BOARDING We have been cruising for over 15 years and recently have noticed the steady deterioration of the shipboard experience. Our guess is that if you've never cruised before you would not know the difference but RCCL is going the way of the airline industry. Don't get us wrong. We still had a pretty good time on our latest cruise but it could have been lots better. Royal Caribbean seems to be cutting costs at the expense of it's customers everywhere they can. Boarding in Civitiveccia was organized and fast, perhaps because we are "Platinum" members and did not have to wait on the long check-in line. The shuttle bus transfer to ship however was chaotic. There was no staff present to organize boarding the buses or to assist loading luggage on to the bus for those who needed it. When we boarded the ship there was no staff around to guide passengers to their cabins. Maybe they were on their break. Cutbacks were evident everywhere. There were no serving trays in any of the buffets making it necessary to make several trips from table to food. The menu has shrunk from 4 courses to 3. Worst of all, and get this, no more chocolates on the pillow at night. At least they still do the animal towel thing. I'd rather have the chocolates.
THE SHIP For an older ship, the Navigator was very clean but showing some minor signs of it's age like most of us. We liked the layout of the ship however being on deck 3 we had to go up to a higher deck and come back down as this deck does not go through the ship from bow to stern. Smoking was a major problem for us. Having a mostly European clientele, the non smoking thing has not quite caught on as much as it has in the U.S.. There are far too many smoking areas and even the non-smoking areas are not respected. At least the cabins are now considered non-smoking and have signs stating so.
DINING We did anytime dining and found it to be very convenient to our schedule. The wait staff was polite but not particularly warm or friendly, in general. The food was good, not great, with very limited meatless choices on the menu. Most vegetarian dishes were Indian so if you are not a fan of Indian food, you are in trouble. The buffets were typical of most cruises we've been on.
PORTS The ports included Messina, Athens, Kusadasi and Crete. We passed on the ships tours as they did not seem to be a good value. Our favorite site was Ephesus where we booked a private tour online before we left home. We also enjoyed a visit to Taourmina from Messina. We did that on our own using a public bus. Crete was a washout as it poured all day but we took in a museum and did some shopping. Rome was, well what can I say,...Rome. Either you love it or hate it. We loved it. We also did a trip down the Amalfi Coast after the cruise and we highly recommend it.
ENTERTAINMENT AND ACTIVITIES Entertainment was hit and miss. There was a Celene Dion impersonator who was fantastic. There was also a "Beattles" group who were pretty good. The production numbers were terrible and we walked out of two of them before they ended. The ice show was very good even though we had seen a similar show on a previous cruise. The shipboard activities have totally gone down hill. There is no longer any organized "Shipshape" program where one can earn T-shirts and the like. Most activities seemed to be income producing classes for spa treatments or casino lessons.
SUMMARY All in all, we had a good time which could have been a great time if RCCL had not cut back on the very things that have made cruising such a fun experience in the past. From the tacky plastic deck chairs with no leg rests on the promenade deck to the decline in food quality, Royal Caribbean seems to be shooting itself in the foot by discouraging loyal customers from looking forward to that next great cruise experience.