Just returned from an excellent family cruise around the Canary Islands. We were a group of 6 adults and one very young child occupying three staterooms No. 8368 a port side aft balcony, No. 8690 an aft balcony and No. 1655 an internal virtual Balcony. The port side balcony was very roomy with a 4 seat couch. The aft balcony stateroom was rather restricted in size for the 2 adults and a small child in a cot. The virtual balcony stateroom was more like a broom cupboard with room only for a bed and one chair.
Due to a slight mix upin our transport arrangements to the Southampton cruise terminal, we arrived rather early at around 10:30hrs. Much to our surprise and delight we were ushered immediately through both security and the check in process and were on board the Navigator by 10:45hrs.
My wife and I settled down in the Solarium while the others charged around the almost deserted ship. The staterooms were opened up on schedule at 13:00hrs and our luggage was delivered around 14:30, an Ideal start to any cruise. The required safety drill was held at 16:30 and we set off soon after on our way down the Solent and into the English channel.
Ports of Call:
Apart from Gran Canary the time scheduled in the various ports was rather limited, which was a bit annoying. I assume these timings were fixed to reduce the very costly consumption of ships fuel when travelling at max speed and not for our benefit.
We managed to walk into each of the ports taking between 20 to 30 minutes to do so. At this time of the year, with the temperatures around 23C it made for a very pleasant and easy walk.
We watched the majority of the shows and there were some very good acts and some average. The RCL singers and band put on an excellent performance on one occasion, simply singing well know musical numbers. The slightly different ventriloquist and the string quartet acts were excellent. The Ice show as normal was superb; ice dancing on a moving ship has to be classed as very impressive. There were lots of organised quizzes and music playing around the ship so overall I would say it was good value for the money. Have to mention we were not too overly impressed by the cruise director; her rapport with the audience at the shows etc. was rather limited.
Dinning Food and Beverage.
Very pleased to report, that the Windjammer on the Navigator we consider to be the best in the fleet. “The Hot food was kept hot” and “The cold food cold” we have done numerous cruises with RCL where the windjammer food was served lukewarm. There was also a noticeable change in the variety of food served and with more British style dishes on offer and also in the quality which we though was much improved. Fully agree with many reviewers if you go in the windjammer at the peak times it is occasionally very hard to find an empty table. We avoid this issue by going in either early or later and avoid the busy peak times at breakfast and lunch. The food in the main dinning room was much of an RCL standard and both our waiters Chetan and Wilson were excellent, with no request for changes or additions being too difficult for them to achieve. I can never fully understand some cruise reviews where there are complaints about insufficient quantity, when all you have to do is ask for more…… Two of our party had a full drinks package, two had a soft drinks package and we had the loyalty free drinks a plenty in the evening and a coffee package. Our grandson stuck with his formula milk….
The normal hard sell to upgrade or buy RCL packages was in evidence but thankfully was not quite so pronounced or long lasting as we have experienced on previous RCL cruises.
The ship appeared to be in very good and clean condition, having been I believe recently refurbished.
The photo prices and ship booked excursions are now so costly, we seldom purchase either.
Our stateroom safe proved somewhat temperamental from day one and failed completely on day three. This was removed from our stateroom for service but regrettably no immediate replacement was a available. From anecdotal evidence I believe there were issues with quite a number of safes. We were offered use of a safe deposit box in the customer relations office however that would hardly have been convenient to use on a regular basis.
There would appear to be very little in the way of onboard services for the under 1 year olds. This despite having to pay almost full price fare and be expected to pay full gratuities….
In respect of gratuities, we along with many many others removed our auto gratuities on the first day. There appeared to be pages of people doing this. After years of paying full rate gratuities, cruise after cruise, we have decided to stop doing so. We gave tips to every person who served us a beverage, also to our stateroom attendant to our MD waiters and a couple of servers in the windjammer who we got to know. Having gone up from a reasonable 6$ to 14$, it is just not on. It is now long past time the various cruise companies to pay improved wages to all their staff and not rely on gratuities to compensate for low wages.
Sad to say we encountered quite a few drunken passengers this cruise, who as well as being unable to hold their liquor were unable to control their foul mouthed language. Acceptable this may be in in some places but most certainly not on a family cruise ship, it is not pleasant to see people staggering around, cursing and swearing.
Never did hear the fate of Mr and Mrs Thomson of Deck 5 who sadly missed the ship sailing from port, mid cruise. The Captain took the time to explain that he had to sail on time to make the next port on schedule.