Getting around Texas after flying into IAH is inconvenient, no doubt about it. Because the week that we were traveling bordered on a holiday, we were unable to get a one-way car rental from Enterprise in Houston to Galveston - in either direction. They say that it is up to the issuing agency whether they will allow one-way at an additional fee or not. TIP: Call multiple locations and ask their policy, because it can vary. In our case, it was almost cheaper to rent a car at the airport and pay for the car and parking at the port for the whole duration of the cruise, rather than using shuttle services. Ultimately, because we were a group of 8, we rented a car for our time in Houston, then returned it to the airport and used Super Shuttle to get back and forth from/to Bush Continental Airport, about 1 hr 45 min.
The port was crazy, but not terrible. Lines outside were not well controlled. Porters were bypassing the people waiting patiently in line to drop off luggage in favor of getting bags from people at their cars - because the people at the cars were tipping better. Tip: get it taken at curb if possible, wave $$ wherever you are. Also, when they send you luggage tags to print as part of your welcome packet - they mean it! If you don't print and attach them before you get to port, you have to wait in an additional line just to get the tags, before you can get in line for luggage, before you can get in line to enter the terminal, before you can get in line for security screening, before you can get in line to check in for the cruise. Also, in our family's case, their Platinum status didn't print on their boarding pass- which meant that they were not allowed to use the express line for premium members. Make sure you have proof of your membership status or the man controlling lines will treat you like a commoner.
The ship itself is an interesting mix of old and new. Our last cruise was on the Freedom of the Seas. After Navigator had a face lift this year, we were curious as to what to expect. The ship is comparable in the sense that it has ice skating, FlowRider, Adventure Ocean, the Promenade, rock climbing. Navigator does not have the Dreamworks Experience for kids. On Navigator, the pool area lacks the large kid-friendly shallow pools and the Promenade is not as large as on Freedom. In fact, the Promenade was beautiful, but kind of a bottleneck for the ship, especially with the super large Christmas tree in it. There are only a few shops, so don't plan on doing much shopping on board unless you want to purchase alcohol, perfume, or watches.
There is a Card Room & Library combo on the 7th level, it was frequently full. There is no movie theater. The main theater for show nights seemed of standard size. The public restroom situation was less than perfect. Considering that the Windjammer buffet and the pool have to share a bathroom, it is shocking that the bathroom only has 4 stalls. And with regards to the Windjammer, it is only open until 9pm. That was a huge disappointment for those of us with Main Dining at 5:30 and the Show at 8:30 - we'd get out at 9:15pm and our only snack option was sandwiches, pastries, or a slice of cold pizza in the Cafe on the Promenade - a selection that didn't change. Ever.
In Roataon, Honduras, we docked at the port. The port is behind a gate with security controlling who gets in and out. We did not see a line of private taxis waiting to take people around like we usually do see at ports, so I'm not sure what is offered. Because rain was in the forecast and we assumed all beach time was out, we used a ship excursion to take us to Gumbalimba Park. There, we got a tour of the property, learned a little history, held spider monkeys and parrots, and got rained on really really hard. The property had a small beach and a large pool that we were not prepared to use, but would have been fun for the kids after the tour was over. Lockers cost $3 and there were no covered areas in the animal area. On the rope bridge we saw turtles when we looked down and flying Macaws when we looked up. They also had zip lining, which we didn't do. (Also on Roaton was a park or beach called Turtle Bay that looked really nice.) The guide that jumped into the van with us was our tour guide for the whole day. TIP: be prepared for rain and sun, if you get one you're likely to also get the other.
In Belize City, Belize, we hired a company called EcoTours to take us to a beach and snorkeling. We didn't realize it was 30 minutes by boat. Went to tiny Goff Caye where the guides snorkeled off the boat, but water was murky. Cuty, tiny private island - the areas is full of them. Kids got to catch hermit crabs and live brittle stars. Toilets were gross. Rum punch was good but unsure how it was made. They poured it from a Tropicana bottle, but....
In Cozumel, this was the only port that searched our bags on the way in and took away all food and fruit. We hired a taxi for $32 each way to take the eight of us to Playa Mia. Entrance fee was $30 for adults, close to the same for kids to get in. For more $ you can get all you can eat buffet and all you can drink as well. The resort has great beaches and an inflatable jungle gym in the water. On land, there is a water play area, pools, and a water slide. Back at the ocean, you can check out kayaks, water boats, and sail boats for no additional fee (but note that all are two person only. The sailboat holds three, but that third is the resort employee unless you know how to sail). Jet skis were available for an additional fee. From the port to to the beaches there is just one road that runs along the coast (but has bushes on both sides) and we passed San Francisco Beach, Carlos & Charlie's Beach, and Mr Sanchez's beach along the way. Those would have been good to check out too. Bags were screened before we could get back on ship in a giant screening room and all shells, slingshots, and food was confiscated or tossed. Alcohol was confiscated to be returned on the day you get off the ship. TIP: If you have a wooden slingshot to keep or some other trinket that may get confiscated: put it in your pocket.
Disembarking was rough the way we did it. Because we had a late flight, we wanted to stay on the ship. Breakfast was only served until 8:30am then we had to wait in a theater, then a half hour line to find our luggage, then almost an hour for customs, before we were out of the port building. Next time, we will keep our luggage with us and do early walk off/self-service no matter what.
Flying out on Alaska Airlines was also rough. Because our flight wasn't until 5:40pm, and Alaska only has about 2 flights a day leaving from Houston, they closed the luggage counter until 2:30pm! Even though we arrived before 1pm at the airport, we had to stay in the bag drop area until we could get in line at 2:30pm to deposit our bags. We couldn't enter the main part airport because we couldn't go through security with our luggage. Unsure if there is any way to avoid this or know about this in the future - but be warned!
We had a balcony room and it was very very nice. Our family was in the next room and while our rooms didn't have an adjoining door, we were able to open the divider on the balcony.