Before we set out on this cruise I read (avidly) the reviews and many posts on the boards on CruiseCritic.com. Reviews (and posts) on the Navigator seemed to be very mixed. I had actually considered changing our cruise to the Voyager but it was a good thing I didn't, since the Voyager had a "pod" problem and needed drydock work and the May 8th cruise to Iceland was in fact cancelled. So it is fair to say that we boarded the Navigator with our fingers crossed that no "bad" things would happen to us. I need not have worried!!
We travelled with two friends, also from Switzerland, with whom we have cruised once before. We are all retired.
We flew to Miami on British Airways from Geneva, and stayed with a friend in Miami Beach for a few days before the cruise. On May 1st we were collected at her house by a limo service and taken to Port Everglades. I had totally mis-estimated the time involved for this short trip, and we ended up arriving at the pier at 11.30am instead of at noon. Never mind! Our suitcases were taken by porters and we were ushered into a large waiting room, with plenty of seats, to wait for embarcation to start. Promptly at 12 noon several counters opened, and by 12.30 we were on board, seated in Portofino (10th deck restaurant) having lunch. Since the "Swine Flu" outbreak was gripping the world (no pun intended!) I was interested to note that we were asked to sterlize our hands not once but three times before boarding and to complete a small questionnaire on where we had travelled prior to boarding, and whether or not we had any symptons. We were informed that if we answered "yes" to the questions we would be interviewed. Since our answers were negative we were not, but I did see some people being asked to go to one of the counters, presumably for this interview.
We met the friends we were sailing with on the pool deck after lunch along with Marilyn and Philip Langner of "Theatre at Sea" which was to be featured as a part of our cruise. I had read that this would be available but had no idea at all as to what was involved. Talking with Marilyn and Philip I began to get a glimmer of understanding that this would not be an ordinary cruise!
At 2.30 we were told we could go to our suite, which was a Navigator suite on Deck 9. We love the Penthouse Suites on the Mariner, and I looked forward to something spacious but my first reaction was that this suite was a little small. (In fact the square metres are more than the Mariner PH suite, but since the bedroom is closed off it feels smaller). The bathroom was very large, and was equipped with a shower, huge bath, one sink, loo and bidet. Strangely although the toiletries were very nice (Anchini AND Regent brands - not much to choose between them) but there was no kleenex dispenser in the bathroom which meant I needed to run between the bathroom and the bedroom each time I needed a kleenex! The bedroom is small. Just enough for the two 90cm wide beds, made up as one, and room to walk around them. The balcony opens off both the bedroom with a sliding door and the sitting room with a normal door. The sitting room had a large corner sofa, arm chair, desk and a table for 4. There were loads of drawers, cupboards etc and a large walk in closet with safe and plenty of hangers. The decoration was nice (cream and green) and seemed fresh.
I had heard about plumbing problems on this ship so I was not at all surprised when on the first evening our loo refused to flush. (!!) We called our butler who told us that "they were working on it" - we went to dinner and when we came back it was working, and continued to do so throughout the voyage. We had no other "mechanical problems" with the plumbing or the electricity or the AC during the voyage. However that first night we noticed that there was no water in the washbasin around 2am. The next day I asked about it and was told that the water had been cut off to permit repairs to the loo. I didn't hear anyone else complain of problems like this until after Funchal when one person told me that her loo had overflowed, but had been fixed at once. This doesn't mean that others didn't experience them - I just didn't hear of them if they did.
Service from our Butler and Stewardess was impeccable. When I asked if we could have nachos and gucamole instead of the "normal" evening snacks on the Butler menu, they arrived! When I asked the Stewardess not to give us chocolates at night - she didn't. They looked after us well.
We ate breakfast everyday but two at Portofino. We found the service excellent and when we could we ate outside. The choices were good, and I certainly ate too much! One day we ate at the Compass Rose so I could have kippers, which were very good. One other day we had breakfast brought to our suite since we had an early tour. Lunches were normally at Portofino - again good choices, nice salads and very good service - and on the pool deck for the barbecues, Tex-Mex etc. We liked the idea that you could serve yourself from the things on offer there and then take your plate into Portofino and complement your first choices by what they had on offer. Dinners, except for one night, were at the Compass Rose. There we were seated very promptly (even though most evenings we arrived around 7.45pm) and had tables all over the dining room. I was amazed by the choices on the menu. On both Mariner and Voyager we had often ordered the Filet Mignon/BEarnaise sauce because we didn't see anything else we liked. We only did this once on the Navigator as there were so many excellent things to choose from. Our friends normally eat fish, and they remarked often on how good it was. We had more meat than they, and found it all good. The Beef Wellington, English Roast Beef and the Veal Zurich Style were particularly excellent (and for the latter, take into account that we live in Switzerland!) Starters were imaginative and varied. I didn't think the desserts were particularly great though but then I am not a dessert person and rather prefer cheese, which was good, especially the Stilton. We did not have a single meal in the Compass Rose with poor service, either from the waiters or the wine waiters. The Sommeliers quickly produced alternative wines if we didn't like the selection of the day, and our glasses were re-filled frequently without our asking. We tried Portofino one night. Happily they have done away with the "musical entertainment" and the menu is resolutely Italian. It was OK, but we live right next to Italy and can eat what was on offer there anytime we like...so we decided to eat at the Compass Rose. (If Prime Seven had been available, we would probably have eaten there several times!!)
I think it is important to note, in light of other criticism, that we did not arrive for dinner any night before 7.30pm and many nights later. We never had a problem in eating a three or even four course meal and being finished in time to get to the evening show. And since we sat in all areas of the dining room on the 14 nights we ate there, I think it is fair to say that the service was good all over!
We spent quite a bit of time each day around the pool. There as well the service was fine. I did noticed that there were only one or two waiters on duty until about noon, when several more arrived. This makes sense since the pool deck was relatively empty in the mornings.
We were very lucky with the weather. The ocean was smooth throughout the crossing and we did not experience the "rocking and rolling" that the Navigator seems to be famous for until we left Barcelona and crossed the Golfe de Lion. There we DID rock and roll for most of the night. But on the trans-Atlantic part, luckily, all was calm. We did experience the vibrations that the ship is also known for. But after a couple of nights we got used to it, and in fact it more or less lulled me to sleep. In the theatre it is far less pleasant since the noise, coupled with the vibration, can be distracting. But up on the 10th deck (Portofino) and 11th (Galileo's lounge) we felt nothing.
The Theatre at Sea entertainment was amazing. Broadway stars (including Patricia Neal, Carol Lawrence, Shirley Jones, Gina McKechnie and many others) performed and talked about their experiences. We were so fortunate to have them on board with us (or rather we to be on board with them!). There were several lecturers as well - a retired US Ambassador, Sam Hart, who was particularly good, we thought, and Stewart Nelson who talked on the oceans. The others we didn't find so great and didn't return to their talks after the first one...but many people did, and many people liked them a lot. "Whatever floats your boat!" We like Trivia, but were disheartened by the difficult level of the questions. Far more difficult than those we had had before on the Mariner and the Voyager. Also, since Trivia and tea are connected (!) I have to say that I didn't think that the cakes etc on offer were up to the standards of the Mariner last year. (Kevin Lee was the Pastry Chef on that voyage and he used to work at The Ivy!)
Our ports included: Bermuda (where we were able to re-visit old haunts); Funchal; Malaga (we took a RSSC tour to Granada and fell in love with the gardens at the Alhambra!); Valencia (we went on our own to the Oceanografic and were really impressed); Barcelona (again an RSSC tour with a superb guide focussing on Gaudi's Barcelona); and St Tropez which was replaced at the last minute by Villefranche, due to inclement weather which meant it was not safe to anchor. Personally I think Villefranche, although it lacks the "glitz" of St Tropez, was a nicer port... I have heard that Regent has taken over the direct management of their tours. If so, then they should be credited for the improved organisation of them. Things seemed to flow smoothly, from the time we checked into the tour until we got on the bus. We were all given tickets with bus numbers, so we found the right bus easily and could sit with friends, and the guides were well qualified, and in one case, superb.
I did, however, find the tour price high for what you got. An example is Valencia. The Oceanografic tour was sold for $79 per person. We took the shuttle bus to the main station, so we could see a bit of the city. We then took a taxi to the aquarium (8 Euros = $10.50 for 4 people). Entrance to the aquarium was 30 Euros, but we got 2 off because we are "old". Then we paid around 3 Euros for the Audio guide. And finally a taxi back to the ship at 6.50 Euros for 4. Total cost per person: 35.25 Euros which is $47.00. Around 40% less. When we saw the group from the ship they were all walking around like us with their Audioguides!! On the other hand I heard that two people had hired a car to go to Granada on their own. Cost a lot less than our $270 - but when they got there they found that all the tickets to the Alhambra for the day had been sold, so they had to return to the ship not having seen it at all!
On our last day we arrived in Monte Carlo promptly at 7am and disembarkation started around 8.30am. By 9.30 we were off the ship and at the Hertz office and then on our way back home by road. Much shorter than the flight over!!
In sum, we went expecting little and left with the feeling that this was one of the best cruises we have ever taken!