This cruise was full of celebrations for our group of 15: two birthdays and Thanksgiving. This was my second time on the Navigator of the Seas, 3rd Voyager-Class, and 4th Royal Caribbean cruise. Coming in, we had high expectations. In most cases, we had a great journey. But in some aspects, we were disappointed. To start with, the weather produced some rough seas midweek so we missed a port call in Grand Cayman.
Overall, it was in good shape but definitely had some things that will be addressed (I hope) in dry dock (scheduled for early 2014). The cabin faucets had trouble distinguishing from hot or cold water -- it was always just warm. A fellow traveler complained 3 times, but nothing was ever fixed. We had a closet door hinge break, but it was fixed quickly. Some of the carpet and theater seats look worn and ready for replacing. But overall, everything was functional and still kept in good shape.
We were in Aft 1392 - our favorite on this ship. The covered area of the balcony is big enough for two sitting chairs, a table, and two lounge chairs. It is quiet - not much traffic. There is a little more side-to-side vibration movement at full speed, but there is almost no up-down motion being in the very back. Our room steward was very efficient and kept us very happy.
For the first time on a ship, we opted for a big table with 15 seats. The dining room appears to have two right in the center, near the stairs. It was exciting to be near the action and activities. But I think the size also caused major service issues On the first night, we all were seated close to the 5:30 time. But the actual service was very extended with long pauses between courses. Finally at about 7:45, our desserts started to arrive. We were the last table in the dining room, and we could see the people lining up at the door for the 8:00 seating. One of the head waiters finally came over and said we would have to leave even though our dessert/coffee had been on the table for just minutes. We explained the situation, and he indicated it would be addressed. For the rest of the nights, service was inconsistent and still took a long time. What bothered me is that we never saw an Asst. Head Waiter at our table or appear to help our Waiter out. The Asst. Waiter did a great job of keeping drinks and bread refilled, but she did not help with food distribution at all.
For the first time on a RCCL ship, I never saw or met our Assistant Head Waiter! The Head Waiter stopped by a couple of times, and he said he did some things to have the problem addressed. But I don't think it helped much. Was our table too big for their system? Maybe...but our waiter may have just been over her head.
The food itself was good. Some dishes were excellent (turkey and sole), but some items were tough and rubbery (steak and lobster).
Outside the dining staff, the staff was pleasant and friendly. Some did seem "tired", and many of them said this was their final cruise before vacation. It seems the transatlantic voyage and some missed port calls for time off was weighing on them. There just didn't seem to be that energy with the crew that I have seen on previous ships.
The stage shows were well acted, but they do need to be refreshed. We had taken a Spring Break 2012 cruise, and much of the content was the same. The guest ice show performers and the guest headliners were excellent. We really enjoyed the "Man of 1000 voices" and the Russian ice skaters.
The kids said Adventure Ocean was pretty crowded at time, but there were 900 kids/youth onboard this ship (out of 3,690 guests!)
PORT OF GALVESTON:
Having taken a previous Galveston cruise, I learned some tricks:
1) Entry Into Port: Avoid Harborside completely and go through the "Strand" area to enter the port directly around 22nd street. You bypass the massive line of cars coming down Harborside. There is still a 1-car-wide funnel just inside the port before the Terminal 1/Terminal 2 divide that needs to be fixed.
2) Check-In: The agents were pretty efficient for normal cruisers, but the handicap/wheelchair area was backed up. We arrived about 11:30, but the wheelchairs were still be used by disembarking passengers.
3) Disembarkation: This was much improved. We had two wheelchairs with us so we got a little priority but not much. We waited about 30 minutes onboard, then it took about 15 to get to our bags. Once we had our bags, we were outside in 10 minutes. They had 8+ customs lanes open.
We love cruising from Galveston as we can drive so I hope that the drydock and crew change that should occur will revive the Navigator for its year+ stay in Texas.