My husband and I live in The Woodlands, TX, have been married for 8 years, have 2 kids and LOVE to cruise. This was our 3rd cruise overall and our 1st time to sail with Royal Caribbean. Since we lived just 80 miles north of Galveston, we did not stay in a hotel and rather drove down on Sunday morning.
We had heard terrible reviews and even personal stories about the Galveston Cruise terminal and the crowds as well as overall slow check-in process so we planned ahead and got there early. We did get a text from RC saying wait to get to the terminal until 2 pm since we were on deck 4-7 but we ignored it and got there as early as possible. This was BY FAR the best decision we made the whole trip. We met someone who didn’t know so followed the text and arrived at 1:30 and didn’t get on until 4:15 (Which we did leave late bc of such crowds). So if you ever get a text about Galveston terminal… do not follow it would be my advice!
We arrived at the port around 9:30am to find the ship, as well as the Carnival Magic, disembarking from the previous week’s cruise. We parked at “Cruise N Park” directly across from the terminal and was transported via shuttle bus to the terminal around 10. We quickly made our way to luggage drop-off and dumped our luggage. We were in the terminal, through security, checked in and waiting to board the ship by 10:45am. Around, 11:00am they began to call for Pinnacle, Diamond and Jewel members and by 11:15am we were on board the Navigator.
We quickly went to the Windjammer only to find that it was not ready to be opened. In fact, we waited over an hour and a half waiting for it to be opened. This did not leave a pleasant taste in our mouth, literally or figuratively on behalf of Royal Caribbean. But we vowed to keep an open mind and I am glad we did because we were wowed later in the trip. Our rooms were ready by 1:00pm just like promised.
We stayed in cabin 7320 which was a “Deluxe” balcony cabin. The location of the cabin was PERFECT! It was the 1st cabin off of the elevator entrance yet we never were bothered by the elevator lobby noise! However, this cabin was listed at 184 sqft but it felt MUCH smaller. We have only cruised on balconies and this was the smallest yet. The bed was HARD AS A ROCK and almost unsleepable! Many evenings we found ourselves in the Solarium napping on the amazing lounge chairs. This was and still is a “deal breaker” for us as we do not want to pay the money for a cruise if we cannot sleep well during our vacation! We have a cruise coming up in March 2015 and I hope this bed will be much better and the Navigator was just a “fluke”.
WOW… This is where the Navigator really impressed us. There was SO MUCH TO DO on this boat. Between the FlowRider, Rockwall, Ice skating and other activities, we were busy form dusk until dawn every day. We prefer this style of cruising but we still were not even able to see and do it all. If you are a real adventure type of cruiser than NOS is for you.
Again, Royal really hit it out of the park with this category. Our room steward, MDR wait staff, specialty restaurants wait staff and everyone in between was absolutely FABULOUS and truly treated us like Royalty! I was beyond impressed!
I was not as impressed with the Royal Caribbean MDR selections as I hoped I would be but it was still much better than on land. We had only cruised on Carnival before and their food was FANTASTIC. I would say that while Royal Caribbean had several individual dishes that were better, the overall taste and selection of Carnival was better. However, Chops Grille was suburb and we will be dining there again!
Shore Excursions/ Ports
We really enjoyed this itinerary and the fact that the 2 sea days were at the beginning and not the end! For whatever reason it really made the cruise feel longer and not as rushed!
Cozumel – Paradise Beach
This was a FANTASTIC beach with snorkeling, kayaking, jet ski, paddle boats, and even parasailing as activity options. The entrance fee included a beach chair, umbrella, use of showers and pools. The cost of the taxi ride was only $14 per couple and was very affordable. We thoroughly enjoyed this day and the beach and will be going there again when we go to Cozumel.
Grand Cayman- SNUBA
Wow… this was an incredible experience and well worth the money. This was an excursion offered via Royal Caribbean and was well organized and easy to get to from the tender boat. In fact, we walked form the tender boat to the diving destination. The guides and leaders were well trained and friendly. The gear was in excellent condition and I never felt “gross” after using it. We loved SNUBA and are officially hooked!
Jamaica- CHUKKA Zipline and Dunns River Falls
This excursion was also booked via RC and it was a FULL DAY of activities. In fact, it was a little bit too much activity for our cruising style but we had fun nonetheless. We traveled 1 hour to Chukka to do zip-lining which was exhilarating to say the least. Then we had a true Jamaican lunch of jerked chicken and rice. We then traveled 45 minutes further to Ocho Rios to climb Dunns River Falls. This was a once in a lifetime type of opportunity and it was incredible! I highly recommend either of these excursions, or both if you like all day type of excursions, to anyone who is in Jamaica! Also, we thoroughly enjoyed the port of Falmouth, a lot better than Montego Bay that Carnival uses. I could really tell that RC was in charge of this pier. It was remarkably nicer and classier!
We did not travel with our children so we did not get to experience this part of the ship or Royal Caribbean; however, we saw enough to know that if and when we travel with our kids Royal Caribbean will be a great option.
The entertainment was very good. I am a band director so I enjoyed the LIVE orchestra. The singers and dancers seemed about “par” for a cruise ship. The hired entertainment ranged from amazing, good to just awful and needs a drink to make it through. This would depend on your actual cruise dates too. The show “MOTOWN” was fantastic and I highly recommend it! However, the activites during the day such as trivia and karaoke, seemed lacking to me. Now there was so much to do elsewhere on the ship but there were times where my husband and I felt like “We need to be entertained” and it was usually during the day!
This process went very smoothly and we were off of the boat, through customs and in our car driving away at 9:30am. In fact, it was the smoothest disembarkation of our 3 cruises.
Having only cruised 3 times, I am not as experienced as some but my overall thoughts were Carnival- Fun and Royal- Excellence. So you have to ask yourself “Do I want a FUN vacation or Excellent vacation”. The Navigator of the Seas was an AMAZING ship and I hope to cruise on her again soon! Royal goes for the WOW factor and I would say they achieved it on almost every level!
This cabin was in a GREAT location on this ship. Very central as far as deck levels go and incredibly close to the elevators. It was also a "Hump Balcony" which means it was on the curve of the mid-ship so we were able to see all the way to the aft and even forward to the bridge. Cabins in front of the hump would not see the aft and cabins behind the hump cannot see to the bridge because of these hump balconies. As far as RC balconies go, this was a great one. The cabin itself was small and lacking and the BED WAS TERRIBLE! Left a really bad taste in our mouth for Royal Caribbean. You want to sleep well and feel well on your cruise vacation and the bed made us feel the opposite!
Paradise BeachThis was an incredible facility and it kept us busy, yet relaxed, the entire day. It had a $18 all day activity entrance fee and the cab cost $14 each way from the Cruise terminal. The snorkeling, kayaking and paddle boats were some of the best we have seen in COZUMEL. We would highly recommend this beach.View All 696 Beach Reviews
WOW this was incredible. We LOVE snorkeling and had wanted to try diving so we did SNUBA! This was an incredible company and the guides were fantastic! We loved every minute and already have this excursion booked on our subsequent cruises. AMAZING!View All 17 Snuba Diving Reviews
DO THIS! It was well worth the money, time spent to get to Ocho Rios and all day adventure this excursion creates. It was awesome and we loved it!View All 256 Dunn's River Falls Reviews
Chukka Zip-lining was incredible! It was so invigorating and amazing to see a real jungle like this. The guides were typical "Jamaican crazy" and really made the whole experience memorable.View All 74 Ziplining Reviews