My wife surprised my daughter and I with this Christmas cruise a few days before Christmas. We travel a lot and have done at least a few cruises together, mostly on Norwegian (which we loved), but this was our first try with RCL. We aren't the type to spend much time on deck in the sun (especially around the loud music), so we probably aren't your average cruisers and you should take the remainder of this review in that context.
Dining: For dining, we prefer to dine in the upscale themed restaurants and the Navigator of the Seas had several options to choose from. We dined at all of them except Chef's Table as the 3+ hour dinner was too much for our five year old to handle. Service in the themed restaurants was excellent. Our favorite was Izumi (the Sushi restaurant). We spent a lot of time chatting with our all of the staff there and received excellent service from our alternating servers Ashwin and Virgilio. Along with Izumi's awesome manager, Messaoud Haykel, our dining experiences could not have been better. The whole team worked exceedingly hard to meet or exceed all of our requests. The team did things like getting our daughter whatever she wanted for dinner from anywhere else on the ship, getting my wife her favorite liquid center chocolate cake from Chops, and me glasses of port that came from another bar on the ship. That said, we went through much of the menu at Izumi and loved it. It was much better than any sushi restaurant we can find in our home town of Charlotte, NC. (I'm getting hungry just writing about it.)
We really enjoyed the other restaurants that we dined at as well. Chops is the second most expensive restaurant on the ship (Chef's Table is the most expensive) and the quality of the food, dining room and service reflect that. Muameer and Manolo at Chops were a pleasure to speak with as well as the rest of the staff. Its well worth the splurge, in our opinion. We also ate at Sabor, the Mexican themed restaurant. It was quite good Mexican food with good service in a pretty dining room, but not anything over-the-top. We had one dinner at Giovanni's Table, their Italian themed restaurant. Although the service was excellent and the dining room was lovely, the food was hit and miss in our opinion. The meat mains were OK, the appetizers were things I do better at home, but the pasta was excellent. Perhaps we just made poor choices. I took my daughter to Johnny Rockets for lunch while my wife was enjoying a reasonably priced massage package and it was a very enjoyable experience.
We visited almost all the bars on board for a glass of wine or champagne while on board and found them all lovely places to sit and relax. Service was friendly and their decor was great.
Finally Saphire, the main dining room. We did not experience the main dining room for dinner although we did visit briefly for dessert (arranged at our request by our guardian and new friend (Haykel from Izumi). Dessert was great, but we got to see what it was like in full rush hour at about 7PM. Servers were working fast and hard and it appeared to be a very different experience as compared with the specialty dining locations. We did eat breakfast and lunch almost every day in the main dining room however and at first weren't receiving great service. Asking for almond milk cappuccinos (three times emphasizing the almond milk part) got us regular cappuccinos instead. It turns out that some things we were asking for took additional work or needed to be serviced elsewhere on the ship, so some servers weren't making the extra effort. In addition, the service could be quite slow even though we were were in the first wave of patrons. We frequently couldn't sit by ourselves near windows because all of the tables near windows were shared large tables. We couldn't get servers to get fruit juice for our daughter that comes from the bars (pineapple) from most of the servers. Hamburgers at lunch were served without ketchup and mustard. Asking for ketchup from a server would result in him returning with a squirt bottle that he dolled onto your plate. (We thought this was odd compared to providing us with a little container.) Seating for lunch on day 2 (a day when there was a time zone change) was limited to 1.5 hours forcing many to go to the buffet. Anyway, we had a long chat with kind manager, Somchai, who went out of his way to look out for us the rest of our breakfast/lunches and things much improved. Service improved exponentially when we discovered Sergei and Radmir, a dynamic duo. We specifically asked for them the rest of our breakfast/lunch trips to Saphire and had truly excellent service from them.
Cabin: Our cabin was a stateroom with balcony at the front of the port side. This allows you to look forward through a window which the other balcony cabins don't have. There are about 8 of these cabins and they don't cost more than other balconies, so look out for them. Our cabin steward, Leonard, was great. We couldn't have asked for better service and wished we could bring him home with us. Our cabin was clean, well laid out and comfortable but not as nice as the suites on Norwegian (probably an unfair comparison). We spent many evenings on the balcony after our daughter went to sleep and thoroughly enjoyed the view of the dark sea, sipping wine.
Shipboard Activities: Outside of my daughter's daily hour visit to the hot-tub, we didn't spend too much time on outside while on the ship. We did rock climbing a couple times which was really enjoyable, my daughter enjoyed the kids club a few times and we enjoyed watching people surf / body-board at the flow-rider. We also went ice skating a couple times which my daughter truly loved. We saw at least a few of the shows and were impressed.
Ports and Shore Excursions: We did a couple non-ship related activities at the ports that my wife had arranged in advance. They were generally much cheaper than the ship sponsored activities. A warning to Christmas travelers though, very few people are working on December 26th, so taxis, for example, are almost impossible to find. We enjoyed our ports for the most part though. Aruba and Bonaire especially. The locals were friendly and the islands clean. There was good shopping at all four countries we visitied (Labadee in Haiti and Curacao being the other two).
In conclusion, we were as happy with this cruise as our experiences with Norwegian, which is great. We would happily cruise with RCL. As with any ship, we just had to find the right people and processes to get exactly what we wanted, when we wanted it. Once we found these 'on-board angels', we had a fantastic time.
One final note. We did notice that the ship's crew were working 7 day weeks though. As I recall from Norwegian, the people had one day off a week and seemed happier / more refreshed overall. I can't imagine anyone being at the top of their game working 7 days a week for a contract of 6 months or so. This despite their workloads apparently being cut back significantly from a year or so prior, so it must have been really tough on the crew previously. Anyway, thanks to any of the crew on the Navigator of the Seas who may see this review. We will have happy memories of this trip and hope to join you for a future cruise.
Cabin: Our cabin was a stateroom with balcony at the front of the port side. This allows you to look forward through a window which the other balcony cabins don't have. Because of the location, this cabin only had one adjoining cabin on the aft side making noise less of an issue. You also don't have to worry about someone smoking forward of you and having smoke blow into your balcony. There are about 8 of these cabins and they don't cost more than other balconies, so look out for them. Our cabin steward, Leonard, was great. We couldn't have asked for better service and wished we could bring him home with us. Our cabin was clean, well laid out and comfortable but not as nice as the suites on Norwegian (probably an unfair comparison). We spent many evenings on the balcony after our daughter went to sleep and thoroughly enjoyed the view of the dark sea, sipping wine.
Boarding was 2 hours standing in line. I suggest arriving early.
We took a taxi to the nearby butterfly farm. It was surprisingly lovely. I've been to several butterfly exhibits, but this was an actual exotic butterfly farm. The staff was great. I learned a lot while there and all of us had the pleasure of having the fluttery guys land on us. (Our five year old was thrilled.)View All 29 Butterfly Farm Reviews
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