The Port of Galveston is not the most friendly locale from which to cruise. Parking lots are located a distance from the cruise terminals. Cruisers must take a shuttle from the parking lots to the terminal. When multiple ships are in port at the same time, the congestion is terrible. Once at the terminal, embarkation processing efficiency depended on the time of day one boards. We arrived at 1:00 PM and had a bit of a wait. In fairness, the RCL computers were down for a time which contributed to the delays. Our family boarded around 2:00 PM and were processed through in a very short time.
We were in a superior balcony cabin located aft of amidships on the 7th deck. The room was comfortable and fairly spacious. It was also very quiet considering that there were 1200 children on board this cruise. The room was very clean and in good repair. However, the balcony showed signs of age with rust evident in several spots. Our cabin attendant, Golda, was excellent (far above the norm if that is possible). Our room was made up within a very short time after we indicated that fact through the makeup room card. She spotted some needed minor repairs and they were promptly attended to.
The Navigator of the Seas is an older ship and it shows. While the ship’s interior public spaces were well maintained, there were signs of rust and areas needing painting on the exterior decks. The ship should have a major yard period soon as it cannot compete with newer shipd of the Royal Caribbean fleet.
The food in the Windjammer buffet was excellent. The variety was good and served many different tastes. As with many cruise ships, seating was at a premium during preferred meal hours. I was surprised that the buffet shut down from 11 AM to 12w PM. They also closed for the night around 9 PM. If memory serves my correctly, this venue used to be open continuously during the day and much later in the evenings. Service in Windjammer depended on where one sat. Some of the food service personnel were fast, efficient, and friendly. Others were not. Sort of a mixed bag.
The Sapphire Dining Room offered a nice variety of entrée choices every night. We chose Anytime Dining but were fortunate to have the same waiters every night. Our wait staff of Irene and Neville was wonderful. We had a table of seven and they remembered everyone’s name and food/drink desires. They spent time with our grandchildren and shared some personal stories about their home countries. The kids looked forward to every evening meal.
I have read some comments on this site about food quantity. I did not find this to be an issue. The portions were quite generous. Also, there was no hesitation if anyone wanted a second entrée. The food quality was about average for Royal Caribbean.
On Board Activities:
They were the usual for cruise ships (art auctions, belly flop contests, bingo, etc.) There was an issue with the “sexiest man” contest. Encouraged by the assistant cruise director, it became rather vulgar and crude. Since there were many children present, I felt it to be totally inappropriate. I discussed it by phone with the cruise director who promised to have a meeting with staff to avoid such incidents in the future, especially on cruises with many children as guests. I hope he did follow up.
Children activities during the day seemed to be a bit weak. Either the activities were not interesting or there weren’t very many participants. There were sporting contests and informal basketball games to keep guests occupied. The evening activities for teens were wonderful. Our oldest grandson went to the Optix every evening and met a number of other teens. He really enjoyed it.
The overall impression of the staff was very good. In addition to the aforementioned wait staff and room attendant, others went out of their way to be helpful. My wife needed top use a wheel chair and she was always given special treatment. My grandson forgot his charger to his GoPro camera. One of the staff loaned him his personal charger so that he could charge his camera prior to leaving for a snorkeling shore excursion. This was above and beyond and was most appreciated.
Royal Caribbean has the best guest loyalty program in the cruise industry. The Diamond Club on board offered continental breakfast each day as well as complimentary cocktails and snacks during the evening hours. This is one of the primary reasons that we cruise on Royal Caribbean almost all of the time.
Debarkation was a disaster. Through no fault of RCL, the wait times were awful. The queue was caused by a lack of customs agents as well as their inefficiency. Once we cleared customs, there was the inevitable wait for the parking lot shuttle. It took three shuttle buses before we were able to board and retrieve our car. This was followed by another wait to return to the terminal to pick up passengers. Galveston needs to improve their port or cruisers need to understand and accept the fact that waiting to board and leave is the norm.
Quiet, roomy cabin, convenient to the aft elevators. Very comfortable overall. Balcony showed some rust however.