loon. Fun to watch.
Ballroom Dancing show. After being pleasantly surprised by the ice dancing, LeDoyt and El Gaucho, we decided to try this show. The ballroom dancing couple was very good, but the show was boring. We left early.
Casino. It is the last refuge for cigarette smokers, and almost every gambler sported a lit cigarette. The exhaust system was overwhelmed. Only people who seriously love second hand smoke should go to the casino. Usually on a seven day cruise, there are stories about somebody who won a bunch of money. Only one rumor reached my ears -- at breakfast a guy said he saw someone doing okay at some roulette style game; the other diners at my table were incredulous.
Activities. My wife went to a belly dancing class; they changed the location, and the class was half over by the time she finally found it. I am a piano instructor, and so went to a piano lesson to see how they teach it; nobody came to the lesson. The ship also offered one hour classes in napkin folding, ballroom dancing, Spanish speaking, and other things. My wife enjoyed the belly flop contest and the sexy man contest. Bingo on the ship was way over-hyped, and that was my clue to do something else. Poor art auctioneer could barely speak English, and he didn't sell much the one time I watched.
CruiseCritic Meet and Greet. Had an invitation in the cabin that the get-together would be held at 11:30 PM on the third day. Then someone called and said it was changed to 11:00 AM on the second day. We had a good time visiting with other people who got that mistaken message. When it actually started at 11:30, it was disappointing. There were too many people in a room with no windows. They served us seriously bad Kool-Aid.
Walking track and jogging track. Deck 4 circles the ship outdoors. Toward the front of the ship, this track detours to deck 5; that is an added bonus to serious walkers. There were several shuffleboard courts that were well used. Many deck chairs were available, but were mostly vacant. This track is above and beside public areas, so early morning walkers don't disturb anyone. The jogging track is on deck 12, above the pool. It is fairly short, and wound around the chairs which faced the pool; and so, jogging is difficult during daylight hours.
Promenade. Artfully laid out. Besides obligatory liquor store and cruise clothing store, there were small bars -- coffee, ice cream, beer, and champagne. Only problem was that wide tables (used to sell trinkets) blocked traffic through the area. And a huge Christmas tree blocked traffic at the other end. On formal night, graceful stairways were used as a photo prop. To travel between front and rear of the ship, we usually avoided the deck 5 promenade and used the walking track or casino on deck 4.
Recreation. The rock climbing wall was more of a competition venue for teens than a recreational area. It was only open during short hours. The basketball court was good. The miniature golf course was difficult because there were no walls against which to carom a shot. There were side by side pools; somebody told me that one was fresh water and the other salt. Lots of hot tubs. Another pool and hot tubs were in a part of the ship that was supposed to be child-free; the walls were so close that it seemed more like an indoor swimming pool. An in-line skating track was very short. The ice skating rink had open skating only a few times during the cruise.
Getting off the ship. There were no debarkation announcements in the cabins or restaurants. We didn't know that it had been delayed for an hour and a half. Breakfast was slow, even though we were in the restaurant when it opened at 6:30. Once in the terminal, the waiting line for people carrying all their luggage off the ship was incredibly slower than the line for people who had checked their bags; so people with early exit times were out the door before the self-porters.
Summary. Many RCI customers have a notion that Royal Caribbean is some kind of luxury line. Maybe it is. Those people were disappointed by the Navigator. The Navigator has some very nice things, but it is definitely not luxurious; it is a little nicer than ships of the same size from Carnival and Norwegian. I'd go again on an RCI ship, especially if they continue to cruise out of New Orleans & Galveston. But there is no reason to pay more for a Navigator cruise than for any of the mass market cruise lines.