I've only been on 2 cruises - both on the Navigator, and both leaving from Southampton so I have little to compare each to but I am impressed with both. Whilst I would now like to experience a different ship, I am keen to stay ... Read More
I've only been on 2 cruises - both on the Navigator, and both leaving from Southampton so I have little to compare each to but I am impressed with both. Whilst I would now like to experience a different ship, I am keen to stay "loyal to Royal" but wouldn't consider a third cruise on Navigator to be a compromise. I also think the embarkation and disembarkation at Southampton is fantastic. It's a well oiled operation that runs so smoothly. It really does get the first day off to a great start. It's hassle free. Disembarkation is also very easy meaning the cruise is also rounded off in the same way it started, with the only disappointment being that you are leaving the ship!
The Navigator is a great ship. It's clean, it's glamourous, it's not too overwhelming for first time cruisers, and from what I read about the other ships, has a comfortable sense of familiarity for experienced RCL cruisers. We chose RCL in the first place as we were told by the travel agent it was the best cruise line for families. As I said earlier, I cannot compare RCL to any other cruise line but what I can say is that the staff are great with the kids. They are so friendly and treat them respectfully, without being patronising. My 12 year old was never made to feel like a 'kid', which he liked.
As it was our first ever cruise last year, I may have been caught up in the excitement of it all, but this year I probably had more of a critical eye. The ship itself was very clean and I like the way they make it very obvious that hand cleaning is very important for hygiene standards. Our cabin (deck 9, balcony), was larger than I expected but was a little tired in places, although not enough to bother me. It was just a couple of worn corners of the cabinets and the creaking of the wardrobe - actually, now I write those niggles down they seem petty, so overall I guess I was pretty happy with the cabin!
Last year we had an ocean view room on deck 2 and we were pleasantly surprised with it. Having not cruised before, I was worried that being so low would mean feeling the ship move a lot but my worries were unfounded and we liked the location - it was lovely and quiet. We would have been more than happy with deck 2 again this year but weirdly, the balcony room on deck 9 was cheaper. We were not disappointed. The location was fantastic and we were once again met with really quiet surroundings. The balcony was a lovely luxury and added to how spacious the room felt. However, my husband and I agreed that whilst having a balcony in future would be preferable, we still would be happy with an ocean view room too.
The food was fantastic, and my now very, very tight fitting clothes concur with that! Boy, have I got some work to do on losing that weight now I'm home! We didn't go to any speciality restaurants but didn't feel at detriment because of it. The standard of food in the Sapphire Dining Room was fantastic and the food in the Windjammer was as good and extremely plentiful. I wish I'd dined in the Sapphire Dining Room at all mealtimes so I was not tempted with the food in the Windjammer. The portions in the dining room were 'normal' and there was not the desire to try a bit of this and try a bit of that. I am sure my weight gain would have been a lot less without the Windjammer! We ordered the continental breakfast via room service on a couple of mornings and ate it in the privacy of our balcony whilst watching the sun come up, which added to the luxury feel of a cruise holiday. The snacks at the café promenade also added to the ever expanding waistline. I have a regular appetite at home and exercise to try and keep healthy. I have no idea what came over me on this trip, except pure gluttony! They shouldn't make the food so good!
The service all round was great. A couple of crew members stood out for their service in order to make sure we were looked after and I have acknowledged these people to RCL via their customer survey but overall, the standard of service was excellent. Pre-paid gratuities are contentious, I know, but we had such good service on our last cruise that we did not hesitate on pre-paying the gratuities this year. It's all well deserved. The staff seem to genuinely want to ensure you enjoy the cruise.
My seven year old daughter loved, loved, loved the kids club (Adventure Ocean). We didn't see her any evening as she was desperate to go each night. Even on the last night when I wanted us to spend the evening as a family, she made it very clear she didn't want to miss kids club, so she went! We took advantage of the service they offer where they collect the children from the dining room and take them to the club, allowing us to finish our meal without rushing. Unfortunately, my son's expectations of a 'kids' club were not met. My son is 12 and on realising he would qualify for the teen club, he was really excited on the lead up to the holiday after reading about what he would have access to with regards to facilities. Registration for the teen club was at 8pm on the first night and he was that excited about this "cool" place he could hang out that he was clock watching the whole day. Unfortunately the teen club was full of a lot older teenagers, who seemed to know each other and my son felt very overwhelmed and lost all his confidence. He shyed away and never went back. We noticed the Voyagers club (for ages 8-11) had a night of Star Wars and Lego activities, which my son loves, and so we enquired as to whether he may join this club instead. The crew member said there had been a few younger teens who had felt the same once they had seen the teen club and had opted to join Voyagers instead. However, when he went to Voyagers on Star Wars night he texted us after half an hour saying he wanted to leave. It seems he had been asked to be a helper to the younger kids, which he didn't enjoy. Not quite sure what happened to be honest - not sure if it was the club itself or my sons perception - but either way he didn't return there for the rest of the cruise. Being a young teenager is an awkward age generally and it would be good if RCL could consider this more with their Adventure Ocean programme. If they have many requests for the younger teens to join the 8-11 year old club, then clearly there is a gap in their service towards the younger guests.
The entertainment on this cruise was not great. On last years' cruise the shows were fantastic, and we had the same expectations this year. However, the shows were only mediocre on this cruise but there was an act on the last night (a comedy mind reader) who was just truly terrible. We walked out of that show, and we've never walked out of a show anywhere! I am considering this a blip as I do know the entertainment can be so much better than this from my own experience, and others.
We got out at every port (Le Havre, Bilbao, Gijon) but only did an organised shore excursion in Gijon. It wasn't great and so much so, my husband has written to RCL to complain. We didn't go to all the sites that were promised on the tour, the lunch provided was as stated but the chicken was not nice - it was dry and chewy - and we spent much more time on the coach than we should have. The guide was boring, offered little information and had no personality to at least appease the long journey. In fact, at one point he told us August was the worst time to visit Spain and gave that as the explanation for why we were caught in so much traffic. Whilst I do not blame him for the traffic, August does come around once a year and the extra volume of traffic should be accounted for. Given how much the excursion cost, we feel slightly ripped off.
Overall though, we had a great time and would have no hesitation in sailing with RCL or on the Navigator again. As mentioned, I consider the quality of the shows only a blip and the shore excursion, whilst not great, will just mean we are more cautious next time with what we book. The kids club situation with my 12 year old.... well, I'm not entirely sure what the answer is. That age range is a funny one - they are coming out of being a child but not really ready for being a fully fledged teen. I think it will be entirely down to the individual child on how they take to the kids club.
As with anything, there will be a portion of people who hated the cruise, a portion of people who loved it and probably a majority who were perfectly happy but don't bother with posting reviews. The only way to find out if you'll like this cruise is to go on it yourself and chalk it down to experience at the end. Read Less