We flew from Ireland into Barcelona the night before the cruise and stayed at the Hotel Continental Palacette a hotel frequented by many cruisers. I would recommend this hotel. We had a family of 4 (2 children) and there are not many hotels which can accommodate 4 in a room. Now it was a tight fit, but it was fine. An added bonus was meeting a fellow cruiser the night before and then bumping into them over the next 11 days.
Our only RCI experience had been the previous Nov. on Brilliance of the Seas in the med. So i was really looking forward to experiencing the bigger ship the Navigator. We arrived that the port at 11.30am, checked in quickly and had about a 20 minute wait till we could board at 12pm. Our room a GS was the same as on Brilliance however it was larger. We had a camp bed for our second son and on the Brilliance he slept in the bar area...a tight fit. In the Navigator cabin 1278 there was enough room for him to sleep next to the sofa bed. It really was a nice space for a family of 4. As we walked to our cabin our cabin attendant from Brilliance last year, Josephine called out to us. We were delighted to see her as she was brilliant. Unfortunately we missed having her by only a few cabins and instead our attendant this time was not particularly friendly, only called us by our names on the last day, left someone else's excursion tickets in our room, left the compass in spanish instead of english, and a few other things of this nature which while aren't bad, i expect more when i am paying a lot of money for a suite.
We noticed on the whole that the service was no where near as good on the Navigator. The welcomes weren't as friendly, and we were unlucky again in having a waiter who really had no personality and the assistant had to be called over by us whenever we wanted bread or water.........something that i have been assured by many people you just shouldn't have to do. so after 3 nights in the dining room we tried the windjammer for Formal night (we don't dress up). we found the service if not the food so much better in the windjammer that we didn't return to the dining room for the rest of the cruise. the staff there were so attentive i was really surprised. I do have a few complaints about the windjammer at breakfast and lunch, just in terms of the space and how difficult it was to find a seat at times something i never experienced on the Brilliance. As for room service, it seems the menu is different on Navigator? I recall on Brilliance being able to get anything that was being served in the dining room. On Navigator it was cheese plate, fruit plate and hot dog and hamburger. Now i could be wrong and maybe you could still ask for meals but it didn't say it on the menu. a huge disappointment. On the whole the food was really only just average for me.
I didn't see many shows on the Navigator however i did see both ice shows. I thoroughly enjoyed them though i was surprised how many times a few of the skaters fell. however, it was enjoyable and i would recommend them to anyone.
My boys loved Adventure Ocean. Despite being mid term break there were not that many kids on board so the age groups 6 - 8 and 9 - 11 were combined. this was great as i have a 6 & 9 yr old and they enjoyed being together. they made great friends however the program didn't seem to be any different than last year which i thought could get really boring if you are lucky enough to cruise more than once a year.
i was really looking forward to the Promenade and thats one of the reasons i chose the Navigator this time. I was so disappointed. the shopping was pathetic and i couldn't find anything to buy. I thought that the shops on Brilliance which shouldn't be the case at all. The other thing was i realized that i missed the light and glass of the Brilliance. Navigator felt too enclosed for us. Now this isn't to say i wouldn't go on her again, i would. I just thought i would like it better.
We chose this itinerary as it had 4 sea days as opposed to our cruise last year which was really port intensive. the problem was this time that some of the port we only had about 5 hours, so it was quite rushed. Palma de Mallorca was nice, an easy stroll around town. Unfortunately Sardinia had a tornado, which came completely out of the blue, so we were unable to disembark and instead had an extra sea day. Athens was hot and busy. There was a lots of ships in port that day and all seemed to be at the Acropolis. Istanbul the first day was a disaster as it rained very heavily. I was ill and unable to take the tour but my dh arrived back on the ship soaking wet and freezing. We had till 2pm on the Monday and we headed for the Grand Bazaar. An absolute highlight of the cruise. We loved it and had a really fun morning and i would highly recommend a cruise with Istanbul as a port. Lastly was Malta and a lovely 26 degrees sun and sightseeing. As a final comment the last day was really rocky and it was a shame as a lot of the ship, including staff were sick. thankfully we were fine although our cabin was midship so maybe that helped. The final night was very quiet and both the windjammer and dining room was pretty empty.
On the whole we still really enjoyed the cruise but maybe that was more about the holiday itself than the service and food etc that i expected would make the holiday great. Not as good as the Brilliance. While i wouldn't rule out another of the bigger ships, i am not sure i would race back to the Navigator in a hurry. Wasn't bad.....just not outstanding.