We flew in to Rome on the morning of the cruise (the flights were included in the package, so no option to arrive the day before). Flights, transfers and embarkation all went smoothly, and we were soon exploring the ship. It was a very favourable first impression. Our D2 balcony stateroom was comfortable, and spacious, and it was well positioned just before the hump, sandwiched between suites. It had everything we required, and the stateroom attendant was efficient. We had extremely noisy neighbours in one of the suites next door who smoked and talked very loudly on the balcony until 3 or 4am most nights, and this did bother us I have to say.
We found the food to be of a high standard, but possibly not quite as outstanding as on previous RCI cruises. The variety and quality of food in the Windjammer was good, but it could get so busy and difficult to get a table at lunchtimes. The waiting staff in the MDR was friendly and efficient, but perhaps a little lacklustre this time. We actually felt that the crew throughout the ship generally wasn't as upbeat and happy in their roles as we have experienced previously with RCI. We noticed this particularly in the shops and at the Pool area.
I wondered if this difference in service levels was a result of the automatic upfront gratuities policy which has been adopted? We didn't buy the Drinks package. We just don't drink enough to merit it. We enjoyed the variety of bars and lounges on board, and spent some time in most of them I think. The Two Poets was a bit smoky for us,so we didn't sit inside but it was nice to 'people watch' outside the pub while having a drink. We enjoyed Boleros and also the Schooner Bar, where they had a nightly singalong. It was good fun, but the pianist/singer could perhaps broaden his repertoire, and he isn't a great singer. It was the same stuff each night and got a bit repetitive, although if you hadn't been before it was good fun. There are plenty of alternatives around the ship though if it's not your cup of tea.
The entertainment in the theatre was OK, but not great in our opinion. You can't please all of the people all of the time though, and they did a pretty good job of trying to get it right. We really enjoyed The Emperors of Soul, but not so much the Production Shows. The Ice Show was fabulous. We had a tour of the Bridge and the Galley, and a behind the scenes tour of the Theatre etc. All very interesting, especially the Bridge Tour, meeting the Captain etc.
We spent more time on board on this cruise than we normally do, but we have been on this itinerary a couple of times before. It is a fabulous itinerary! How else can you see parts of 3 different countries in one week? A highlight was the ship's excursion to Ephesus, which we have visited before,and love it. This time we were on a half day, early visit which was great, because our coach was first to arrive before the crowds, and we were back on the ship for lunch! I would advise anyone who goes on an organised excursion from Kusadasi to be aware that you do NOT have to go to the Carpet Factory if you don't want to! The tour guides give the impression that it is a compulsory part of the tour. Of course, it isn't! It's your vacation and you can do what you like. The fact is that the ship is berthed just a few hundred yards from the Carpet Factory. You can just get off the coach and walk back to the ship. We met several people who said that they didn't like the 'hard sell' tactics at the Carpet Factory (sold as a 'Demonstration')but they didn't know that they could say No and leave the tour when the coach returned from Ephesus. We just always politely but firmly say "No thank you, we will just make our own way back to the ship now"
As on previous cruises, we were very impressed by the efficiency of our disembarkation and transfers back to the airport. For us, it's a good idea to have RCI arrange the flights as the price includes transfers to and from the airport. We overheard several people at the Guest Relations desk complaining about the price of transfers when they bought them seperately. I think it was about $90pp for a one way transfer from airport to ship, which is ridiculous.
It's a pity that Navigator is returning to the States. We had a great time and would have loved to do another Med cruise on her after the refit :(