Sailed Eastern Caribbean On 07/13/2014 Balcony Room on Starboard Side
If the ship faces the same way each time it docks then port side would have been better.
I know that some consider Carnival a "lower class" of ship and passengers, but they are the fun ship and do know/remember how to have a good time.
I submitted my electronic comment card today with the following attached.
I'd like to consider myself a regular cruiser. I'm 39 years old and did not start cruising until about 15 years ago. In that time I have been on 10 cruises, on two cruise lines - Royal Caribbean and Carnival. My first experience with Royal Caribbean was on Liberty of the Seas in 2008. 2010 I had the pleasure of cruising on Oasis of the Seas (best ship design, experience, etc. of all my cruises).
Navigator of the Seas came with mixed reviews online, but it was one of two ships sailing to the ports I was wanting to visit, and left from a different port other than those in FL. So I gathered a group of 6, including my wife and myself, and we booked this last cruise.
Boarding the ship was easy and fast. I forget the exact time of our arrival, around 1:30pm ish. Checked our bags with a porter, got in line, made it through x-ray/security check point, and then we were put into a giant bigger than Disneyland line. One of my traveling companions is pregnant and a staff member took us aside to a no line check in. Not sure how long that line would have taken us but by the looks on people’s faces, they were very jealous of us walking up to the front after only 5-10 minutes in line.
Check in was fairly smooth, but appeared a little hectic where we were located (far right if facing counter). I'm guessing this is the problem line and entertainer check in as we saw the onboard band checking in next to us.
Once on board we proceeded straight to our stateroom, which was already available for us. I think on most cruises we are there a little early and have to wait for our rooms so this was welcomed change for us to be able to ditch our belongings and get down to the cruise pocket stuff - room key and camera.
Quick entertainment note - it was the world cup final. The game was playing on the big screen. No music. No band; just the world cup audio. I get that millions of people love the world cup, but this is day 1 of a Caribbean cruise, where was the Caribbean band? The music? The cruise ship ambiance I have had on all other voyages? Missing. It was a bunch of people sitting, laying, and standing around watching a big TV. Although entertaining because it is world cup, it would have been better to have the game silenced and some music playing or the band playing.
After the stateroom drop off, it was time for my first drink of every cruise - mango margarita. No idea why that's my first drink, just kind of started years ago and the tradition continued with our group of 6. The pregnant one obviously was not going to drink alcohol. Her husband had already purchased the premium drink package prior to boarding. My other friend had purchased the ultimate drink package.
My sister, my wife, and myself did not purchase any drink packages prior to boarding. The information on the website was crystal clear and the reviews online were back and forth with answers, so I figured we would just ask an employee once there to see if it was good for us or not. My wife and my sister are moderate drinkers and I drink a bit more than they do, but like particular brands of whiskey, beer, etc.
Our first stop for mango margaritas was the Solarium Bar. The bartender there (a male, unknown name) was whom we first asked for drink package information. His initial response to the drink packages was that they were not worth it. He continued on a bit about price per drink and port days where people don't drink, before my friend with the ultimate package interrupted him. My friend explained he already purchased the package and wanted to know if there were exclusions to what types of alcohol or price limits. We were told we could have any drink up to $10 in value, after that we would be required to pay the difference. As in a $12 drink would cost us $2 with a drink package.
After thinking about what the bartender initially said about price per drink, I thought at $6-$8 a drink I'm not sure the package would benefit my wife at all, and I would probably break even or come out slightly ahead. I asked the bartender when do I have to purchase the package by? He responded to me I could purchase it on any day of the cruise. This was different than what I had originally read online, which I believe was it had to be purchased in the first 2 or 4 days of the cruise (cant recall as it was online info and I wanted direct info from an employee).
I then asked what happens if I drink more than $55 in drinks today? His response was not perfectly clear (as I am guessing English was not his first language) but it was something to the extent of you would pay the $55 for that day and all the other days. To clarify I asked, if I drink $120 worth of alcohol today (day 1) and decide to buy the package tomorrow (day 2) what happens to the amount above and beyond the $120? Do I pay $55 plus the extra ($65) or just the $55 for the package and they (Royal Caribbean) zero out the drinks above and beyond that? His response to me was that I would only pay the $55 for that day and not the extra ($65).
Since that was the case, I decided to wait and see how much my wife and I drank to see if either of us or neither of us needed the package. My sister decided the same thing. Now this was my sister's first cruise. I was the organizer of the cruise and therefor felt responsible for her from that perspective as well as from an older brother perspective.
6 mango margaritas were ordered (1 virgin of course) and first drink of the cruise photo taken. All seemed well. We proceeded to another couple of bars, I don’t recall which or in which order. We asked another couple of bartenders about the packages and received similar responses. Variances in answers were in regards to when the drink packages could be purchased up to. Some said any of the 7 days, while we had answers that were down to only during the first 2 days. I wasn't worried about that because I knew we were going to make a decision on day 2 regardless. The other variances in answers were in regards to how often could we buy a drink. Could I buy a whiskey with a beer at the same time, was my base question. Answers ranged from yes all the way up to having to wait 20 minutes between drinks. We asked if that was a computer thing, meaning would the computer prevent me from buying before the 10 - 20 minute wait time had expired, or could I walk to the next bar and by the other drink. No one was really ever able to give us a straight legitimate answer on this topic.
Day 2 came around and I checked my bar tab for day 1. I was clearly over the $55 mark. For me it was going to be worth the drink package. For my wife, she decided against it, as she didn't feel she would have more than a drink or two on port days. My sister decided since it was her first cruise she would go with the package in order to have a fixed known drink expense, and not have to worry about her bar tab while she is out trying to enjoy her first cruise vacation.
After breakfast, a quick poolside relaxing suntan, and a couple poolside drinks, we proceeded to grab a bite at the Windjammer Cafe. While there, an employee again told us we could purchase the drink package anytime during the 7-day cruise. Luckily there were guests sitting nearby. They interjected their response into our conversation, stating yes, but you will be charged for all drinks every day as well as the $55 a day package price. We asked if this was true, and could not get a clear enough explanation from the bartender. So rather than order the package there at the Windjammer bar, we went back to our stateroom. I contacted the operator to ask the question.
I spoke with the operator who told me we would be charged for all drinks from day 1, plus $55 a day for the package for all 7 days. Now I understand it is more of a package price of $385 for the drink package, and when broken down that comes out to a daily amount of $55. I get that. That's fine. What I did not get or appreciate was why so many employees aboard the ship would give us the wrong info. All the original bartender at the Solarium bar had to do was give us the correct information from the start and he would have definitely sold 2 packages and probably a 3rd to my wife (as after this experience my wife said she didn't care to give Royal Caribbean any more of our money when it came to alcohol).
I explained what we were told to the operator. She said she would have the Bar supervisor contact me. I called my sister, and she had told me she was just informed the same thing from the operator. I called back to the operator (a bit angry now - going back to that planning the cruise and big brother thing) and was transferred to the bar supervisor. Told him the entire story of what happened where and how many times. His response to me was there was nothing he could do for me, at all. I asked who could do something for me, and he relied his boss the bar manager. I asked to speak with him, and was told he would call me. I waited in my stateroom and received a call.
This time the caller (can't recall name) told me he understood my situation as I wanted the premium package but only wanted to pay for 6 days. I explained to him no, that is not it. I explained all the above of what happened and what we were told. So again he tells me, he can not sell me just 6 day package as it is one all inclusive drink package for $385, and that can not be broken down. I explained to him again, that is not what I want. I want what your employees said - 7 day drink package for $385 or $55 a day as they advertise it, and my first day drinks to be part of that package. His response to me was there was nothing the ship could do for me, as these are rules brought on by the upper management at home on land. Assuming this to be true, I explained could not believe the ship or the "upper management at home on land" would be willing to lose 2 to 6 future Royal Caribbean customers over a few drinks. His response, a chuckle. Now I was quite a bit angrier. So I asked for his name (still can't remember it) and his position on the ship. He gave me his name and said he was the assistant bar manager.
I told him I did not request to be contacted by the assistant bar manager and I wanted to speak with the bar manager, no more assistants or supervisors. He said the bar manager was on break. I asked until when, he said he was probably in his stateroom and he could wake him for me. That was fine by me. Several minutes later I received a call from the bar manager (AJ or RJ).
I asked him if he had been explained why I was wanting to speak with him, he told me, "Yes because you want to purchase a drink package for 6 days instead of 7. We don't do that." In complete aggravation I explained the entire situation over again. Ultimately his 'solution' went against what everyone else had been saying all along and what he initially stated. His solution was to sell my sister and me a 6-day drink package, and zero out the afternoon drinks from day 2 but no drinks from day 1. I told him this was not up to my satisfaction of a solution but rather than waste any more of my vacation time bickering over a few dollars to do it. I explained to him the idea that none of the bartenders that I spoke with could properly explain the package is a huge opportunity for them to do some retraining or rethinking of the drink packages. They should stand behind what their employees are telling and selling people. And then to be told by 4 people the package is a package at a fixed price and can not be changed, only to have 1 of those 4 people change the package and the price, gives them zero credibility. I did get most of my drinks from that date subtracted from my bill but not all.
Before coming up with his solution, he quizzed me on what time I got aboard the ship, what bar did I go to, who did I talk to, and so on. No big deal. I wasn't lying or making stuff up, so I gave him all the info I could. Suddenly he found our mango margarita transaction(s) and then made the offer. I found that a bit odd and irritating. I'm sure many people lie or try to lie to save money or cheat the system, so I ignored it. However, I found this to be a continuing theme throughout our trip.
Later in the 3rd day I believe it was, I was at a bar by the pool getting a drink. The bartender took my card and then kept looking at the computer and then at me, and then at the computer and then at my card. This went on for a bit so I asked if my card was reading ok. He said my folio number on my card did not match what was in the computer. I said I have no idea what that means or why but its worked fine up until this point. He gave me my drink and suggested I get a new card. I am sure people pretend to lose their card so their underage friend can go buy a drink with the lost card while the true owner has the new card. I wrote this off as the bartender doing his job, despite making me feel like I'm suspect to some underage drinking or fake folio scheme.
I went to get my new card later that day at the customer service desk. The gentleman there told me I had another card issued and this was my old car. I explained this is the only card I have had since boarding and never requested another card at all. He told me I did in fact have another card issued. Again, I did not. Could it have been someone else somehow getting my card and now I have false charges? After my third time of being made to feel like I'm trying to cheat the system, I was told I would be issued a new card. He gave me a print out of my room charges but there was nothing that I did not charge there. Weird. Only thing I could think of was if the beverage package being charged caused my folio to change and made my card folio not match my current folio. However, I was not able to find that out because I was more of a hassle (another theme) to customer service than a guest having a difficult time.
A passenger is a burden these days it seems. Other than the main dining room and my stateroom attendant, everywhere else it seemed as though I was an inconvenience to the staff. Trying to order a drink, with or without a line, took forever and was missing that cruise ship feel of fun and happiness. Maybe it's the drink packages? Does the staff no longer get what they should in tips? Every receipt says gratuity is included. And I would add additional if I felt they deserved it. But overall, I felt like I was a burden to them for trying to buy a drink or get a water.
Buying drinks and getting water - what is the actual policy? Can I order a shot of whiskey and a beer? Can I have a water and an alcoholic beverage? Can I have two bottles of water instead of just one? How often can I order something? Is there a time limit? None of these questions were ever answered verbally. I could only try and test them. For the most part it seems like it is at the discretion of the bartender or server. Sometimes I could have a drink in hand and order one to take with me to dinner or the pool. Other times I was told you have to finish that drink before I can give you another one. What if I don’t like it? What if I don’t want that anymore? I was told we could walk from one bar to another without a problem in ordering drinks, and that seemed to be the case. I don’t need to pound drink after drink, but sometimes it is nice to have one to walk with and one to have when you get to your destination. Policy on this should be made clear and be more customer friendly.
The main dining room was by far the best service aboard the ship. Assistant waiter Florentina was awesome. Great personality, super helpful, and friendly. She is what cruising should be about, or at least that is the way I remember cruise service being. Our cocktail server in the main dining room was also good and should be recognized. I believe his name was "Dee."
Our stateroom was always clean, never had any issues or problems, and our attendant magically crept in and out when we were not in the room. On one occasion we were rushed and left our in room safe open containing wedding rings, cameras, cash, wallets, passports, etc. Nothing missing. Don't even think anything was touched. Good job to Arlex.
Overall I wish more of the staff everywhere addressed people by name and with a smile. Both of those were severely lacking. I was "asked" to order drinks several times with nothing more than a head nod. Although, there was one bartender definitely stood out at the pool bar. He was nice and friendly and made up a custom drink for my friend and I. I think is first name was Edward and he was from the Philippines.
The entertainment aboard the navigator was not bad, but it was definitely my least favorite of all cruises. Like I said the missing music or band when boarding was terrible. The DJ's set at the club was basically the same every night. I knew at a certain time in the night the music was going to switch to a particular type that I did not like and that was my cue to leave. Would have liked to stay out later and drink more on most nights.
The outdoor party/dance I have done before on a previous sailing. This time however the outdoor party was Miami themed, but said dress casual, and it was after a formal night dinner. Huh? If I'm dressed up for formal night, I would like to make good use out of the time and effort my wife and I put into getting ready and enjoy the night. I don't want to go change into casual attire. And although I associated a Miami theme with being more casual than formal night, it's definitely dressier in Miami than cruise ship casual. The music was too quite. Probably because of stateroom noise. There are two spas, a pool, and a bar right there, and all that was utilized were two hallway sized sections as a dance floor, and a bar with a long line. How about a deck pool party? Servers actually walking around trying to take drink orders? Regardless, following a formal night dinner, whatever after party there is should remain formal.
Another side note - the last night of the cruise while walking the ship, we came across the crew area where they had music playing. Their music from a deck above sounded better than the outdoor party music by far, and had way more bass than the normal night club.
I know it is more of a Carnival thing to do dining room dances or songs, but that stuff is fun! And I could have sworn I have seen Royal Caribbean sing or something in the past. Dinner service was still the best customer service on board, just lacking that entertainment piece. The piano wasn't even playing one night until we asked about it.
I did not do any excursions through Royal Caribbean. The information seemed a bit lacking online, so I booked with outside companies.
Overall cleanliness of the ship was nice. Rarely saw any drinks left behind on the deck or in planters. Trash and plates always cleared from tables. There were a few rails that were really sticky - probably salt water or spilled alcohol. Back of the ship had some really bad salt build up (I'm hoping) on the rail. It stuck all over our forearms when looking out that back of the ship.
I am sure several complaints have been made for the photo mishap aboard this sailing. We were told day after day, photos would be up tomorrow. Well tomorrow ended up being day 7 of the cruise. Long lines, missing photos, some printed out already, some not, and more lines. It was just a mess. Apparently some software error with facial recognition. We were only able to buy two photos. I think we were the only ones out of our group that purchased photos because of this mishap.
There was the welcome back party for previous cruisers. 5 of 6 of our group were previous cruisers, my sister being the only new one. Between the 6 of us, we were in 3 staterooms. Only one of the three staterooms received an invite to the party. My wife and I (both previous cruisers) did not receive one.
Debarking with tenders was delayed and slow. However, I am not sure I have ever been on a cruise where the tender operation ran perfectly smooth.
End of cruise debarkation. Our morning started off a bit rushed because we had to deal with the picking up of our ordered photos from the day before. Most debarkation process was standard and smooth until it was time to actually walk off the ship. Long lines on the exit deck to swipe our cards. Once we were in the customs area, that is where the real disorganization began. We were smart enough to read signs and ask questions, but saw several people throwing a fit over the long waits and lack of organization. Still took longer than expected to get off the boat and through customs, but others were waiting much longer trying to figure out the porter vs. no porter situation.
Overall, it was our big vacation for the year, so I would hate to say I did not have a good time. I was with great people and went to some fun Caribbean destinations. Overall I had fun on the cruise. The cruise could have definitely been an amazing trip if staff was able to resolve issues better, provide accurate and correct information, smile and greet passengers as though they appreciate us being their, and there was a few upgrades or adjustments in entertainment.
I wont say I will never sail with Royal Caribbean again, because I base my bookings off of destinations and dates mainly. However, I will say if there is another option for the same ports (i.e. Carnival Magic for this last itinerary) I would lean towards the other option.
I hope someone actually read all of this. I know it was long.