My best friend and I shared a balcony cabin aboard Navigator of the Seas sailing from Galveston, TX to Cozumel, Grand Cayman, and Jamaica on 5/25/14. We were on deck 6, Balcony cabin 6236. Our bags arrived about 2 hours after we sailed.
This was my first cruise, her fourth, and I have to tell you, either cruising isn’t for me, or it was just not that great.
A few disclaimers: I am not a fan of crowds. I don’t like being treated like cattle. It takes a lot to impress me. Please keep those things in mind while reading this review. I will try to be objective.
The Galveston Port: We hired a car to take us from the Hampton Inn in Houston to the port. It was Sunday of Memorial Day Weekend so there was some traffic, but not really that bad. From pickup to drop off was about 50 minutes. A porter met us at the car, took our bags and directed us inside to the terminal. We showed our passports and Set Sail Passes, went through screening, lined up for our SeaPasses and then onto the boat. Total time: approx. 30 minutes. Not bad. There were quite a few people, but the terminal seemed well organized and the flow of traffic moved quickly.
On the Boat prior to sailing: We wandered around, took some pictures, sampled some of the Specialty restaurants’ offerings that were being displayed on the Promenade, took a tour of the spa, then settled down at the Sky Bar overlooking the pool to wait for our cabin to be ready. I am a smoker, so for my fellow smokers here are a few words of advice: THERE IS NO SMOKING ON THE BALCONIES. If you are caught it is a $250 fine. A second infraction will get you disembarked. There are approximately five smoking areas on the ship. The three I took most advantage of were: the Sky Bar, the Casino Bar and deck 11 (the pool deck) in the far corner under a covered area. Fortunately for me all of these areas were fairly close to my cabin.
Our cabin was ready approximately one hour after boarding. We got in and to my surprise, my Bestie had the cabin decorated for my birthday! So sweet of her! We got unpacked, changed and headed out to eat. For lunch we went to the Windjammer. Wonderful selection, no long lines and we had no trouble getting a table.
For our first night’s dinner, we ate at Sabor, the new Mexican Restaurant on deck 4. The food was divine, the service impeccable and the ambience wonderful. It’s a fairly small, intimate venue with Margaritas and Guacamole made tableside to your specifications. We enjoyed that immensely.
Day 2 was spent poolside with beers in hand. The pool band started up around 4 pm and we enjoyed that for a while, then headed inside to get ready for our first Formal Night.
There were photographers at all entrances to the Sapphire Dining Room and they took several shots of us together and separately in our formal attire. They also came to the table for group shots. We had the 830 seating, which I must say, is kind of late. The problem with this is that each course takes approximately 20-30 minutes from ordering to plates being cleared. Dinner was a long, drawn-out affair that I found quite tedious. I didn’t eat in the MDR again.
I won’t bore you with a further day-by-day detailing, but let me hit some highlights for you:
The café Promenade became our home away from home after hours. They serve sandwiches and pastries 24/7 and have a huge selection of teas.
There was a very small selection of music available. One country band – Bubba Feathers – and a DJ. For dancing or live music, that was all you got. It was a bit disappointing as, while I do like country music, I would’ve liked to hear something different once in a while. And as for the DJ – he catered to the much younger (teeny bopper) crowd. That was just too raucous and crowded for me.
I found 3 general groups of people on board – 20-somethings, 70-somethins, and couples. I was none of the above. It seemed that the people in my age group were parents there with their children. While I was with my best friend and my sister and her husband, there really weren’t many people with whom we identified with.
That being said, let me tell you: not everyone is friendly on a cruise. In fact, most people seem to be trying to have a private vacation while amongst thousands of people. They were rude, snippy and selfish. They hogged the deck chairs for hours. They cut in front of the line. They pushed while in crowds. Not a lot of smiling. Not a lot of friendly chit chat.
The pool was ridiculously crowded every day all day. Even the Solarium pool was packed, fortunately there weren’t kids allowed in there, that was very nice. We did take advantage of the Solarium pool and hot tubs several times, but mostly after hours so as to avoid the masses. It was wonderful to be floating in the pool after dark watching the stars. Very peaceful.
There were a lot of things going on on the ship that I didn’t take advantage of: Quest, Love and Marriage, Trivia, lectures, etc. I did join in the Country Dance Party on the pool deck one night. We played a game of “Musical Men” and I had a blast. I won a keychain and danced the night away.
My sister and brother-in-law attended the Quest game and they loved it!
I mostly took advantage of room-service (get the steak sandwich and Caesar salad – excellent!) and the Café Promenade. The Windjammer was yummy, too.
On the 4th night of the cruise, for my birthday, we ate at Giovanni’s table. Again, excellent service, scrumptious food, and dreamy ambience. I enjoyed every minute of it. And both restaurants were worth the extra fee.
Cozumel: we didn’t do an excursion (my friend wasn’t feeling well). We did go into town to do some shopping. This is probably not a good idea for two women to do alone. We were HOUNDED from the minute we got out of the taxi. It was so annoying. And not only did they practically drag us into their shops, they tried to totally rip us off! I was interested in a silver ring. They asked for $85. I just laughed and walked out. They literally chased me down the street going down on price. I finally paid $10 for the ring. Lots of jewel shops, lots of junk shops. We ate at Fat Tuesdays. The food was awful, the beer warm and it was hot as heck in there. They do have free wi-fi, though!
After a little more shopping, we headed back to the ship. The heat and humidity are killers.
Grand Cayman: A few of us booked an independent excursion to snorkel and swim with the stingrays. We chose Moby Dick Tours. They were so nice. They knew we had to tender at this port and that it takes a long time, so they pushed our tour time back from 11 a.m. to noon, just for us! We met at the pier, took a bus ride about 20 minutes to their dock, got on the boat, which was very nice, and headed out to the crystal clear blue waters of Grand Cayman. It was so beautiful. First we anchored near a reef that was literally teeming with colorful fish and snorkeled for about 30 minutes. Then we headed over to Stingray City. There were a lot of other boats there, but there were plenty of stingrays to go around. Our captain brought chopped squid for us to feed them and pretty soon they were all flocking to our group. They are AMAZING! Honestly, this was the highlight of my entire trip. I got to hold one and swim with it. Just incredible.
After we got back to the pier, we did a little shopping, had a few beers and tendered back over to the ship.
A few tendering tips: if you don’t have an excursion booked through RC, you MUST wait in line for a tender ticket. They will say to line up at a certain time – I was there one hour before and it was already crowded. The first two tenders went to RC excursion people, my tender ticket was for tender #4. From the start of tendering to my reaching the pier it was one hour 20 minutes. And I was on the fourth tender!!! Take this into account if you have excursions booked at a tender port.
We didn’t book any excursions in Jamaica. Everything was very far away with round trip travel time of about 2 hours. We opted to just do a little shopping in the fake shopping center that RCI built at the port. Again, jewel shops, junk shops and in the middle of the square a little local crafts market. My girlfriend bought a very cute dress from a local who told us her mother made it. After we got back on the ship we noticed the tag inside that said “Made in China”. Our bad. She paid $25. I’m sure we could have gotten it cheaper back home.
The prices for shopping in these countries are no lower than here in the states. You still only get what you pay for and a lot of the stuff can be found here for lower prices at a Wal-Mart or a similar store. The one thing I did find cheaper was medications in Cozumel. I bought my son some inhalers for his asthma at only $10/each. Here they are $45
As far as service on the ship: with the exception of the two specialty restaurants – Sabor and Giovanni’s Table – I was less than impressed. Don’t get me wrong, everyone was nice. They just didn’t seem to go above and beyond. I guess that’s acceptable, after all, they do work their tails off. There was one incredibly arrogant, rude bartender named Fernando in the Casino Bar. You could tell he thought he was God’s gift to this planet. I found him to be so offensive I actually complained to the bar manager. Our cabin steward was very nice and helpful, but again, nothing extraordinary. We only got towel animals twice – this may be the norm, I don’t know.
One thing to note: my SeaPass card de-magnetized 7 times! I had to get it replaced every time. Sometimes it would work for my cabin door, but not for purchases. Other times it was fine for purchases, but wouldn’t open my door. It was very frustrating. And I wasn’t the only person this happened to. The Guest Services desk was crowded with people having the same problem.
All in all I have to say: I’m not sorry I did it, but I probably won’t do it again. It just didn’t seem to be the amazing experience others have made it out to be. No fault of Royal Caribbean, just not my bag, you know?