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Cruise Critic Review: Navigator of the Seas April 10, 2010 TransAtlantic : Miami to Rome Roger007 They say getting there is half the fun. I can't wait for the other half. Having had many TAs before (3 eastbound, 1 westbound) and 3 of which on the NOS, we made reservations to arrive the day before. Booked a non-stop Indy-Miami AA flight that would arrive mid afternoon. Unfortunately the airlines did not cooperate. Our flight was over four hours late taking off from Miami. We decided to make other plans and changed flights to Indianapolis-DFW and DFW-Miami. Arrived DFW with plenty of time to spare and have a good dinner. Our second leg reminded us of Murphy as the pilot determined after all passengers were aboard and belted in that one engine was a quart low on oil. I guess the mechanic had to go to the store and buy some because it was over an hour later before we took off. Got to Miami after 10 (to find our luggage had preceded us on our original flight). Exhausted we found a home at Fairfield Airport South. Excellent lodging, friendly and accommodating staff and comfortable bed. Day One: After a moderate but filling continental breakfast, we boarded the 11am shuttle to the Port and the NOS. Embarkation took at most 15 minutes from bus to ship. Smooth. Since rooms were not yet opened, we lunched at the Windjammer. As usual, space was at a premium. A wide variety of food was available. Some have complained about the quality of the food. We found it satisfactory and quite acceptable. At 1pm we entered our rooms luggage. A major disappointment with RCI/NOS has been and continues to be the Wireless Internet Connection. It is costly (.65/minute regular cost) but I would not argue if the speed was commissurate with the cost. It took me three tries to get the online log in to finally work. Then when I did connect after 15 minutes of charges I managed to actually achieve about 3 minutes of work. Once I was disconnected three time due to "connection reset." Of course I never got anywhere but RCI charged me 10 minutes and $3 for the experience. Another time I waited (I timed it) nearly 8 minutes for a page to download. All this time the clock is running and RCI is getting my dough. This is either a SHAM or very poor technological control. Every time I return I fully expect RCI to have corrected this embarrassing condition. Every time I am disappointed. Every time I note this disappointment on my critique to RCI. Every time nothing happens. One time too many and I may not return. Certainly other lines have solved this technical problem and all else being equal, it might be a future deciding point between cruise lines. A second major disappointment is the new dining hours: 5:30 pm and 8:30 pm. As Goldilocks would have said: Too early and too late. So consequently, we ate at the Windjammer (and once at Chops). We really did not miss the main dining room: it was far quieter at the Windjammer, the food was just as good, the dining room attends were friendly, the buffet selection offered a wide array of choices and the dining timing were flexible. It is not unusual to gorge oneself on food on cruises and gain 10-15 pounds on a voyage, eating at the Windjammer allowed us to control portion sizes and not fall into the gain 10-15 category. My wife and I said this is one cruise where we might actually lose pounds; the typical four course meal (plus cheese plate) at the Main Dining room encourages stuffing oneself and we have decided against it. Other items. Trivia and Sail Away party were fun and well portrayed. The main performance was satisfactory—comedian and dance team were fine. The Sail-away parade late at night was well attended and energy and enthusiasm was quite noticeable. The 70's Party was fabulous and full of high energy passengers and staff. Day 2: As is our tradition, we had room service serve breakfast on our balcony every morning. Delivered was on time and correct. Started Matt's Ultimate Trivia in the morning. Our team fun but boy is it was competitive. I guess I must be like Ken Jennings and start preparing a year in advance. Cruise Critic's meet and mingle had to be moved several times each time to a larger room. Several hundred attended. I must give RCI credit, horsd'oeurves and champagne were served and some very nice door prizes and gifts given. This compares most favorably to previous M&M's we have been to. Disappointment 3: Last year on the NOS TA, in the Viking Lounge, each sea day had an international buffet with a chef preparing a country's specialty on different days (German, French, Spanish, Italian, etc). We really enjoyed the variety and the opportunity to taste test ethnic cuisines. This TA it was listed in the Compass we showed up and found out it was a typo. We guess they discontinued the practice due to cost constraints. Too bad. It was a great addition to the TA and others missed it as well. Disappointment 4: Customer service. I ventured to the Excursions to buy a Barcelona package. After 15 minutes in line I was told they were closing from 1 to 3. Why? I don't know. At least 5 staff were in the area. Were they all going to take lunch at the same time? Please somebody remind RCI that they are here to serve us at our convenience and not vice versa. Certainly splitting staff so some could go to lunch while others continue service clients is not too much to ask, especially during prime time periods like the afternoon. Guest Relations always had a line fifty feet back and staff were in the back room but no one ever came out to help. Heck of a way to run a railroad (or a cruise line). Loyalty (future ship cruises) were always packed and guests were turned away. Disappointment 5: It is the little things that count and which have disappeared. No mints at night on the pillow. No daily newspaper. Still the towel animals (Occasionally). Prizes have been downgraded to the point where plastic key chains and laminated luggage tags were first prizes being fought over by overly zealous passengers. I remember wine seminars for loyalty members; not on this cruise. Disappointment 6: The number of crew that had poor grasp of English and whose English was very difficult to understand was large. This is indicative or poor staffing practices. I have heard that RCI pulled the best and sent them to the Oasis of the Seas. RCI must understand that they do not have just one ship but twenty and they must provide adequate levels of quality to all ships. Disappointment 7: The Navigator of the Seas is a grand old ship and we have had many fine times on it. But She is starting to show her age. Carpet stains, rusty spots, paint chipping on patio furniture, wood paneling cracks in the Windjammer, lots of broken chairs swivels in the key lounges (Ixtapa, etc...). The wicker dinning chairs in the Windjammers legs are coming unraveled. What particularly irked me was the jogging track. She was worn in spots down to the core. She needs to be cleaned up to redeem her statelessness. The care you take shows and RCI's care of the NOS shows many oversights that weigh upon a customer's overall view. Disappointment 8: In all the times we have rounded the tip of Spain we have yet to pass by the Rock of Gibraltar during daylight hours. This trip was no exception. The Captain said it would be twilight during passage; 6am it was totally dark and the hundreds that showed up for the passage were extremely disappointed. Since it is a major tourist highlight, why can't RCI schedule passage during the daylight hours? That alone would be a major selling point. Disappointment 9: In the past several special events have been held in conjunction with the specialty restaurants, notably a murder mystery dinner theatre and a wine tasting dinner. These were not held this time. In the past these have added to the ambience of the ship and were solely missed. Disappointment 10: My time Dining was announced with huge fanfare by RCI. The first night we went and investigated and was not impressed. Discussions with other guests who used it proved we made the right decision not to use the service. True, you can dine at anytime and that flexibility has economic value. But the service is structured that once you sign up you must use it thereafter. Not only that but you are charged complete tips ($9 per person per meal) even if you skip a meal or two. The tips include the steward and he is included even if you do not use wine. Now I do have a degree in math and $18 in tips at a 15% tip rate means the dinner was being valued at $120. Even at 20 percent, it comes close to $100. The food is good but not that good! I did notice the Main Dining room was not even close to being occupied and many tables were empty. RCI must change its policy . Disappointment 11: We were platinum (to be diamond for our next cruise) and received a Platinum Cruise and Anchor booklet. We used two coupons (laundry and internet). Had to ask for the second because they only brought us one. Hardly anything of value (lots of 2 for 1 or 10% off but nothing free or special for their valued loyalty level customers). This is not the way to treat frequent cruisers and is not a method that will create goodwill and word of mouth from their most valued customers. Entertainment: We had a comedian, the RC singers and dancers three times, a comedian magician, singer, violinst. The ice shows. All in all we felt the entertainment was of high quality and the audience seemed to enjoy it. We saw the ice saw twice; it was the same show we saw in 2009 TA. Great show but should change it yearly instead of every 3 to 5 years. In addition, being a TA, numerous speakers were on board: an historian, a geneaologist, an astronomer. We found these delightful and educational. The typical art history lectures and auctions with free champagne were abundant, well frequented but few buyers were to be found for the multi-thousand dollar art works shown. The Icelandic volcano through a wrench into the featured performers, several could not get off the ship and several could not get onto the ship (at the Canary Islands). Fortunately the numbers balanced and those held over volunteered for extra performances which were outstanding. Typical ship fare (Battle of the Sexes, Majority Rules, Karaoke, Name that Lyrics, Love and Marriage, Family Feud) were held and with great audience participation. Always delightful and entertaining to see your fellow shipmates made fools of him/herself. I do wish that the Battle of the Sexes would revert back to the older Family Feud format instead of the Physical Childish challenges they had on this trip. Save that for the teens. At least have a modicum of mental challenge. Food: You can see the cost cutting here. Options were more limited than we had seen in the past. Quality was barely acceptable. Certainly quantity was available but presentation and style seemed to be lacking. My wife enjoyed the JADE Asian food selection and ate this dining section exclusively for lunch and dinner. I do wish the Windjammer opened at 6pm rather than 6:30 pm as the late opening collided several times with theatre productions. Shore excursions/Disembarking. We visited Canary Islands, Barcelona, French Riviera and Livorno (Florence) prior to our final stopping point at Civi (Rome) on April 24. Only Ville on the French Riviera was a tender stop; all others were docks. On and off for all the excursions were quite quick. Plus: Six hours of time changes occurred on this cruise. Rather than do so in the middle of the day (12 to 1 as in previous TAs), they occurred at night (3am). One less hour of sleep a night but at least the afternoon was not shortened and all activities could go on. Others were not so enamored with the change, such as the wait staff as they didn't have much time to between meal setups. As passengers we preferred the time change occurring between 12 p.m. - 1 p.m. Another plus: We had read about the Novovirus and getting sick on the ship. On our last year's TA, both my wife and I came down with horrible cases of the virus and it ruined our vacation. We took no chances and brought an arsenal of medicines this year. Surprisingly, the ship was very healthy. I saw and heard very little coughing or sneezing or any other flu symptoms. Hand Sanitizers were everywhere and it appeared what programs they had implemented worked very well. Kudos to: Matt Sole (Canada), Cruise Director; Richard Edward Activity Manager (Trinidad); Jorge Cutino (Mexico City), Activity Staff; Lauren Kalis (South Africa), Activity Staff; Vicki , Activity Staff were all in their own right entertaining, hilarious and got passengers involved when hosting an event. Diana Radu (Romania), front desk clerk was extremely helpful, patient, knowledgeable and a delight to talk to about world issues. Overall: We enjoy TransAtlantics—for the price you cannot beat what you get. But each year it is less and less dramatic as in previous years. Right now if I had to make a decision, I would hesitate and probably not sign up for another TA next year. RCI needs some new itineraries and ports. I probably would sign up if they had a Circumnavigate the British Isles but nothing is on the agenda for next year. A Eastern Seaboard Northern Atlantic might be a challenging adventure that would capture my attention. But how many Azores and Canary Islands can you take? What about a North Africa (Casablanca, Algiers, Tunisia) venture? RCI take note. Try some exotic ports to breath some fresh air into the TAs. All in all, even though I had more disappointments than pluses (being a veteran cruiser and TAer I am naturally more critical than a rookie would be), the cruise was excellent. Lots of R&R. Lots to do. Made a lot of new acquaintances. Last TA for a while until new Itineraries appear. However, looking at possible Trans Pacifics.

A Grand Old Ship but in need of maintenance

Navigator of the Seas Cruise Review by Roger007

Trip Details
Cruise Critic Review: Navigator of the Seas April 10, 2010 TransAtlantic : Miami to Rome Roger007 They say getting there is half the fun. I can't wait for the other half. Having had many TAs before (3 eastbound, 1 westbound) and 3 of which on the NOS, we made reservations to arrive the day before. Booked a non-stop Indy-Miami AA flight that would arrive mid afternoon. Unfortunately the airlines did not cooperate. Our flight was over four hours late taking off from Miami. We decided to make other plans and changed flights to Indianapolis-DFW and DFW-Miami. Arrived DFW with plenty of time to spare and have a good dinner. Our second leg reminded us of Murphy as the pilot determined after all passengers were aboard and belted in that one engine was a quart low on oil. I guess the mechanic had to go to the store and buy some because it was over an hour later before we took off. Got to Miami after 10 (to find our luggage had preceded us on our original flight). Exhausted we found a home at Fairfield Airport South. Excellent lodging, friendly and accommodating staff and comfortable bed. Day One: After a moderate but filling continental breakfast, we boarded the 11am shuttle to the Port and the NOS. Embarkation took at most 15 minutes from bus to ship. Smooth. Since rooms were not yet opened, we lunched at the Windjammer. As usual, space was at a premium. A wide variety of food was available. Some have complained about the quality of the food. We found it satisfactory and quite acceptable. At 1pm we entered our rooms luggage. A major disappointment with RCI/NOS has been and continues to be the Wireless Internet Connection. It is costly (.65/minute regular cost) but I would not argue if the speed was commissurate with the cost. It took me three tries to get the online log in to finally work. Then when I did connect after 15 minutes of charges I managed to actually achieve about 3 minutes of work. Once I was disconnected three time due to "connection reset." Of course I never got anywhere but RCI charged me 10 minutes and $3 for the experience. Another time I waited (I timed it) nearly 8 minutes for a page to download. All this time the clock is running and RCI is getting my dough. This is either a SHAM or very poor technological control. Every time I return I fully expect RCI to have corrected this embarrassing condition. Every time I am disappointed. Every time I note this disappointment on my critique to RCI. Every time nothing happens. One time too many and I may not return. Certainly other lines have solved this technical problem and all else being equal, it might be a future deciding point between cruise lines. A second major disappointment is the new dining hours: 5:30 pm and 8:30 pm. As Goldilocks would have said: Too early and too late. So consequently, we ate at the Windjammer (and once at Chops). We really did not miss the main dining room: it was far quieter at the Windjammer, the food was just as good, the dining room attends were friendly, the buffet selection offered a wide array of choices and the dining timing were flexible. It is not unusual to gorge oneself on food on cruises and gain 10-15 pounds on a voyage, eating at the Windjammer allowed us to control portion sizes and not fall into the gain 10-15 category. My wife and I said this is one cruise where we might actually lose pounds; the typical four course meal (plus cheese plate) at the Main Dining room encourages stuffing oneself and we have decided against it. Other items. Trivia and Sail Away party were fun and well portrayed. The main performance was satisfactory—comedian and dance team were fine. The Sail-away parade late at night was well attended and energy and enthusiasm was quite noticeable. The 70's Party was fabulous and full of high energy passengers and staff. Day 2: As is our tradition, we had room service serve breakfast on our balcony every morning. Delivered was on time and correct. Started Matt's Ultimate Trivia in the morning. Our team fun but boy is it was competitive. I guess I must be like Ken Jennings and start preparing a year in advance. Cruise Critic's meet and mingle had to be moved several times each time to a larger room. Several hundred attended. I must give RCI credit, horsd'oeurves and champagne were served and some very nice door prizes and gifts given. This compares most favorably to previous M&M's we have been to. Disappointment 3: Last year on the NOS TA, in the Viking Lounge, each sea day had an international buffet with a chef preparing a country's specialty on different days (German, French, Spanish, Italian, etc). We really enjoyed the variety and the opportunity to taste test ethnic cuisines. This TA it was listed in the Compass we showed up and found out it was a typo. We guess they discontinued the practice due to cost constraints. Too bad. It was a great addition to the TA and others missed it as well. Disappointment 4: Customer service. I ventured to the Excursions to buy a Barcelona package. After 15 minutes in line I was told they were closing from 1 to 3. Why? I don't know. At least 5 staff were in the area. Were they all going to take lunch at the same time? Please somebody remind RCI that they are here to serve us at our convenience and not vice versa. Certainly splitting staff so some could go to lunch while others continue service clients is not too much to ask, especially during prime time periods like the afternoon. Guest Relations always had a line fifty feet back and staff were in the back room but no one ever came out to help. Heck of a way to run a railroad (or a cruise line). Loyalty (future ship cruises) were always packed and guests were turned away. Disappointment 5: It is the little things that count and which have disappeared. No mints at night on the pillow. No daily newspaper. Still the towel animals (Occasionally). Prizes have been downgraded to the point where plastic key chains and laminated luggage tags were first prizes being fought over by overly zealous passengers. I remember wine seminars for loyalty members; not on this cruise. Disappointment 6: The number of crew that had poor grasp of English and whose English was very difficult to understand was large. This is indicative or poor staffing practices. I have heard that RCI pulled the best and sent them to the Oasis of the Seas. RCI must understand that they do not have just one ship but twenty and they must provide adequate levels of quality to all ships. Disappointment 7: The Navigator of the Seas is a grand old ship and we have had many fine times on it. But She is starting to show her age. Carpet stains, rusty spots, paint chipping on patio furniture, wood paneling cracks in the Windjammer, lots of broken chairs swivels in the key lounges (Ixtapa, etc...). The wicker dinning chairs in the Windjammers legs are coming unraveled. What particularly irked me was the jogging track. She was worn in spots down to the core. She needs to be cleaned up to redeem her statelessness. The care you take shows and RCI's care of the NOS shows many oversights that weigh upon a customer's overall view. Disappointment 8: In all the times we have rounded the tip of Spain we have yet to pass by the Rock of Gibraltar during daylight hours. This trip was no exception. The Captain said it would be twilight during passage; 6am it was totally dark and the hundreds that showed up for the passage were extremely disappointed. Since it is a major tourist highlight, why can't RCI schedule passage during the daylight hours? That alone would be a major selling point. Disappointment 9: In the past several special events have been held in conjunction with the specialty restaurants, notably a murder mystery dinner theatre and a wine tasting dinner. These were not held this time. In the past these have added to the ambience of the ship and were solely missed. Disappointment 10: My time Dining was announced with huge fanfare by RCI. The first night we went and investigated and was not impressed. Discussions with other guests who used it proved we made the right decision not to use the service. True, you can dine at anytime and that flexibility has economic value. But the service is structured that once you sign up you must use it thereafter. Not only that but you are charged complete tips ($9 per person per meal) even if you skip a meal or two. The tips include the steward and he is included even if you do not use wine. Now I do have a degree in math and $18 in tips at a 15% tip rate means the dinner was being valued at $120. Even at 20 percent, it comes close to $100. The food is good but not that good! I did notice the Main Dining room was not even close to being occupied and many tables were empty. RCI must change its policy . Disappointment 11: We were platinum (to be diamond for our next cruise) and received a Platinum Cruise and Anchor booklet. We used two coupons (laundry and internet). Had to ask for the second because they only brought us one. Hardly anything of value (lots of 2 for 1 or 10% off but nothing free or special for their valued loyalty level customers). This is not the way to treat frequent cruisers and is not a method that will create goodwill and word of mouth from their most valued customers.
Entertainment: We had a comedian, the RC singers and dancers three times, a comedian magician, singer, violinst. The ice shows. All in all we felt the entertainment was of high quality and the audience seemed to enjoy it. We saw the ice saw twice; it was the same show we saw in 2009 TA. Great show but should change it yearly instead of every 3 to 5 years. In addition, being a TA, numerous speakers were on board: an historian, a geneaologist, an astronomer. We found these delightful and educational. The typical art history lectures and auctions with free champagne were abundant, well frequented but few buyers were to be found for the multi-thousand dollar art works shown. The Icelandic volcano through a wrench into the featured performers, several could not get off the ship and several could not get onto the ship (at the Canary Islands). Fortunately the numbers balanced and those held over volunteered for extra performances which were outstanding. Typical ship fare (Battle of the Sexes, Majority Rules, Karaoke, Name that Lyrics, Love and Marriage, Family Feud) were held and with great audience participation. Always delightful and entertaining to see your fellow shipmates made fools of him/herself. I do wish that the Battle of the Sexes would revert back to the older Family Feud format instead of the Physical Childish challenges they had on this trip. Save that for the teens. At least have a modicum of mental challenge. Food: You can see the cost cutting here. Options were more limited than we had seen in the past. Quality was barely acceptable. Certainly quantity was available but presentation and style seemed to be lacking. My wife enjoyed the JADE Asian food selection and ate this dining section exclusively for lunch and dinner. I do wish the Windjammer opened at 6pm rather than 6:30 pm as the late opening collided several times with theatre productions.
Shore excursions/Disembarking. We visited Canary Islands, Barcelona, French Riviera and Livorno (Florence) prior to our final stopping point at Civi (Rome) on April 24. Only Ville on the French Riviera was a tender stop; all others were docks. On and off for all the excursions were quite quick. Plus: Six hours of time changes occurred on this cruise. Rather than do so in the middle of the day (12 to 1 as in previous TAs), they occurred at night (3am). One less hour of sleep a night but at least the afternoon was not shortened and all activities could go on. Others were not so enamored with the change, such as the wait staff as they didn't have much time to between meal setups. As passengers we preferred the time change occurring between 12 p.m. - 1 p.m. Another plus: We had read about the Novovirus and getting sick on the ship. On our last year's TA, both my wife and I came down with horrible cases of the virus and it ruined our vacation. We took no chances and brought an arsenal of medicines this year. Surprisingly, the ship was very healthy. I saw and heard very little coughing or sneezing or any other flu symptoms. Hand Sanitizers were everywhere and it appeared what programs they had implemented worked very well. Kudos to: Matt Sole (Canada), Cruise Director; Richard Edward Activity Manager (Trinidad); Jorge Cutino (Mexico City), Activity Staff; Lauren Kalis (South Africa), Activity Staff; Vicki , Activity Staff were all in their own right entertaining, hilarious and got passengers involved when hosting an event. Diana Radu (Romania), front desk clerk was extremely helpful, patient, knowledgeable and a delight to talk to about world issues.
Overall: We enjoy TransAtlantics—for the price you cannot beat what you get. But each year it is less and less dramatic as in previous years. Right now if I had to make a decision, I would hesitate and probably not sign up for another TA next year. RCI needs some new itineraries and ports. I probably would sign up if they had a Circumnavigate the British Isles but nothing is on the agenda for next year. A Eastern Seaboard Northern Atlantic might be a challenging adventure that would capture my attention. But how many Azores and Canary Islands can you take? What about a North Africa (Casablanca, Algiers, Tunisia) venture? RCI take note. Try some exotic ports to breath some fresh air into the TAs. All in all, even though I had more disappointments than pluses (being a veteran cruiser and TAer I am naturally more critical than a rookie would be), the cruise was excellent. Lots of R&R. Lots to do. Made a lot of new acquaintances. Last TA for a while until new Itineraries appear. However, looking at possible Trans Pacifics.
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