This cruise was the 2nd cruise for our family aboard this ship in less than a year. We flew into Ft. Lauderdale the day before and stayed at the Hampton Inn, which was nice and was also very close to the terminal. We arrived late (midnight) and just went to bed excited about starting the cruise the next day.
There was only one van that the hotel used to ferry passengers to both the ship terminal and the airport, so we decided to take a cab instead. It was only a few dollars, and let us go on our schedule instead of the hotels. The only downside here was that when we were let out at the baggage drop off area, the bag porters were VERY pushy for tips. This was a short cruise (4 nights) so we had small suitcases for everyone and I should have just rolled them aboard myself and avoided the bag handlers.
Embarkation was easy as we had completed all of the paperwork online, and thus it took us only a few minutes to get our seapass cards and we were onboard. We bypassed the welcome aboard pictures (I have enough) and just walked up to the Windjammer to get something to eat.
Our cabins were ready by 1:00 and we dropped off our bags. I splurged this time and booked an Owner's Suite for us, and a cabin next door for our kids. The vacation planner had warned us that we would never want to go back to a standard balcony room again. Since this was a short cruise, the difference in price to upgrade to this cabin wasn't out of reach, and we wanted to try it. Wow, what a difference it makes. Plenty of room to stretch out and relax, and the balcony is 2x the size of a balcony for a junior suite. The room could easily accommodate all of our family together in the living area and there is also a small dining table in the room. We had taken a 14 night cruise in the Western Mediterranean last summer (July) and we would have loved to have had this much room during that long cruise!
One of the things we like best about the Navigator of the Seas is that it has its own "personality". Many of the people who work on the ship were on the ship last summer, and they stay on this ship because they like working with each other. Their feelings about their co-workers shows through in their attitudes. One of the best personalities on the ship is the greeter in the Windjammer. He had just finished his couple of months off and had rejoined the ship on the same day we sailed. His name is Ernesto, but he goes simply by "Nesto". If you sail the Navigator of the Seas anytime in the next 8 months, you will be talking about him, I assure you. He greats you at the door of the Windjammer with a smile and a loud "goood moooorning everyone, everybody say good morning". Then he continues "happy, happy, happy". When you leave the Windjammer, he has a different routine and says "Asta la vista, baby", "see you later, alligator", "see you soon, you big baboon" and various other sayings. People just naturally gravitate towards his energy level, and he is absolutely one of the nicest people you will ever meet (he is from the Philippines).
Other people on this ship have similar personalities that really make the whole trip such a pleasant experience.
The only exception is the cruise director. Last summer, the cruise director was a British fellow named Seymoor who could have headlined as a stand up comedian in any number of venues. This year, they have an Aussie fellow who is OK, but not really that great. For example, he really couldn't get the Love and Marriage show going at all, and just wasn't that quick witted. But again, he was OK.
Disembarkation was easy. We chose to carry our own bags, so we were one of the first ones off the ship. This was our first time trying this, and when you have a short cruise and can take small bags, what a great way to go. The only small irritation here was prior to disembarkation. Seems that the U.S. Customs Service now has a plan to randomly select a few passengers to inconvenience. I had a notice in my stateroom on the last night indicating that I had been selected for pre-screening the next morning and to be in the Board Room at 7:00 a.m. upon arrival in Ft. Lauderdale. I was to bring my passport and my U.S. customs form completed. I called customer service, and they informed me that they have nothing to do with this process, and that they simply provide the passenger list to U.S. customs who then randomly select 10 to 15 guests. The next morning, the 10 passengers were all in the Board Room (deck 2) and then as soon as the Customs Officials got on board, we simply had to show them our passports and the customs form. There was no checking a computer screen or anything, it was just a visual check. All 10 of us selected were U.S. citizens, and all were on board with children. Thus it left all of us to have the other spouse on board to get the children fed and final packed. I guess it is just one of the many ways the U.S. Customs service has of reminding us that our vacation is over and it is time to be inconvenienced again!
Overall, this was a great cruise. It was a nice break for the family, aboard a ship that everyone is familiar with. This ship is is good shape, and is very clean overall. The only time it seems crowded was at breakfast and disembarkation. Otherwise, it didn't seem too crowded at all.