We were on the Navigator of the Seas from Sept 5-13/15 which sailed in/out of Galveston and visited the ports of Cozumel, Grand Cayman and Falmouth Jamaica. It was our girls trip this year and the two of us travelled from Canada. Our ... Read More
We were on the Navigator of the Seas from Sept 5-13/15 which sailed in/out of Galveston and visited the ports of Cozumel, Grand Cayman and Falmouth Jamaica. It was our girls trip this year and the two of us travelled from Canada. Our flight arrived in Houston at 10:30 am and we had arranged for airport to port transfers with RC transfer service which began just after 11:30 am. When checking in with the RC rep at the transfer desk (baggage claim area), we were told that the buses were running behind and that they should be there "shortly". This was the only information that was given to passengers waiting and the whole process seemed a bit disorganized - but we were patient and eventually we were loaded onto a bus at 12:45 pm. (bathroom on board). It does take about 1.5 hours to get to the port but in our case, traffic was pretty heavy and we arrived at the port at 2:45pm. Embarkation was easy as the crowds were gone and we breezed through all the checkpoints and on the ship in about 20 minutes.
We were in a Junior Suite on deck 9, forward location/starboard side. This was our first time in a junior suite and we appreciated the extra space. The stateroom was about the size of a typical hotel room, which compared to the regular staterooms, is quite large. The bathroom has a bathtub/shower, great water pressure and temperature. We appreciated the tub/shower combo as it was as big as a standard bathroom in your house. The balcony (covered) was bigger with two nice chairs and a round table. Inside the stateroom, we had a sofa, chair with ottoman, tea/coffee station, vanity with lit up mirror, mini fridge (did not keep things very cold), hair dryer (in a drawer), plenty of drawers, cupboard space, twin beds with night stands and a walk in closet with hangers, shelf space, iron/board. Our room steward was Susan and she was an absolute delight. Always smiling and accommodating and she surprised us most nights with imaginative towel art.
Being on deck nine, we had staterooms above and below us, so it was very quiet. We were right across from the service area where they collect the luggage, etc.., but honestly, we were not disturbed during the night and slept well. The beds were comfortable and while we each had two pillows, they were not to our liking but that is just personal preference. Sleeping with one pillow was too flat but two was too much. We enjoyed room service breakfast each morning (coffee, fruit, yogurt, toast) and enjoyed it out on our deck. In the morning, we always received a phone call to let us know breakfast was on the way. Nice touch.
According to the Cruise Compass, there was a lot of activities and things to choose from. If you were interested in being pool side, there was three pools to choose from. One pool was in the Solarium area (adults only) and while the pool was open air, the seating area around it plus the huge hot tub was all undercover so it actually had the sauna effect going on rather than having any breeze. The main pool area had two pools side by side. There was a small area partitioned off for the kiddie wading pool. Wait staff did their rounds poolside for drink orders and it was easy to get drinks yourself at the two pool bars. There are lots of lounge chairs both at the pool deck as well as one level up overlooking the pool. We did not have difficulty finding two chairs and noted that staff did a good job of removing towels placed on chairs if the occupant didn't return within 45 minutes or so. There was plenty of signs up telling people that reserving chairs and leaving them unoccupied would result in the towels being removed. This made it fair for everyone to have a chair poolside at various times.
The Flowrider looked challenging and we enjoyed watching but did not participate. Same with rock climbing. There was mini golf, ping pong, basketball, etc and many poolside events (men's bellyflop contest, trivia, beanbag toss, and bands playing). Deck 5, Promenade deck was like a shopping/entertainment floor with shops, restaurants, bars lining both sides. We were a bit disappointed that the Two Poets pub did not have a selection of beer on tap - rather it was bottles and cans. We found the service in the pub lacking customer service. There was no acknowledgement by bar staff as you waited. On two occasions, we were the only people standing at the bar waiting to be served. The bartenders were busy making drink orders for those at tables and although they were mixing right in front of us, there was no hello or be right with you. We found the same at Schooner's. R Bar, Boleros and Vintages wine bar had wonderful bartenders/sommeliers. We did spend a lot of time in Vintages trying different wines, learning from the sommeliers, Robert and Daniel and enjoying the atmosphere. It was fun to have a nice glass of wine, enjoy some complimentary tapas and watch the craziness of the shoppers (pushing and shoving!!) in the Promenade from our vantage point in Vintages.
We saw the majority of the shows at night. The RC Orchestra are very good and supported most acts/performances. The production show singers and dancers (ballroom and toast to Broadway) were "ok" - nothing special. The comedian/ventriloquist Ron Lucas, was terrific, the fellow who did the tribute to Motown was terrific as well as the singer/impressionist Greg London. The Ice Dancing shows held in Studio B (ice rink on deck 3) are professionally done and very entertaining. We attended two art auctions and while we did not buy anything it was interesting learning about the artists and pieces and seeing what price points they were.
Dining: We were on My Time dining and enjoyed it. Prior to sail date, we had made a reservation for 7:30 pm under My Time dining for the first night's dinner as our experience with cruising is that the first night is a bit of a gong show. This worked out well given the long line up of My Time diners who did not have a reservation and had to wait. We were seated in a lovely section and looked after well by head waiter Albert and assistant waiter Marcello. I truly believe that the wait staff can either add or detract from your dining experience and we were fortunate enough to be seated at table 614. After night one dinner we asked to be seated in the same section at a standing 7:30 pm reservation.
There was always something on the menu that suited us and we enjoyed many dishes. The rack of lamb stood out as a wonderfully prepared dish, as well as the salmon, lasagna, escargot, French onion soup, and the decadent desserts. As we had a shipboard credit, we ate at Sabor (gourmet Mexican) and Giovanni's table (Italian). At Sabor they make your guacamole tableside (big!) and also make your margarita's tableside as well. Dessert here is a 6 piece sampler plate so it gives you the opportunity to have a few bites of 6 different items. We also enjoyed Giovanni's table where the food is served "family style". The appetizer portions are not big, so our waiter encouraged us to have three so that we could try different things. For example, the scallop appetizer was two scallops (one each), beautifully prepared and presented. They also do a pretty impressive filet mignon.
Cozumel - we just walked the boardwalk/malecon from the cruise ship to the marina. It was about 10 kilometers/6 miles one way. We took a taxi back towards the cruise ship ($5) and got out to enjoy a beer ($2.50) and snack at a palapa bar overlooking the water. It was a hot/humid sunny day with a bit of a breeze coming from the water.
Grand Cayman - we had an excursion booked through RC doing a catamaran cruise and swimming with the sting rays. Grand Cayman is a tender port so we hopped on the 11 am tender to give us some time to check out Georgetown prior to our excursion scheduled at 1:30 pm. Georgetown is pretty and friendly and we had a good walk around. At 1:30 at our designated meeting point (clearly marked on the pier) we got on a bus and drove to the other side of the island to the yacht club to board our catamaran. It was another beautiful sunny day. The water is crystal clear with varying shades of blue and is not deep. It took about 30 minutes to get to Stingray city. Our guides were very good about explaining what to expect, safety precautions and making sure everyone felt comfortable. The water was only waist deep so for those not comfortable in the water or thinking that you have to be a strong swimmer, consider this excursion as no swimming is involved. the guides show how to feed the stingrays (they don't have teeth) and how to touch and hold them. A photographer comes along and takes a variety of photos of you and the stingrays which you can purchase for $40. The excursion is about 3 to 3.5 hours and they tour company brings you back to the pier. At the pier, there is a shopping area/craft stalls set up exclusively for cruisers along with a bar on the water and food stands.
Jamaica- we did an excursion through RC for the Green Grotto Caves and Dunn's River Falls (5.5 hour excursion starting at 8:30 am). Falmouth port is a laid back shopping/craft centre with bars/restaurants, etc. Excursion pick up was again clearly marked. We were loaded on a bus for a 30 minute drive to Green Grotto Caves (traveling from Falmouth towards Ochos Rios). Once at the caves, we had to put on hair nets with hard hats overtop. There are tons of bats in the caves, so be forewarned. Our guide took us through the cave system and gave us the history of the run-away slaves taking refuge in these caves for many years. Going through the cave pathways, there are places were you have to duck, go up and down man made stairs, and watch your footing as the pathways are not even. There were a couple of elderly folks in our group who found it difficult to navigate the stairs and walk the pathways. They did do it, but were slower. At the end of the cave tour, you are given a complimentary non-alcoholic glass of punch which is appreciated! You cannot take any food or drink in with you to the caves. We thought it might be cooler in the caves but it really is not. You are pretty hot and thirsty by the end. There is also a little snack bar if you want to buy cold bottled water or 7up or snacks, plus there are clean bathrooms. If you are not already wearing your bathing suits the tour guide will suggest you get changed here, so that we won't have to wait in line once at the Falls.
Back on the bus it another 30 minutes to the Falls. We were fortunate to be able to leave all our belongings on the locked bus but there are lockers to rent. Because you get wet when climbing the falls, you are cautioned not to bring your phone or camera, etc as there is a good possibility they could be ruined. They also rent water shoes but we just wore our sneakers which worked out just fine. We were a group of 14 and they added 6 more folks with us to be led by one of the Falls' guides. Our Fall's guide was a young man named Andrew who was very good and conscientious. Each group is also joined by a guy who does a video ($40) of your group for the whole climb. The fellow who did our video, while I applaud his enthusiasm, it was annoying to keep hearing him want us to scream "ya mon", "Jamaica mon" and "oowa oowa". The climb itself was a lot of fun. It is about 900 feet in total but there are level parts as well as climbing spots. The guides do a good job of taking you through safe routes and encourage your group to hold hands and help each other along the way. No one in our group slipped or fell and I did not encounter any overly slippery rocks. There were people of all ages and shapes and sizes.
It takes about 45 minutes to climb but this is due to a couple of factors 1) it is crowded! 2) the guides take you at a slow pace for safety. Once at the top you do need to pass through an artisan village and while we did not encounter aggressive vendors, many others did to the point where they felt a bit intimidated. Dunn's River Falls is a very touristy thing to do but it is fun and is nice to be in water during 100 degree sunny/humid weather. Back on the bus, it takes an hour to get back to the port. We wandered around the port and stopped in for a red ($5 each) at one of the bar/restaurants.
The self assist express folks started getting off at 8:15 am. As we had airport transfers, we were slated to get off the ship at 8:45 am. We had breakfast in Windjammer and our group was called right at 8:45 am. The line ups to get through customs, etc., took over an hour in total and we were on the transfer bus at 10 am. Traffic was easy Sunday morning and we arrived at Houston Airport at 11:15 am.
In summary, we were very happy with the cruise and felt we were treated very well. Each staff member we passed in the hallways or other areas (with a couple of exceptions) were friendly and greeted us warmly. Will said RCI again. Read Less