Navigator of the Seas Dining
Eating options were expanded and improved with Navigator's 2014 ship refurbishment. The line added a Mexican restaurant, Sabor, and an Asian-fusion and sushi eatery, Izumi Japanese Cuisine. Italian restaurant Portofino was replaced with a great family-style option, Giovanni's Table. Longtime Royal Caribbean steakhouse favorite Chops Grille has a revamped menu that includes premium dry-aged steak options, and the three-level main dining room was redesigned and consolidated under one name, Sapphire.
Reservations for specialty restaurants are recommended. Passengers can make reservations either online (up to four days prior to sailing) for parties of up to six or once onboard at special reservation tables set up outside the Windjammer buffet area, at the restaurants themselves or by calling guest services.
Sapphire is the main fee-free dining room, and is decorated in whites and golds, with white linens, dark carpeting, a grand staircase and a dramatic chandelier as the showpiece above. It typically serves breakfast from 8 to 10 a.m. and lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. The schedule is subject to change.
For breakfast, you can order items off the menu -- such as omelets, French toast and fresh fruit -- or choose among the fruit, yogurt and cereal selections available at the buffet area in the dining room. For lunch, a salad bar is available, and you can order menu items such as grilled chicken, wraps and burgers among other entrees. Both breakfast and lunch is open seating.
For dinner, passengers can choose My Time Dining and be seated whenever they want between 5:30 p.m. and 9 p.m. in Sapphire. Otherwise, there are two scheduled dining times: main seating at 5:30 p.m. and second seating at 8 p.m.
In general, food in the main dining room was bland, especially in comparison with the fare available at the specialty restaurants. Some menu items were hits, such as the lobster, escargot, baked Alaska dessert and occasional soups. Service also was much less personable on average when stacked against the alternative venues. Menus offer vegetarian and everyday options, such as grilled chicken, steak and pasta dishes, in case the day's specials don't appeal to you.
The Windjammer Cafe on Deck 11 serves buffet-style breakfast (6 to 11 a.m. on port days; 7 to 11:15 a.m. on sea days), lunch (11:45 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on port days; noon to 3 p.m. on sea days), afternoon snacks (various hours) and dinner (6 to 9 p.m.). Several stations including salad/sandwich/soup, meat carvery, entrees, burgers, breads, drinks and frozen yogurt make it easy to fill your plate expeditiously. The traffic flow around the buffet is efficient, with rarely any crowding or long lines. Waiters come around the Windjammer offering coffee, iced tea and lemonade to diners -- a nice touch, so you don't have to juggle drinks with your food.
Jade is the ship's no-fee, Asian-influenced buffet area. It's located adjacent to the Windjammer, is open at the same times, and features selections representing Chinese, Indian and Japanese cuisines, and sometimes an eclectic mix of all three. Dishes such as shredded vegetables in lemon sauce, Japanese sushi and Chinese wontons make for a quick, exotic and delicious lunch. Passengers can enjoy a pre-dinner sake, tea or traditional cocktail at the Plaza Bar, with its backdrop of cascading water, at the entrance to the Windjammer.
The Cafe Promenade (open 24 hours a day) is a good spot for a quick breakfast, lunch or snack. Located on the Royal Promenade on Deck 5, this no-fee sidewalk cafe is also ideal for people-watching. It serves fruits, rolls, sandwiches, pizza, cookies and other goodies; espressos and other coffee drinks made with Seattle's Best Coffee are priced a la carte. Steps away, also on the Royal Promenade, is Ben & Jerry's ice cream shop (open 7:30 a.m. to 1:30 a.m.), with several famous flavors. The cost of a small cup of ice cream is $3; medium cup, $3.75; large cup, $5.50. Add $1 for a waffle cone.
Chops Grille ($35 fee) on Deck 11 is the line's steak house, open for dinner each night from 6 to 9:30 p.m. We enjoyed a spectacular meal complete with a great variety of appetizers. (Go with a group so you can share and sample everything.) Of note were the truffle-oil French fries, tasty gruyere cheese tater tots and giant slab of tender, seasoned bacon. Chops features the typical great cuts of steak that you expect at a steakhouse. The revamped menu adds items such as veal chop parmesan, dry-aged steak burger, braised short rib of beef and premium cuts of dry-aged steak. The premium steaks -- a 16-ounce dry-aged New York strip and 20-ounce dry-aged porterhouse -- come at a premium, too. If you choose to spoil yourself with one of these menu items, you'll pay an extra $18 or $19, respectively. We had a sampling of each, and they taste fantastic: perfectly seasoned and incredibly tender. But you'll have to decide for yourself whether your taste buds deserve dipping into your wallet for the added upcharge. We would have been more than satisfied with the primary menu. The dry-aged steak burger, topped with bacon and gruyere cheese, probably ranks as the best burger we've ever had.
Izumi Japanese Cuisine, on Deck 14 by the Viking Crown Lounge, offers sushi rolls and Asian-fusion fare priced a la carte. A large roll, for example, is priced about $10. The restaurant received rave reviews from all members of our party, who found it to be an outstanding meal at those prices. Kudos especially went to the signature roll offerings, like spicy crispy shrimp and tuna seared tataki. Chefs will do a nice tableside preparation presentation, using hot rocks for some items. Izumi is open for lunch on sea days only from noon to 1:30 p.m. and every evening for dinner from 6 to 9:30 p.m.
Deck 4's Sabor ($25 fee) is the line's Mexican eatery. You'll find all the standard items: chicken flautas, chicken quesadillas, tacos, empanadas and burritos. We especially enjoyed the fresh-made guacamole, tequila flights and margaritas that are crafted tableside. You won't walk away hungry from this meal loaded with cheesy, crispy goodness. If you prefer your Mexican meals really spicy, you might be disappointed, as food leaned toward a milder palate. Hot sauce, of course, is available to crank up the heat. The chocolate-filled dessert empanadas are a real treat. Sabor is open for dinner each night from 6 to 9:30 p.m.
Perhaps the best bargain on Navigator of the Seas is Italian eatery Giovanni's Table ($20 dinner, $15 lunch), which occupies the space that used to be Portofino -- on Deck 11 outside the Windjammer buffet area and opposite Chops Grille. The options there were as delicious and plentiful as at the other for-fee restaurants but at a fraction of the cost. Giovanni's Table offers family-style appetizers and a wide range of delicious mains. Tuck into marinated artichokes, salmon carpaccio, creamy pastas, gnocchi, risotto, crab-stuffed ravioli, ossobuco, beef tenderloin, sea bass and more. For dessert, be tempted by tiramisu, canolis, chocolate mousse and flourless chocolate cake, among others. Giovanni's Table is open for lunch on sea days only, from noon to 1:30 p.m., and every evening for dinner from 6 to 9:30.
Johnny Rockets is on Deck 12, and features juicy burgers, fries, filling chili and thick shakes. There's a $4.95 per person charge for Johnny Rockets, whether you eat in the restaurant or get your food to go. Beverages, including that fabulous milkshake and beer, incur an extra charge. Hours vary for the restaurant, depending on whether the ship is at sea or in port, but generally it is open from 11:30 a.m. to midnight.
Royal Caribbean's room service options are available around the clock via 24-hour menus that offer a range of snacks and sandwiches. Note: The line's popular honey-stung chicken that used to be a staple on the buffet can still be ordered via room service. At breakfast, continental dishes, along with a handful of egg entrees, are available both in cabins and suites. Items off the main dining room menu can be ordered at dinner. There is no charge for room service between 5 a.m. and midnight (though a buck or two cash gratuity is recommended); late-night orders incur a $3.95 fee.