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Pre-Cruise We arrived in Ft. Lauderdale one day ahead of the cruise. As we exited the baggage claim area at the airport we were approached by a man offering taxi service directly outside the door. He had some kind of taxi ID card, but no meter in his car, which was a very nice and expensive SUV. I think it was some kind of gypsy cab. The minimum taxi fare from the airport or the port is $10, and he took us to our hotel about three miles away for $18. We stayed at the Holiday Inn Express on 17th East Causeway, in a king room for $160. This hotel is quite nice and well-located for cruisers. I would rate it a 3-star. It has free Wi-Fi throughout and free computer internet access in the lobby, also a very nice free full breakfast. There are plenty of restaurants within walking distance. This hotel is within walking distance of the entrance to Port Everglades. I would not, however, recommend anyone with luggage try to walk into the port and then to a pier. It is quite a distance from the port entrance to most of the piers, over a mile in some cases. The hotel offers a pier shuttle for $8 per person, but we opted for a taxi which cost $12 to Pier 29, the farthest pier from the port entrance. Embarkation Royal Caribbean recommends cruisers arrive no earlier than 1:00 P. M. We arrived at the pier about 11:30 A. M. and were aboard by Noon after a very smooth process. The only holdup was caused by Royal's silly concerns about people bringing alcohol aboard. In order to reap the most revenue from their customers, they insist upon thoroughly checking every carry-on bag that appears to have liquids during the x-ray process. Our carry-ons and those of many others were hand searched by very poorly trained staff. They permitted our sodas through, and insisted on shaking bottles of sodas and water in other travelers' bags. They also broke a wheel off the bag of a person preceding me by mishandling the bag. Some people had liquor and beer taken, for return on the last night of the cruise. After rummaging through my stuff, the security person was unable to repack my back, which I had to do before I could move on to the actual embarkation process. I find this kind of niggling a real nuisance. There is no safety reasons for it, just greed. Once aboard ship we headed to the Windjammer buffet for lunch. As promised, the staterooms were opened to passengers promptly at 1:00 P. M. The Cabin We stayed in room 8550, a balcony cabin and a one-category upgrade to E1 from our E2 Guarantee. The cabin and balcony were smaller than expected. The 13 year-old decor seems quite dated, as does that of the hallways. The room appeared to have a hideabed, and it had a TV and a small refrigerator, which didn't cool well. There was plenty of storage. The balcony had a full roof overhead. The cabin was quite clean. The bathroom included a very tiny circular shower with curved doors. This shower is not meant for large people or those with any kind of movement restrictions. Only a small person could bend over in this shower. The balcony door was extremely hard to move and was unlubricated. It seemed to have a bend in the middle of it. Maintenance cleaned the track somewhat and showed us how to lean into the door to offset the bend in the door, making it a little less painful to open and close it. The stateroom was very well sound insulated. We never heard even a peep from any adjacent cabins. Our room was hot when we boarded, but cooled down fine the first night. The next day the temperature kept rising all day. The maintenance staff was able to fix the cooling and it worked fine thereafter. Our cabin steward, Valerio, was very pleasant and eager to please, but didn't seem to understand some of our requests, despite our giving them to him in writing. He said he was unable to remove the mini-bar stuff, so we moved it to one of the closets. He did provide extra pillows and an eggcrate pad for the mattress, which was quite comfortable once the pad was installed. He was very diligent about working around our schedule to make sure our room was kept clean and well-stocked. Muster Drill The muster drill was held before the ship set sail and everyone was required to attend. Due to the recent Costa cruise ship accident the passengers seemed to pay very close attention to the information without the usual talking and goofing around. Passengers were shown how to use life jackets, but were not required to put one on. The Ship Overall this is a very nice ship, with a good design for the common areas, especially the Royal Promenade, or Centrum, which is several stories high and covers the center of the ship for quite a distance. This Centrum features a music party starting at 10 P. M. on some nights. The is really good fun and is very entertaining. The noise and commotion cannot be heard in the outside cabins. But, those inside cabins which face this area should expect to enjoy this spectacle when it is happening. The commons areas are very beautiful, well maintained, and do not look dated. Some parts of it are hard to navigate due to the design, but overall it works well. There is no outdoor movie screen, which was fine with me, as I find this feature to be too noisy and distracting. The large gym includes a great deal of cardio equipment, weight machines and many free weights. It was bright and well-lit and kept very clean. There are walking and running areas on the ship, and provisions for almost every type of sport or exercise, including rock climbing, inline skating and ice skating (skates & helmets provided). The Internet Cafe has no one attending it at most times, doesn't work well, and sometimes doesn't work at all. Various pricing plans are available. Cruise Critic Meet & Greet The Cruise Critic Meet & Greet was kind of fun during the first sea day. Some of the stuff was kind of silly, but about what we expected, and it distracted us from worrying whether or not my tux would be repaired in time for the evening's dinner. The Food The food is good, but nothing special. Serving sizes in the Main Dining Rooms are on the small side. We had traditional fixed-time dining and had requested a table for eight. On the first night our assigned table, as well as several nearby tables, was occupied by a large tour group. We were then moved to a large table at the entrance to the dining room without tablemates. The next and following nights we were seated at a table for eight with charming tablemates. The wait staff was friendly and quite attentive to our needs during the balance of the cruise. The casual dining is on the Lido deck. Inside is the buffet which consisted of a large variety of food of all types and ethnic regions available, with few repetitions. There is also outside a pizzeria and a grill with hamburgers and so forth. All of this food was good, and served at the proper temperature, but again, not excellent. If you want a Heineken beer, you won't find it on Princess. Unlike the rest of the world they don't sell it, so bring your own in your main luggage. The Casino The casino is equipped with all of the usual games. There were a couple of welcome nights when the casino was smoke-free. Otherwise it was very smoky, which seemed to spread to other parts of the Promenade Deck. Captain's Reception Crown & Anchor Society members (previous cruisers on RCI) were invited to a reception which took place in the ice arena studio. Staff were introduced and pitches were made for future cruises and excursions. Complimentary munchies and bad drinks were served. If you want a beer or a decent drink, it is "not available" unless you insist upon it, at which point it will become "available". Cozumel The ship docks at a newer pier, near nothing of interest, about two miles ($7 cab fare) from the center of Cozumel, where the tender pier and the bulk of the stores are located. We saw no evidence of past years' hurricane damage. Several empty storefronts in the downtown made it appear that the commerce formerly located downtown is starting to migrate toward the new cruise docks. And, there is a Senior Frog's 1/2 tiki bar, some snorkel and dive shops, and some souvenir stores adjacent to the pier inside an enclave which appears to be owned by the cruise lines. We taxied into the main area and purchased a few items and returned to the ship. As always, the same items for sale in the oceanfront stores are offered for much less a few steps down the side streets. Grand Cayman Our stop in Grand Cayman was scheduled for 11 A. M. to 6 P. M. Grand Cayman is a tendering port, and the tendering was slowed considerably by ocean swells. Passengers not signed up for a shore excursion must report to a lounge and get tender tickets, on a first-come, first-served basis. We were given tickets for tender number 12. The tender numbers are called in order, but the announcements can only be heard in the public areas, not in the cabins. We finally got aboard a tender at 1:45 P. M. for the ten-minute ride to the pier. RCI tenders dock at the new tender pier, where the line can profit from the many shops in the pier enclave. The other cruise lines still tender to the other, older, dock which is about a quarter-mile away and across the main street from the bulk of the tourist-oriented shops. From the RCI dock the short walk to the main shopping area is very hot and crowded and fraught with traffic dangers for the unwary tourist. It's best to keep one's head up and pay attention and remember that vehicles drive on the left side of the road. There were five shiploads of cruisers in Grand Cayman during our stay, making for big crowding in the dockside areas. It was very not, as it always seems to be there. The heat coupled with the crowding seemed to put a lot of cruisers in distress. The other lines had many passengers standing in burning sun as they waited in line to return to their ships. We had a very short wait to get a return tender as many cruisers were still coming ashore on tenders due to the earlier delay of the tendering queue. Falmouth, Jamaica This is a new stop for cruise ships, which dock at a two-ship dock built by RCI. It is a beautiful setting in a shallow bay adjacent to an old and quite typically run down Jamaican town. The RCI complex is not quite completely finished, but consists of a large complex of stores, ranging from high-end jewelry to local wood carvings and other craft items. Other shops are still being built. The shop personnel are not supposed to badger the cruisers in the fashion that is typical throughout Jamaica, but they manage to do so nevertheless. The prices inside the gated area are much, much higher than in the town which is directly across the street from pier entrance. There were a lot of police and security people in the old city, along with many merchants, hawkers and runners, all competing for the same customers. Here the Jamaican full court press is very much in evidence. We had a good time interacting with all of these people. For safety reasons, however, I wouldn't advise wandering more than about three blocks in any direction from the RCI entrance. I saw an armed police motorcycle escorting one of the tour trolleys, which seems like a great idea, given past tourist problems in Jamaica. In the days preceding our stop several ships had been diverted to Montego Bay due to high winds. Given the shallow nature of this bay cruisers should anticipate this might be happen with some frequency. While at Falmouth ice skating sessions were available at several times during the day. Labadee, Haiti Having been to Haiti years ago, and seeing it go further downhill in the meantime, my expectations for this port were very low. Labadee, however, is gem of a new port and was the highlight of our cruise. Haiti is a very poor and troubled country and RCI has done a nice job of shielding its cruisers from the poverty, crime and corruption. RCI has leased a peninsula of land which is surrounded by a fence on one side and water on the others. It is totally isolated from the rest of Haiti. Cruisers are not permitted to leave the enclosed area, and Haitians who are not working in the area are not permitted inside the fenced off area. The setting is very pretty in a rather shallow harbor. Many "excursions" are offered, all within the confines of the tourist area. These "excursions" are more in the nature of land and water based activities which one would expect at a park with a beach. There are plenty of restrooms, and a free tram which travels from one end of the area to the other end. RCI provides on-shore meals. There is a lot of shopping activity available in Labadee, with a focus on wood, metal and cloth crafts and artwork. Near the dock there are shops in cement block-type buildings. Further into the port is where the breezes die off, the heat goes up, and the shopping fun really begins, with a lengthy flea market with dozens of open-air huts. All prices are, of course, negotiable, and the sellers seem to ask at least 75% more than they are willing to accept. The star of the show in Labadee is the 2600 foot zipline. The $85 charge includes instruction on a short practice zipline on the ground and transportation up the mountain in open-air trucks and Land Rovers. People of all ages, at least some of whom were in their 80s, seemed to really enjoy it. There is a weight limit of 250 pounds, which is reduced when winds are a factor. This ride takes about least an hour, but only 30 seconds or so involves the actual descent. At the end of the ride passengers are slowed by springs in a somewhat abrupt fashion, and must hang from or pull themselves up by their shoulders for a brief moment. This might prevent people with certain conditions from participating. Other than that, it looks like great fun for one and all. Gratuities The RCI system for gratuities is a hybrid in that passengers can choose to have the ship produce vouchers in set amounts per day for the room steward and the wait staff. The vouchers are then charged to the onboard account of the passenger. Instead of the ship distributing the amounts to the staff, the cruisers are tasked with getting the vouchers to the employees. Disembarking & Heading Home A very good system is used for disembarking. RCI assigns a time for you to leave the ship which is based on the information you provide about your travel connections. If you don't like this time, you can select a different time. You can leave even earlier if you are able to wheel and carry all of your bags without assistance, in which case you do not put any bags outside your cabin on your last night aboard. We opted for a 7:45 A. M. debarking. We were directed to the gangway at 7:50 A. M., collected our bags from the customs area and were in a taxi enroute to the airport at 8: 05 A. M. The taxi meter read $15.30 at the airport. Air Tran had a foul up in their check in process, causing us to drag our bags back downstairs to a one-person desk for checking in. Overall Great fun for a winter getaway. Nice ship, well kept in the common areas and in need of cabins and stateroom areas redecorating. So-so food. Two good new ports.

1/15/2012 Navigator of the Seas Western Caribbean Cruise

Navigator of the Seas Cruise Review by redleg1

Trip Details
Pre-Cruise

We arrived in Ft. Lauderdale one day ahead of the cruise. As we exited the baggage claim area at the airport we were approached by a man offering taxi service directly outside the door. He had some kind of taxi ID card, but no meter in his car, which was a very nice and expensive SUV. I think it was some kind of gypsy cab. The minimum taxi fare from the airport or the port is $10, and he took us to our hotel about three miles away for $18.

We stayed at the Holiday Inn Express on 17th East Causeway, in a king room for $160. This hotel is quite nice and well-located for cruisers. I would rate it a 3-star. It has free Wi-Fi throughout and free computer internet access in the lobby, also a very nice free full breakfast. There are plenty of restaurants within walking distance. This hotel is within walking distance of the entrance to Port Everglades. I would not, however, recommend anyone with luggage try to walk into the port and then to a pier. It is quite a distance from the port entrance to most of the piers, over a mile in some cases. The hotel offers a pier shuttle for $8 per person, but we opted for a taxi which cost $12 to Pier 29, the farthest pier from the port entrance.

Embarkation

Royal Caribbean recommends cruisers arrive no earlier than 1:00 P. M. We arrived at the pier about 11:30 A. M. and were aboard by Noon after a very smooth process. The only holdup was caused by Royal's silly concerns about people bringing alcohol aboard. In order to reap the most revenue from their customers, they insist upon thoroughly checking every carry-on bag that appears to have liquids during the x-ray process. Our carry-ons and those of many others were hand searched by very poorly trained staff. They permitted our sodas through, and insisted on shaking bottles of sodas and water in other travelers' bags. They also broke a wheel off the bag of a person preceding me by mishandling the bag. Some people had liquor and beer taken, for return on the last night of the cruise. After rummaging through my stuff, the security person was unable to repack my back, which I had to do before I could move on to the actual embarkation process. I find this kind of niggling a real nuisance. There is no safety reasons for it, just greed.

Once aboard ship we headed to the Windjammer buffet for lunch. As promised, the staterooms were opened to passengers promptly at 1:00 P. M.

The Cabin
We stayed in room 8550, a balcony cabin and a one-category upgrade to E1 from our E2 Guarantee. The cabin and balcony were smaller than expected. The 13 year-old decor seems quite dated, as does that of the hallways. The room appeared to have a hideabed, and it had a TV and a small refrigerator, which didn't cool well. There was plenty of storage. The balcony had a full roof overhead. The cabin was quite clean. The bathroom included a very tiny circular shower with curved doors. This shower is not meant for large people or those with any kind of movement restrictions. Only a small person could bend over in this shower.

The balcony door was extremely hard to move and was unlubricated. It seemed to have a bend in the middle of it. Maintenance cleaned the track somewhat and showed us how to lean into the door to offset the bend in the door, making it a little less painful to open and close it.

The stateroom was very well sound insulated. We never heard even a peep from any adjacent cabins.

Our room was hot when we boarded, but cooled down fine the first night. The next day the temperature kept rising all day. The maintenance staff was able to fix the cooling and it worked fine thereafter.

Our cabin steward, Valerio, was very pleasant and eager to please, but didn't seem to understand some of our requests, despite our giving them to him in writing. He said he was unable to remove the mini-bar stuff, so we moved it to one of the closets. He did provide extra pillows and an eggcrate pad for the mattress, which was quite comfortable once the pad was installed. He was very diligent about working around our schedule to make sure our room was kept clean and well-stocked.

Muster Drill
The muster drill was held before the ship set sail and everyone was required to attend. Due to the recent Costa cruise ship accident the passengers seemed to pay very close attention to the information without the usual talking and goofing around. Passengers were shown how to use life jackets, but were not required to put one on.


The Ship

Overall this is a very nice ship, with a good design for the common areas, especially the Royal Promenade, or Centrum, which is several stories high and covers the center of the ship for quite a distance. This Centrum features a music party starting at 10 P. M. on some nights. The is really good fun and is very entertaining. The noise and commotion cannot be heard in the outside cabins. But, those inside cabins which face this area should expect to enjoy this spectacle when it is happening.

The commons areas are very beautiful, well maintained, and do not look dated. Some parts of it are hard to navigate due to the design, but overall it works well. There is no outdoor movie screen, which was fine with me, as I find this feature to be too noisy and distracting.

The large gym includes a great deal of cardio equipment, weight machines and many free weights. It was bright and well-lit and kept very clean.

There are walking and running areas on the ship, and provisions for almost every type of sport or exercise, including rock climbing, inline skating and ice skating (skates & helmets provided).

The Internet Cafe has no one attending it at most times, doesn't work well, and sometimes doesn't work at all. Various pricing plans are available.

Cruise Critic Meet & Greet

The Cruise Critic Meet & Greet was kind of fun during the first sea day. Some of the stuff was kind of silly, but about what we expected, and it distracted us from worrying whether or not my tux would be repaired in time for the evening's dinner.

The Food

The food is good, but nothing special. Serving sizes in the Main Dining Rooms are on the small side. We had traditional fixed-time dining and had requested a table for eight. On the first night our assigned table, as well as several nearby tables, was occupied by a large tour group. We were then moved to a large table at the entrance to the dining room without tablemates. The next and following nights we were seated at a table for eight with charming tablemates. The wait staff was friendly and quite attentive to our needs during the balance of the cruise.

The casual dining is on the Lido deck. Inside is the buffet which consisted of a large variety of food of all types and ethnic regions available, with few repetitions. There is also outside a pizzeria and a grill with hamburgers and so forth. All of this food was good, and served at the proper temperature, but again, not excellent.

If you want a Heineken beer, you won't find it on Princess. Unlike the rest of the world they don't sell it, so bring your own in your main luggage.

The Casino

The casino is equipped with all of the usual games. There were a couple of welcome nights when the casino was smoke-free. Otherwise it was very smoky, which seemed to spread to other parts of the Promenade Deck.

Captain's Reception

Crown & Anchor Society members (previous cruisers on RCI) were invited to a reception which took place in the ice arena studio. Staff were introduced and pitches were made for future cruises and excursions. Complimentary munchies and bad drinks were served. If you want a beer or a decent drink, it is "not available" unless you insist upon it, at which point it will become "available".

Cozumel

The ship docks at a newer pier, near nothing of interest, about two miles ($7 cab fare) from the center of Cozumel, where the tender pier and the bulk of the stores are located. We saw no evidence of past years' hurricane damage. Several empty storefronts in the downtown made it appear that the commerce formerly located downtown is starting to migrate toward the new cruise docks. And, there is a Senior Frog's 1/2 tiki bar, some snorkel and dive shops, and some souvenir stores adjacent to the pier inside an enclave which appears to be owned by the cruise lines.

We taxied into the main area and purchased a few items and returned to the ship. As always, the same items for sale in the oceanfront stores are offered for much less a few steps down the side streets.

Grand Cayman

Our stop in Grand Cayman was scheduled for 11 A. M. to 6 P. M. Grand Cayman is a tendering port, and the tendering was slowed considerably by ocean swells. Passengers not signed up for a shore excursion must report to a lounge and get tender tickets, on a first-come, first-served basis. We were given tickets for tender number 12. The tender numbers are called in order, but the announcements can only be heard in the public areas, not in the cabins. We finally got aboard a tender at 1:45 P. M. for the ten-minute ride to the pier.

RCI tenders dock at the new tender pier, where the line can profit from the many shops in the pier enclave. The other cruise lines still tender to the other, older, dock which is about a quarter-mile away and across the main street from the bulk of the tourist-oriented shops. From the RCI dock the short walk to the main shopping area is very hot and crowded and fraught with traffic dangers for the unwary tourist. It's best to keep one's head up and pay attention and remember that vehicles drive on the left side of the road.

There were five shiploads of cruisers in Grand Cayman during our stay, making for big crowding in the dockside areas. It was very not, as it always seems to be there. The heat coupled with the crowding seemed to put a lot of cruisers in distress. The other lines had many passengers standing in burning sun as they waited in line to return to their ships.

We had a very short wait to get a return tender as many cruisers were still coming ashore on tenders due to the earlier delay of the tendering queue.

Falmouth, Jamaica

This is a new stop for cruise ships, which dock at a two-ship dock built by RCI. It is a beautiful setting in a shallow bay adjacent to an old and quite typically run down Jamaican town. The RCI complex is not quite completely finished, but consists of a large complex of stores, ranging from high-end jewelry to local wood carvings and other craft items. Other shops are still being built. The shop personnel are not supposed to badger the cruisers in the fashion that is typical throughout Jamaica, but they manage to do so nevertheless.

The prices inside the gated area are much, much higher than in the town which is directly across the street from pier entrance.

There were a lot of police and security people in the old city, along with many merchants, hawkers and runners, all competing for the same customers. Here the Jamaican full court press is very much in evidence. We had a good time interacting with all of these people. For safety reasons, however, I wouldn't advise wandering more than about three blocks in any direction from the RCI entrance. I saw an armed police motorcycle escorting one of the tour trolleys, which seems like a great idea, given past tourist problems in Jamaica.

In the days preceding our stop several ships had been diverted to Montego Bay due to high winds. Given the shallow nature of this bay cruisers should anticipate this might be happen with some frequency.

While at Falmouth ice skating sessions were available at several times during the day.

Labadee, Haiti

Having been to Haiti years ago, and seeing it go further downhill in the meantime, my expectations for this port were very low. Labadee, however, is gem of a new port and was the highlight of our cruise. Haiti is a very poor and troubled country and RCI has done a nice job of shielding its cruisers from the poverty, crime and corruption. RCI has leased a peninsula of land which is surrounded by a fence on one side and water on the others. It is totally isolated from the rest of Haiti. Cruisers are not permitted to leave the enclosed area, and Haitians who are not working in the area are not permitted inside the fenced off area.

The setting is very pretty in a rather shallow harbor. Many "excursions" are offered, all within the confines of the tourist area. These "excursions" are more in the nature of land and water based activities which one would expect at a park with a beach. There are plenty of restrooms, and a free tram which travels from one end of the area to the other end. RCI provides on-shore meals.

There is a lot of shopping activity available in Labadee, with a focus on wood, metal and cloth crafts and artwork. Near the dock there are shops in cement block-type buildings. Further into the port is where the breezes die off, the heat goes up, and the shopping fun really begins, with a lengthy flea market with dozens of open-air huts. All prices are, of course, negotiable, and the sellers seem to ask at least 75% more than they are willing to accept.

The star of the show in Labadee is the 2600 foot zipline. The $85 charge includes instruction on a short practice zipline on the ground and transportation up the mountain in open-air trucks and Land Rovers. People of all ages, at least some of whom were in their 80s, seemed to really enjoy it. There is a weight limit of 250 pounds, which is reduced when winds are a factor. This ride takes about least an hour, but only 30 seconds or so involves the actual descent. At the end of the ride passengers are slowed by springs in a somewhat abrupt fashion, and must hang from or pull themselves up by their shoulders for a brief moment. This might prevent people with certain conditions from participating. Other than that, it looks like great fun for one and all.

Gratuities

The RCI system for gratuities is a hybrid in that passengers can choose to have the ship produce vouchers in set amounts per day for the room steward and the wait staff. The vouchers are then charged to the onboard account of the passenger. Instead of the ship distributing the amounts to the staff, the cruisers are tasked with getting the vouchers to the employees.

Disembarking & Heading Home

A very good system is used for disembarking. RCI assigns a time for you to leave the ship which is based on the information you provide about your travel connections. If you don't like this time, you can select a different time. You can leave even earlier if you are able to wheel and carry all of your bags without assistance, in which case you do not put any bags outside your cabin on your last night aboard.

We opted for a 7:45 A. M. debarking. We were directed to the gangway at 7:50 A. M., collected our bags from the customs area and were in a taxi enroute to the airport at 8: 05 A. M. The taxi meter read $15.30 at the airport.

Air Tran had a foul up in their check in process, causing us to drag our bags back downstairs to a one-person desk for checking in.

Overall

Great fun for a winter getaway. Nice ship, well kept in the common areas and in need of cabins and stateroom areas redecorating. So-so food. Two good new ports.
redleg1’s Full Rating Summary
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Cabin Review

Cabin 8550
8550 Nice cabin. Very small shower enclosure. Needs redecorating. Balcony door is very difficult to move. Full overhead roof. Quiet.
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