This is a review for first time cruiser by a 1st timer. Having never been on a cruise, I had nothing to compare so I read some reviews & hopefully you will read some different reviews before booking a trip. I didn't really think I ... Read More
This is a review for first time cruiser by a 1st timer. Having never been on a cruise, I had nothing to compare so I read some reviews & hopefully you will read some different reviews before booking a trip. I didn't really think I would like it that much and I was a little nervous, but it ended up being one of the best times I have ever had with my wife.
If you are seeking a quiet, private, romantic getaway, away from kids, or if you are a food snob then a Jamaican cruise at the end of spring break is not for you. If you are xenophobic, racist, dislike kids or foreigners, or reggae, or intolerant of poverty, etc, then again, a cruise to Labadee/Jamaica is not for you. If that doesn't bother you, then you are probably in for a really good time.
My overall review is very positive but I wanted to put this at the beginning in hopes that it has a better chance of being viewed by RCI.
The service on Navigator was outstanding, some of the best service I have ever had anywhere. The wait staff was so on top of it, Every server called you by your name, anyone that took your card said "Thank you Mr. ...." Very friendly, accommodating, just fanstastic.
With so much emphasis on service I can't for the life of me understand why they put people that aren't proficient in English in customer service positions. It is the thing I found most people complained about.
The Ukrainian girl who ran trivia and guy that ran the sports are perfect examples of when it was appropriate. Both were attractive and vivacious. Her personality and accent made it seem like it was being hosted by Zsa Zsa Gabor, perfectly awesome. All us jocks were laughing because no one could understand a work the sports guy was saying, but he still did a good job, and It is only a ball game. I know the foreign accent makes it exotic, I get it. All of our waiters native language was not English, it was totally cool. Our tour guide, cave guide, falls guides, room attendants, the band, etc all had thick Jamaican accents, & totally added to the whole experience. Captain Patrick had a great voice/accent, loved it!
BUT ...But when you need important info involving money, or booking an excursion, or need room service, or need to know when the sun goes down, etc. Then you need someone who can communicate, some one that can help, and here is the area RCI failed miserably. I would say 90% of the cruisers are English speaking Americans and I find conflict with putting someone that can't understand or speak English in those important customer service positions. It unnecessarily holds up the excursion lines, It delays room service (I failed to get room service twice), I missed a wake up call, I was given wrong times for events and sunset, and the list goes on. There are too many other positions available that could be filled that doesn't require important exchange of info. They are serving 3000 people, efficiency is too important!!!!
The only other major flaw was the size of the pool(s). There is 3000 people and the only adult pool is 12'x12'? It is almost like they chose fashion over function. I LOVE my kids, I have coached 12 teams in 8 years, but we did not take our kids and I wanted to relax. It was impossible to get 2 chairs in the Solarium (adult area) and the tiny common area pools were ALWAYS jammed packed with kids. I just thought the boat could have been laid out a little better. I also thought there could have been adult swim at some times.
The other thing that bugged me personally is that children are allowed to sit AT THE BAR in a nightclub with people drinking (just tacky and not right)!!!! They are allowed IN THE CASINO (wrong)!!! The night they had Teen night in the Dungeon, it ruined the best Club for the rest of the night! I think it ruined the atmosphere on several occaisions.
Those are my only real complaints. The rest is mostly positive ... That said, let's get to the "Meat" of this review.
Food: I read so many negative reviews on the food I expected the food to be really generic. I read 3 reviews comparing the food to Golden Corral. I was thinking that they were comparing the nightly sit down dinner with GC and that is very unfair. I was happy to find out that the sit down dinner had prime rib (very good), duck (good), lobster tail (tasty!), NY Strip (yummy), shrimp cocktail (Good, but small), some very good desserts ... So soon as Golden Corral has all that for $10 just let me know. Also, the waitstaff is off- the-hook awesome. We had 3 incredible waiters constantly bringing us everything we wanted. They knew all our names from the first night on. It is a really cool 3 floor dining room with balconies and chandeliers. .... Now the Windjammer has a buffet similar to GC or a decent casino buffet from morning until about 8:30 pm and that was fine with me! The other place is the 5th floor deli that is open 24 hours. It has small, tasty sandwiches always ready and some decent pizza served up until 3:00 am. The service there sucks, the guys are rude and surly probably cuz it is a late crowd and there is always kids there. So if you are not a gormet chef or the aforementioned food snob, then the food is pretty frickin' good considering they are feeding 3000 people for a week! My criticism of the food is that the sitdown dinner is limited to tea and water ... Boring. The soda package for a couple is 16.00 per day. My other dislike was we had a late seating and sometimes would be there at 10 pm!!! My other complaint Was that the Frozen Yogurt was always running out and no one would give me a pitcher of ice water. My dinner suggestions would be to follow the dress code and review table etiquette.
Entertainment ... We liked the female singer in the Cosmopolitan. We loved the games shows and the Trivia was a blast (a little too easy when 10 groups get them all right, though). Ice carvings were cool, the basketball and dodgeball tournaments were a blast, too. Our friends did the some gambling tournaments and loved it. The NCAA finals were on the movie theatre screen, AWESOME! And there was lots of activities for kids/teens. Negative: The mall singers were terrible. I couldn't stand the piano guy. And it was one of the worst karaoke song lists that I have seen anywhere (only oldies!!!). Also, they had a Bartender competition during the outdoor dance party, but when it was over, it killed all the dancing for the rest of the night. Aside from the karaoke, none of that affected my stay one bit, and all can be avoided. Although the pool side band is too loud at some times
Clubs: I was pretty skeptical about how good a club can be on a ship. And most of the clubs were pretty lame, but The Dungeon was one of the coolest bar setups I have seen anywhere. Great lighting, great lines, great theme, nice dance floor, cool lights, smoke machine and video screen of the dancers ... But extremely limited music selections. They didn't have anything we requested (Prince, no?) And basically played the same few songs every night. They had an 80s night that everyone went to and a MJ tribute. If you are looking for a quiet, laid back, more romantic vibe The Cosmopolitan Club is really nice. It is dark, the band has a smokey, loungy feel, the bartenders are mellow ... Pretty cool. The other bars weren't really our style, but there is something for everyone. The negative: the drinks are sooo overpriced. Alcohol is dirt cheap in the Carribean, we bought 2 LITRES (not fifths) of rum for $19.99!!! So they probably get it for $5 for a liter, or $3 for a fifth!!! Yet drinks are $7-8. Too much. The cheapest wine package was $135 for 5 bottles of mediocre wine (?!?!?!?!). Even the water package was something like $40 a gallon!!! You're on a boat in 3000 feet deep of water, every direction you look you see water, and the most abundant resource on earth is $40 a gallon? I think it is ridiculous.
Labadee: The excursions were very limited and nothing seemed worth the price, so we just went to the beach and it was a great time. The beach chairs were free, don't forget to bring a couple beach towels from the ship (return them or be charged!). It is not the same soft white sand beaches like Florida but it is very beautiful and we took some cool photos. Dragon's Rock makes for some good photos, Weslie's Beach has some great pics, too. The zipline was $90 each for one ride, not worth it on our budget!. It looked fun, but it ruined the natural view and relaxing on the beach because every couple minutes, someone flew by screaming. Annoying. It was fun hiking around the island, but every thing had a fake, inauthentic feel. It reminded me of the old Jungle Cruise in Disneyland with fake handmade directional signs, and cheesy vending booths. If you can't handle aggressive, rude 'salespeople', or someone making suggestive comments to your wife or daughter, or trying to sell you pot, then avoid the vending area. It is kinda fun, but it gets annoying real fast. We were skeptical about eating in Haiti but all the food (& ice) was brought off of the boat. Actually the ribs/lunch was good! RCI advertises Labadee as an island, but actually it is a peninsula with a fence that separates it from Haiti. I think it is a private "island" owned by RCI. Also, considering the high rates of AIDS in Haiti and the recent tsunami, I would suggest taking insect repellant and not having sex with anyone from the island.
Jamaica: New port in Falmouth, totally bad idea. It is 30-50 miles to Montego Bay & Ocho Rios. There is nothing in Falmouth so you have to pay $200 round trip cab ride or take excursion just to go anywhere. There isn't any decent shopping in Falmouth (or Labadee) so you almost have to take an excursion. We did the Green Grotto Caves/Dunn's River Falls tour. The falls are almost a requirement when visiting Jamaica and both excursions were fun, but overrated. The falls are beautiful, but there are literally hundreds of people climbing all at the same time, thus ruining the natural beauty. The "guides" are very aggressive, and groups joining hands and singing, and vendors bugging you to mug for the camera (and tips) are also very annoying. The park next to the falls is beautiful and picturesque. When you finish your climb you have to go thru a vendors area to get back to the bus. If you take the left path you go thru the hyperaggressive male section, but if you go right, you go thru the mellower female vendors where you can browse. All the vendors have the same generic stuff and they are all fighting for your tourist dollar. Two sets of our friends were very upset with the vendors, & reviews of vendors grabbing, physically blocking exits, separating couples etc are not uncommon. The falls are very dangerous and one should be in good physical condition to climb. The is a paved walkway right beside the falls if you don't want to climb. Personally, I loved it and would like to be there on a slow day. I wish we had more time in Jamaica. Two out of 5 hours were on the bus. The ship should have docked in Ocho Rios (Or Montego Bay).
Green Grotto Caves: I am from Indiana and have been through a dozen show caves from Indy to Kentucky. I have never seen a cave so damaged, so poorly kept and it smelled like someone was roasting a skunk. American caves emphasize preservation, ecology, etc. But The Jamaican guides told pirate stories and at least 10 bat poop jokes. Rarely explaining any geological info & Letting people walk on stalactites. I love caves so it was still very cool to see. The cave was different than our karst caves, they are warm with lots of larger bats flying around everywhere. After the tour we all went back to the office and had rum punch. After a couple cups of the strong punch, we all had a nice buzz and continued on to the falls.
The Jamaica you see on the tour is nothing like the Jamaica advertised on the commercials. The new highway makes it a much quicker trip, but it is not through the mountains, trees or by the ocean. You see a lot of trash in the streets, lots and yards. You see some depressing poverty next to extravagant mansions and lavish resorts and golf courses. I didn't see one recognizable chain restaurant in the hour drive, yet the falls, the cave and the beach at Labadee were very commercialized.
We loved our tour guide, a beautiful, smart Jamaican woman, and our bus driver was really cool, too. Don't expect too much and it will be a fantastic trip. I wish we had gone to a cool beach. Our friends swam with dolphins and loved it. Some other people we met on the ship took a cab from Falmouth to Montego Bay to see the Jamaica not on the excursions. They said they had fun but were a little scared at times. It was almost $200 with tip and they said it was worth every penny.
Tips: Here are a couple tips ... Buy cheap booze on the ship on the last day. If you don't like you dinner seating, change it on the first day. Book your excursion early, they fill up fast (one can book BEFORE you are on the ship). The back of the ship is less choppy than the front. There are no alarm clocks on the ship, so bring one if you want to see the time while in bed. If you want a spot in the Solarium or by the pool, then get there early! Read Less