Embarkation: I had read in one of the cruising "bibles" that Fort Lauderdale (Port Everglades) was one of the most unfriendly ports to embark on a cruise. In some ways it's not fair because at other embarkation ports, each ... Read More
Embarkation: I had read in one of the cruising "bibles" that Fort Lauderdale (Port Everglades) was one of the most unfriendly ports to embark on a cruise. In some ways it's not fair because at other embarkation ports, each cruise line has the option of sprucing things up. For example, Port Canaveral houses a few lines, and each of the embarkation points are unique. Disney's is the most appealing, but RCCL's spot isn't unpleasant. However, Port Everglades... the best way that I can describe the embarkation areas is a cross between a Sam's Club, Walmart, and a general warehouse. Concrete floors, rows of makeshift stations all contributed to the drab, sanitary look. I wish that Betty had been able to keep the pictures she took, but when she started to snap pictures in that area, the officials there weren't too amused and made her delete the photos. Ha.
Ship Staff: The quality of the ship staff was uniformly higher than the previous two RCCL cruises I've been on. I'm not sure why that might be but all the stateroom attendants were quick to greet guests regardless of which room they were in. The buffet dining area had a wonderful staff as well - quick to smile and bring our beverages of choice. Our waiter and assistant waiter were both very jovial, and our assistant waiter had this droll habit of excessively rolling his R's. Although not speedy by any means, bar staff was friendly. As a total aside, the staff on this vessel seemed to have a higher mastery of the English language as a whole than my two other RCCL sailings.
Public Areas: On the Sovereign class of sailings, the Centrum marks the flagship of the public areas. One nicer statue or display surrounded by boutiques on two levels. The Royal Promenade replaced the Centrum on this vessel. Spanning four or five stories, the Promenade featured shops, cafes, and bars along the way. The usual display or statue was replaced by a tall fiber optic creation. I was not able to take advantage of every single bar on board, but the ones I did go into and take pictures of were clean, appropriately lit, and comfortable. Outdoor public areas were pleasing as well. The main pool deck featured 4 whirlpools and 2 pools while the adults only solarium offered 2 whirlpools and 1 pool. Chaise-lounges were plentiful, and it seemed as if all the guests had enough personal space while outside. The obligatory basketball court was well maintained, as was the flagship rock wall. Certain areas of the miniature golf course could have used maintenance, but overall the course was extremely playable. The arcade featured age appropriate games for teens, but some of the machines were in ill repair or malfunctioning.
Dining: Dining on any cruise vessel is my usual gripe, and over the years I've found that the buffet style dining areas are consistently better than the main dining room offerings. A large part of this is due to the fact that while the food on the buffet lines is consistently subjected to appropriate temperatures, food that comes out of the kitchen at the main dining rooms either become too cold or too warm depending on what food is being served. As usual, meat products were overcooked. I understand the need to cook things thoroughly due to health and liability reasons, but who wants to eat a super triple well done burger? At least it was warm, I suppose. The WindJammer was above average as usual, and offered a healthy variety of American and ethnic fare. Vegetarian options were also available. The main dining room kitchen clearly wasn't on the same boutique level as say, Chops or Portofino (the specialty restaurants) - and I would have to rate the food as being below average once again. I opted for steak both nights and the first night my rare sirloin came back medium. No surprise there, but the cut off beef and texture was mediocre. Outback Steakhouse makes a consistently better sirloin than the one I had. The second night I ordered the New York Strip. My rare order came back rare, which was a delight until I realized that the meat was stringy and texture underwhelming again. My only guess is that instead of grilling at a high temperature for a smaller amount of time in order to sear the outside and seal in the natural meat juices, they grill at a medium temperature for a longer amount of time. My theory was most likely correct as I noticed the grill marks, although present - were light in color and resembled what my George Foreman grill is capable of. And that's not saying too much.
Onboard Activities and Entertainment: While lagging behind Disney's plethora of activities for all ages, the Navigator of the Seas offered much to do in comparison with my other non Disney sailings. Outdoors activities and the spa and fitness center were well equipped. I got to play Bingo aboard the vessel, but spent much of my "activities time" walking around and just exploring the ship. I did not get to take advantage of open ice skating time, though that would have been a treat. Entertainment on the vessel was brought to the forefront by the Ice Dancing show. I honestly must say that it was the most enjoyable live performance show I've seen since "O" at the Bellagio. Amazing that even with the ship movements, only 2 of the dancers fell on the ice. The comedian kept his humor clean, though a trend in black comics on predominantly white sailings gives the comics significantly more fodder to work with. The stage show was energetic, although not to my personal taste. They ended with a medley of ABBA songs, and for a split second I thought I had gone to Swedish hell. The cruise director and activities director were both gregarious and well-prepared for the sailing, and I appreciated that.
Coco Cay: After being denied access to Coco Cay on my previous two attempts, I was excited to finally make it. The concept of cruise lines owning private islands, (or leasing them) seems to have paid off as the activities become exclusive to cruises guests only. Lines are shorter, and there's less risk of guests being bullied by local entrepreneurs. The beach was beautiful, and I got to snorkel in warm water that did not require a wet suit. The schools of fish in the water were breathtaking, as were the starfish, sea urchins, and coral.
Debarkation: Debarkation occurred very efficiently on this sailing, most likely facilitated by the fact that a fair number of people brought their own luggage on-board and the need for luggage porters was decreased. The debarkation pier was sterile, although customs and immigration were a breeze this time.
Final Thoughts: My only regret is that I didn't have 3 - 4 extra days on the vessel. I would have liked to take advantage of the bars and public areas. However - it was very enjoyable for the short two days. Our seatmates at dinner were friendly, and I met two nice ladies from Nashville who left the kids and hubbies at home. However, I also met a fairly annoying older man at the whirlpool who reminded me of the old man on the NCL commercial who said, "I sold, I sold 20, no 200, no 220 thousand units in Las Vegas... that must have been a record." Amazingly, my theory to make him disappear worked. While in the whirlpool, I noticed that he was hard of hearing, so I said to my mates, "If we just talk softly among ourselves whenever he tries to speak, he'll just go away." Five minutes later, no more annoying old man. How bout that... Read Less