Just got off the Navigator of the seas after a 7 day cruise that took us from Galveston to Roatan, Belize and Cozumel before returning home…
Hurricane Patricia had us worrying, but the cruise went off without much of a hitch. Captain decided to keep us over night due to the weather (35mph sustained winds and rain…. Good call mate). We got off around 11am the following day and were informed that the itinerary would be reversed due to the weather. Nobody seemed to care and I actually thought it was better to have the two sea days at the beginning of the trip rather than the end. Gave us time to get to know the boat.
The Navigator itself and the Staff….
I’ve read a lot of reviews recently about how poorly conditioned the Navigator is. BS…. She’s beautiful... I actually took the time to try and find the “worn carpet” everyone talks about or the horrible sewage smells. Didn’t find any…. Anywhere…. Anytime. Forget about it…. Anyone who thinks this ship isn’t clean is full of it. Our ship was sold out and so I was expecting some issues with pool chairs and lines at the bars… but I really didn’t experience much of either (even on sea days). The bar service could be a little slow at times, but I think that was more to do with their payment system rather than the staff. Each time anyone orders a drink, the bartenders have to swipe your sea pass card. I was with my wife and so each time we went to the bar the bartender had to swipe each of our cards, wait for the slips to print and then find a pen and walk them over to us. This usually took longer than it did to make the drink or grab the beer.
I went on my first Royal Caribbean Cruise back in 1998 and so it’s been nearly 20 years since my first experience with them. Unfortunately those who write about the decline of the food and the service are probably in my boat (no pun intended). My dinning experience 20 years ago, was amazing… the food in the main dining room was amazing…. And the waiters were amazing. It seems Royal has moved the “AMAZING” parts of that sentence to the specialty dining areas on the boat (more about that later), because they are definitely not in the MDR. Our waiter was good… very attentive and nice enough… but the bar waiter was a joke. If you want to have a drink in the MDR bring it with you or plan on heading out to the bar on 4 to grab it between courses, because you’ll never see him and if you do, you won’t see him twice if you need another. The food was not horrible, but it was just what you’d expect from a kitchen turning out 2000 meals for dinner. Portions were small, however they did allow you to order multiple items. Everything I had was good…. But not melt in your mouth fantastic. Likewise in the Windjammer…. Food was what you’d expect for a buffet. The windjammer was the only place on the ship where I felt there was a crowd. I guess free food does that to people. We elected to try two specialty restaurants….Giovannis and Sabor. Both were fantastic for different reasons, but the food and the service was excellent at both. Our cabin steward (Bernadette), seemed nice, but quite honestly we saw her twice the whole week. Our room was always clean and we got the obligatory towel animals, but not really much more than that. In her defense, we did not spend much time in our room.
Elton John Tribute… OMG. HYSTERICAL! I don’t remember the guys name, but man was that a fun show to watch. Great music and FUNNY!
Adult Comedy…… Very, very funny…. actual account of his interaction with one of the ladies in the audience. “What do you do for a living sweetheart?” ….. I’m a admission clerk at a senior living facility. “Well…. That’s an easy job…. You’re (expletive deleted) old….. come on in”
The Quest: We heard a lot about it and decided to try it and it was funny, but felt like there were too many veterans that knew what to bring and it kind of took the fun out of it.
Pool Deck Activities….. Our Activities Manager was named Cuddy and he was very entertaining. If there is anything happening on the pool deck and he’s running it…. Go see it. Belly Flop Contest, Sexiest Man, Pool Volleyball…. All fantastic due in large part to Cuddy’s amazing MC abilities.
Tenders: Fortunately we booked our Belize excursion for 10 am rather than early at 8. We did this because we had heard the tender process in Belize is a nightmare. Never has a statement been more true. Our boat was sold out and beginning at 730am people were lined up to get a tender ticket. In addition, folks were lining the steps to try and get off the ship and the elevators were so busy that they were basically gridlocked. Because we didn’t have the pressure to get off right away due to our later excursion time, we took some time to walk around the top deck of the ship. We headed back down to get a tender ticket about 30 min later and both the tender ticket line as well as the line in the stairwells to get off the ship were empty. Good call!!!
I'm an avid runner and tried to run every morning on the boat. The first day I tried the gym treadmills which was too packed and so I bailed to the top deck track (8 times around equals a mile). It's nice, but it's windy and crowded with walkers, runners and just folks just meandering about. Best find for running was on deck four outside. There is a walk way that runs all the way around the ship and it's covered by the upper decks. It's flat almost nobody there for some reason. The only hitch was the stairways on the port and starboard sides of the bow. Basically, I ran both straightaways and the aft portion and walked the steps up and down at the bow. great workout.
Embark and Disembark...
Galveston is a joke. Nearly ZERO instructions or signage as to what to do or where to go. Everyone has to check their bags with a porter before getting in the security line. We saw a number of people wait in the long security line only to be turned away when they got to the front because they hadn't checked their bags. We got there with the crowds (and a few buses) and so it was packed, but it did move pretty well. Getting off the boat was a bit of a hassle as well. We decided to carry our own bags off and I think that helped. People were complaining they couldn't find their bags etc. Royal has a decent system for grouping bags in piles based on numbers and that's essentially what they were.... piles. People would grab a bag, thinking it's theirs and then just drop it wherever they were when they realized they had the wrong one. Obviously that bag wasnt' where the owner thought it would be when they got to the pile. Customs was slow. I found it odd that the alcohol tax folks were waitiing outside of customs and nearly outside the terminal. They were literally just asking folks if they had alcohol. For those who said yes, they were charged a TX tax right there on the spot. My advice.... put your bottles in your luggage and when they ask if you bought any alcohol.... your answer is "Nope". :)
Tips for Royal…
Show something on the TV during sea days other than the Royal Caribbean screensaver. We were at Sea on a Saturday and it would have been nice to have some football up there.
Allow people to run tabs at bars to cut down on the service time. Stop trying to sell everything all over the boat. This became very annoying. I don’t need to be met each morning by somebody trying to get me to buy a sushi class or a beer tasting for $40. I’m on your boat to relax and enjoy a week at sea…. Not be bombarded by sales staff.
Our final excursion was the Fury Catarmaran through Royal Caribbean…
While the views were amazing, the snorkeling was good and the beach was good, this felt like something operated by big business rather than a boutique tour. There were about 60 of us on a very large catamaran and picked us up right at the dock in Cozumel. They were well organized and clean. The boat has two bathrooms, shaded areas and plenty of water and soda at no cost. Very comfortable. Not much too it though… they took us to a snorkel spot and we did see fish and coral… however there were way too many people in the water to make it enjoyable. Afterwards they took us to a beach (which I’m guessing they operate) and let us off. Free drinks at a small tiki bar and every water toy you could imagine in the water. Hammocks and beach chairs every where and clean bathrooms. All and all…. This excursion was as advertised…. Just a bit too crowded for my taste. Still fun though.View All 5 Fury Catamaran Snorkeling Reviews
Coral Breeze Tours (Belize)….
Our second excursion was in Belize and through a private company (Coral Breeze Tours) for the Shark and Stingray tour at Caye Caulker. This was our favorite excursion…. The belize port isn’t bad (get a drink at the Wet Lizzard), but it’s what you would expect at most ports. Our small staff met us outside the cruise terminal where we were again swamped by hundreds of folks trying to get us to take their tours. Once we found our guide (Star), she walked us over to the other dock where we were finally free of the mobs (other than the other 8 people taking the same tour). Once on the dock, they fitted us with snorkel’s masks and fins. We boarded a little skiff boat and headed off for Caye Cauker (about a 30 min boat ride). If you’ve never been to Caye Caulker, I’d say skip all the tours in Belize and find one that takes you out to the Caye. Gorgeous, very small little island with plenty of great food and things to see. No cars on the island…. Everyone uses bikes or golf carts unless they are walking. The roads are white sand. The tour stopped there first where we were walked over to small little restaurant just off the dock to pre-order food for after snorkeling. We ordered lobster which was ridiculously cheap and I happened to see the lady walk down to a lobster trap and grab our lunch (doesn’t get much fresher than that). While lunch was cooking, we headed off in the boat to the first snorkeling part….. the water was crystal clear without much of a current. Lots of fish and reef. One of the guides led us around and pointed out various fish and areas of interest. About 15 min in to the snorkeling, we came face to face with a barracuda. This was my first encounter with one and there is no doubt about it…. I was freaked out. Our guide was visibly concerned and stayed between us and the fish… asked us to get anything shiny we had out of the water. The barracuda followed us for a little while and then apparently lost interest and we kept on snorkeling. Eventually, we hopped back in the boat and headed over to the “Shark/Stingray” area. This is a spot that has been popular for Nurse Sharks for over a decade. Fisherman used to clean their fish and drop the debris in to the water and so naturally that attracted the sharks and the rays and they became accustom to getting fed there. It’s a very shallow sandbar (4 feet maybe). As soon as we pulled up the guides called out… “here they come” and sure enough… there were about 20 nurse sharks headed our way. They were circling the boat and our guide said… let’s hop in. Most of the folks in our boat were a little hesitant, but I jumped off the boat immediately. What an amazing experience. They are just like dogs….. they let me “pet” them on the back (same with the rays) and the just swam around us and picked up the fish that our captain was tossing in the water. From there, the staff handed out rum punch (as much as you wanted) and we headed back to that little resturaunt for lunch and some time to tour the island. After about an hour, we hopped back in the boat and did a loop around the island. We ran across a school of tarpon and as our guides threw fish in the water, they were devouring them. Pretty cool to see. Really big and fast fish. The Coral Breeze staff was amazing in all areas, but specifically about keeping us on schedule. The reviews had stated that they are very in tune with the cruise ship schedules and never did I worry I wouldn’t make it back to our ship on time (remember the tender process). More rum punch and another 30 min boat ride and we were back at the pier, on a tender and headed back to the Navigator. If I ever wanted to rent a house for a week on some Caribbean island,..... Caye Caulker would be at the top of my list. The Coral Breeze staff were amazing, informative and fun!View All 21 Caye Caulker Reviews
The first excursion was in Roatan with the Pirates of the Caribbean. We purchased their zip and dip excursion which was cheap by comparison and well worth the money. Roatan is a very poor area. When leaving the port area, you are immediately swamped by hundreds of locals trying to get you to take one of their tours. The road isn’t big enough to accommodate the mobs of people as well as the cars trying to navigate the single road that wraps around the harbor. Our guide was holding a hand written sign on a piece of cardboard. We were told what to look for and found him immediately. If you are worried about being in a foreign country, this would be one to avoid taking a private excursion. If you’re the adventurous type…. I say go for it. While poverty was everywhere, I never felt threatened or intimidated. Everyone was very friendly (tourism is their primary source of income). The zip lines were on the other end of the island and so we got about a 30 min tour of the island on our way over. Other than a random bojangles, there wasn’t anything that I saw that was “American”. The Zip line process felt rushed, however the staff was very good. We took a very bumpy truck ride to the top of the mountain, told to watch out for snakes and guided down to the first (and longest) zip line to begin. If you’ve never done it, you have to, but I wouldn’t consider it “AMAZING” or “UNBELIEVABLE” by any means. It was cool though. The views are amazing for sure, but you don’t scream down the zip line at 900mph or anything. It’s a nice leisurely pace across the jungle tops. Each line after that (there were 9) got shorter and shorter as you make your way around the course back to the start. From there, we were drivin to the “Dip” part of the Zip and Dip. Our guide took us to a private resort ParrotTree (https://www.facebook.com/Parrot-Tree-Plantation-Beach-Resort-Marina-124159264300258/) where we had unlimited access to the beach and pool. We grabbed a drink from the bar ($13 for two) and headed for the pool. And it was amazing. This was very relaxing and much needed after the zip line on a very humid day. The resort had everything you’d expect at a beach resort. Staff was amazing, drinks were cold and views were stunning.View All 193 Ziplining Reviews