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* Background Information This was a 5-night cruise during the Thanksgiving week break. Not surprisingly, the demographic was very family heavy - over 900 kids on board and this was very noticeable. We were also traveling with family: two sets of grandparents (over 55), two sets of middle-aged adults (35-54), and 2 teens (13 and 16). Everybody has cruised before to varying degrees. As a group, we've been on Carnival, NCL, Princess and RCCL. My DH and I have been on 5. * Embarkation We all traveled on embarkation day from different points in Florida. No big problem, but it was a little slow checking in. I think part of this is because on previous cruises, we had the opportunity to fill out the health questionnaire while you are standing on line. We didn't get the forms until we were at the counter; hence, large family groups took up quite a bit of time with the boarding agents. Cabins were ready when we boarded and luck of the draw, we got our luggage with lightening speed! * Ship Info /Cabin Info I was looking forward to being "wow"ed as I had read so much about the dramatic RCCL ships. I wasn't. NOS is mostly in fine shape and seemed very clean. However, for me, the hallway and cabin dEcor was reminiscent of a chain hotel - dated colors and just not very pretty. Certainly not awe-inspiring. The Royal Promenade was nice, but it didn't seem as big and as glamorous in person as it did in pictures. Overall, I prefer the being-at-sea feeling of other ships to the being-in-a-mall feeling that the Royal Promenade gave me. I did like the dEcor and cozy feel of Vintages and Two Poets; most of the bar and eatery seating areas were comparable to other lines. The main dining rooms were the most attractive rooms on the ship -very pretty. Our cabin, a D2 balcony, was clean and had a spacious layout - as big as a mini-suite we've had on another line. As cruise ships go, I liked the showers with the rounded sliding door and handheld adjustable showerheads. The bed was rounded at the foot corners, which is nice when you're passing by it to get to the balcony or trying to edge your way around it in the dark, but weird when you're sleeping and your feet dangle off the corner. (My DH does that anyway at home, so he didn't even notice!) One small thing that leaped out at me as being in sad condition were the balcony railings; bare, cracking and unvarnished. Definitely not ship-shape. Except for this one detail and the Holiday Inn Express dEcor, I would've given the cabins a 5. * Activities / Entertainment / Kid's Clubs My DH and I are more relaxers then doers on sea days, but the offered activities seemed comparable with other lines. Members of our party enjoyed the usual trivia, bingo, and "name that tune" events. Entertainment was mainly comparable also, although I thought the production shows with the ships' singers and dancers seemed a little "chintzier" in appearance if not talent. We enjoyed some of the other featured performers more. One of the deciding factors when we opted for this cruise over other lines was the seemingly overwhelming number of things for kids. However, the teen programs were largely pronounced "lame". I do have a suspicion that perhaps our teens did not put themselves out there enough to take full advantage. I tried to look into Fuel, but true to their word, no adults allowed - I couldn't even get a peek "but do not worry, we take very good care of them!" My younger nephew and I luckily stumbled across a free hour at the arcade; other than that there was a charge for all the games, which was disappointing. I imagine that could rack up quite a bill for some parents! The kids did enjoy one open skate at the ice rink (bring socks and long pants), but found lines longer than they where willing to wait when they tried the rock-climbing wall. My younger nephew was very disappointed to find the basketball area largely taken over by "big" kids most of the trip, and he tried several times. I didn't venture up there, so I have no idea if they attempt to provide time slots for different ages and he just showed up at the wrong times or it's a free-for-all. * Service Generally, with very few exceptions, this was where RCCL shined. We found the crew to be very friendly, right up there with the best of any other. Cabin stewards seemed to be somewhat less present then we are used to from other lines. We didn't even see ours at all the first day and we had to seek him out several times during the trip, but he was very nice, we always got everything we wanted, and he even left us a complimentary bottle of champagne. We had My Time Dining but kept the same table with the same servers each night, as we were a group of ten. Our wait staff was excellent, friendly and attentive and took very good care of the kids, remembering and following up each night with their likes and dislikes. However, there seemed to be a very bad flow problem with the kitchen that was beyond their control - perhaps this is just My Time Dining. Some nights the pacing was fine, and other nights it was horrendous with terrible waits between courses. * Food & Beverage Royal Caribbean falls short here, IMHO. Having been on one previous cruise and reading many reviews, I wasn't expecting much - and it was a little worse than I was hoping for. I had maybe three items I thought were "good", all in the MDR. Everything else was cafeteria quality at best, or take-one-bite-and-put-down-your-fork at worst. We ate breakfast and lunch in the Windjammer, and I stuck mostly with cook-to-order eggs and salad bar. My parents seemed to fare better in the MDR for these meals. This is more of a service item I guess, and I can understand some reasons why they do it, but I didn't like having to ask for water/tea/juice/coffee as opposed to getting my own at the buffet. I wouldn't have minded so much if it didn't frequently result in lines and feeling like you had to take the lone glass of whatever was put up rather than what you wanted in order to get anything at all to drink. During our particular cruise, they also started running out of things that seem silly - like orange juice and butter! The rolls in the MDR on the last night had to be leftovers, they were hard as rocks. Starting on day 3 out of 5, we also started getting "sorry, we're out" for different requested brands of beers and alcohol at various bars. We actually overheard one Windjammer staffer mimicking to another all the things guests must say over and over "Can I please have orange juice with no ice? "Do you have any butter?". So it sounded like this could be a regular occurrence. Personally, I'd rather be charged more per night, if that's what it takes to find everything still available on every day of my cruise. * Port & Shore Excursions We stopped at Grand Cayman and Cozumel, and enjoyed both ports but did not use any of the ship excursions. Both ports are very easy to do on your own. When someone in your family becomes less mobile with time, you start noticing things you wouldn't have previously; the pier at Cozumel is quite long. Once we got off the ship and there was no tram or cart like they have at some ports, we inquired and the ship personnel on the dock sent my DH back up to Deck 5 for a wheelchair where he was then told no, you can't take a wheelchair off the ship. Lesson learned. * Disembarkation Other than the typically long wait for an elevator because of having bags and older people in our party, this was quick and easy. We liked being able to wait in our cabins, and we showed up at our designated departure lounge a few minutes late and were able to just keep walking right off. * Summary I decided to write this review largely because I think RCCL gets higher marks than they deserve here. After spending quite a bit of time on the boards as I always do before a cruise, I had hopeful expectations that this trip on Navigator of the Seas would be a much better experience then I had previously many years ago. But it wasn't. We also researched Princess, NCL and Carnival for Caribbean cruises offered during this same week. Although we ended up getting a better rate from our TA, at decision time this cruise was the highest priced per person per night out of all that we considered - in other words, the worst value. But we decided to chance it for the supposed "wow" factor people say the RCCL ships have, the activities for the kids, and the convenient 5-night length. To a person, even the kids, our party agreed they have preferred other cruises to this one. I am not saying anything as harsh as I will never go on RCCL again, but it is highly unlikely if we are the ones doing the choosing. I also don't want anyone to think we had a bad time - we enjoyed our vacation. But we feel RCCL's product is average at best.

Average At Best

Navigator of the Seas Cruise Review by daldog

Trip Details
* Background Information

This was a 5-night cruise during the Thanksgiving week break. Not surprisingly, the demographic was very family heavy - over 900 kids on board and this was very noticeable. We were also traveling with family: two sets of grandparents (over 55), two sets of middle-aged adults (35-54), and 2 teens (13 and 16). Everybody has cruised before to varying degrees. As a group, we've been on Carnival, NCL, Princess and RCCL. My DH and I have been on 5.



* Embarkation

We all traveled on embarkation day from different points in Florida. No big problem, but it was a little slow checking in. I think part of this is because on previous cruises, we had the opportunity to fill out the health questionnaire while you are standing on line. We didn't get the forms until we were at the counter; hence, large family groups took up quite a bit of time with the boarding agents. Cabins were ready when we boarded and luck of the draw, we got our luggage with lightening speed!



* Ship Info /Cabin Info

I was looking forward to being "wow"ed as I had read so much about the dramatic RCCL ships. I wasn't. NOS is mostly in fine shape and seemed very clean. However, for me, the hallway and cabin dEcor was reminiscent of a chain hotel - dated colors and just not very pretty. Certainly not awe-inspiring. The Royal Promenade was nice, but it didn't seem as big and as glamorous in person as it did in pictures. Overall, I prefer the being-at-sea feeling of other ships to the being-in-a-mall feeling that the Royal Promenade gave me. I did like the dEcor and cozy feel of Vintages and Two Poets; most of the bar and eatery seating areas were comparable to other lines. The main dining rooms were the most attractive rooms on the ship -very pretty.



Our cabin, a D2 balcony, was clean and had a spacious layout - as big as a mini-suite we've had on another line. As cruise ships go, I liked the showers with the rounded sliding door and handheld adjustable showerheads. The bed was rounded at the foot corners, which is nice when you're passing by it to get to the balcony or trying to edge your way around it in the dark, but weird when you're sleeping and your feet dangle off the corner. (My DH does that anyway at home, so he didn't even notice!) One small thing that leaped out at me as being in sad condition were the balcony railings; bare, cracking and unvarnished. Definitely not ship-shape. Except for this one detail and the Holiday Inn Express dEcor, I would've given the cabins a 5.



* Activities / Entertainment / Kid's Clubs

My DH and I are more relaxers then doers on sea days, but the offered activities seemed comparable with other lines. Members of our party enjoyed the usual trivia, bingo, and "name that tune" events. Entertainment was mainly comparable also, although I thought the production shows with the ships' singers and dancers seemed a little "chintzier" in appearance if not talent. We enjoyed some of the other featured performers more.



One of the deciding factors when we opted for this cruise over other lines was the seemingly overwhelming number of things for kids. However, the teen programs were largely pronounced "lame". I do have a suspicion that perhaps our teens did not put themselves out there enough to take full advantage. I tried to look into Fuel, but true to their word, no adults allowed - I couldn't even get a peek "but do not worry, we take very good care of them!" My younger nephew and I luckily stumbled across a free hour at the arcade; other than that there was a charge for all the games, which was disappointing. I imagine that could rack up quite a bill for some parents! The kids did enjoy one open skate at the ice rink (bring socks and long pants), but found lines longer than they where willing to wait when they tried the rock-climbing wall. My younger nephew was very disappointed to find the basketball area largely taken over by "big" kids most of the trip, and he tried several times. I didn't venture up there, so I have no idea if they attempt to provide time slots for different ages and he just showed up at the wrong times or it's a free-for-all.



* Service

Generally, with very few exceptions, this was where RCCL shined. We found the crew to be very friendly, right up there with the best of any other. Cabin stewards seemed to be somewhat less present then we are used to from other lines. We didn't even see ours at all the first day and we had to seek him out several times during the trip, but he was very nice, we always got everything we wanted, and he even left us a complimentary bottle of champagne.

We had My Time Dining but kept the same table with the same servers each night, as we were a group of ten. Our wait staff was excellent, friendly and attentive and took very good care of the kids, remembering and following up each night with their likes and dislikes. However, there seemed to be a very bad flow problem with the kitchen that was beyond their control - perhaps this is just My Time Dining. Some nights the pacing was fine, and other nights it was horrendous with terrible waits between courses.



* Food & Beverage

Royal Caribbean falls short here, IMHO. Having been on one previous cruise and reading many reviews, I wasn't expecting much - and it was a little worse than I was hoping for. I had maybe three items I thought were "good", all in the MDR. Everything else was cafeteria quality at best, or take-one-bite-and-put-down-your-fork at worst. We ate breakfast and lunch in the Windjammer, and I stuck mostly with cook-to-order eggs and salad bar. My parents seemed to fare better in the MDR for these meals. This is more of a service item I guess, and I can understand some reasons why they do it, but I didn't like having to ask for water/tea/juice/coffee as opposed to getting my own at the buffet. I wouldn't have minded so much if it didn't frequently result in lines and feeling like you had to take the lone glass of whatever was put up rather than what you wanted in order to get anything at all to drink.



During our particular cruise, they also started running out of things that seem silly - like orange juice and butter! The rolls in the MDR on the last night had to be leftovers, they were hard as rocks. Starting on day 3 out of 5, we also started getting "sorry, we're out" for different requested brands of beers and alcohol at various bars. We actually overheard one Windjammer staffer mimicking to another all the things guests must say over and over "Can I please have orange juice with no ice? "Do you have any butter?". So it sounded like this could be a regular occurrence. Personally, I'd rather be charged more per night, if that's what it takes to find everything still available on every day of my cruise.



* Port & Shore Excursions

We stopped at Grand Cayman and Cozumel, and enjoyed both ports but did not use any of the ship excursions. Both ports are very easy to do on your own. When someone in your family becomes less mobile with time, you start noticing things you wouldn't have previously; the pier at Cozumel is quite long. Once we got off the ship and there was no tram or cart like they have at some ports, we inquired and the ship personnel on the dock sent my DH back up to Deck 5 for a wheelchair where he was then told no, you can't take a wheelchair off the ship. Lesson learned.



* Disembarkation

Other than the typically long wait for an elevator because of having bags and older people in our party, this was quick and easy. We liked being able to wait in our cabins, and we showed up at our designated departure lounge a few minutes late and were able to just keep walking right off.



* Summary

I decided to write this review largely because I think RCCL gets higher marks than they deserve here. After spending quite a bit of time on the boards as I always do before a cruise, I had hopeful expectations that this trip on Navigator of the Seas would be a much better experience then I had previously many years ago. But it wasn't. We also researched Princess, NCL and Carnival for Caribbean cruises offered during this same week. Although we ended up getting a better rate from our TA, at decision time this cruise was the highest priced per person per night out of all that we considered - in other words, the worst value. But we decided to chance it for the supposed "wow" factor people say the RCCL ships have, the activities for the kids, and the convenient 5-night length. To a person, even the kids, our party agreed they have preferred other cruises to this one. I am not saying anything as harsh as I will never go on RCCL again, but it is highly unlikely if we are the ones doing the choosing. I also don't want anyone to think we had a bad time - we enjoyed our vacation. But we feel RCCL's product is average at best.
daldog’s Full Rating Summary
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