Saturday, September 26, 2015

Navigator of the Seas Review 9.20.2015

 Navigator of the Seas Review

September 20,  2015

Just The Facts
Ship:  Navigator of the Seas
Sailing:  September 20, 2015
Captain: Frank Martinsen
Cruise Director: John Perry
Ports: Galveston-Cozumel-Grand Cayman-Falmouth, Jamaica-Galveston
Weather:  Sunny with occasional clouds…Warm

I am cruising with my DW (dear wife) and another couple both good friends and experienced cruisers.   This is my 19th Royal Caribbean cruise and third on the beautiful Navigator of the Seas although this is my 6th cruise with Captain Frank.  I had booked this cruise very early in order to get our favorite aft facing cabin with large balcony on deck seven.

Day One--Sunday—Embarkation
Great over-sized Balcony!
We left the ranch about 7:00 am and headed south to Galveston making a stop at the Love’s Store in Hearne, Texas as usual.  We stopped near Houston Hobby airport and picked up our friends about 10:40 before arriving at EZ Cruise parking about 11:30.  We were shuttled over to the Navigator strait away and zipped through security and check in and were on board about noon.  We went to the pub on Promenade deck for a cocktail until our cabins opened at 1:00 pm.  We dropped our carry-on and very soon our bags were delivered.  Amazingly fast.  We went up to Windjammer and had a light lunch and dessert then back to the cabin for a short nap attempt before boat drill at 4:00 pm. Our cabin steward is Manuel from Costa Rica and he asked if we would need anything…ice is the obvious answer.  We love this cabin and have had it on many occasions on different RCCL ships...we especially love the over sized balcony.  Our friends are regular Celebrity cruisers and Royal Caribbean allows your loyalty status between their brands so they are Diamonds on the RCCL Navigator of the Seas.  We all went up to the Diamond Lounge on deck 14 for cocktails and h’orderves.  Very nice and I enjoyed a few Cosmopolitan martini’s.  RCCL pre-loads three complementary Diamond guest cocktails on your sail and sign card so about 7:30 we went down to the Two Poets Pub  for a wine and wine to take to dinner.  It was off to the Sapphire Dining room for dinner at 8:00 pm.  Our table is located midway on level 4, we have an 8-top table with nice guests from England.   Dinner was good, I ordered:  Escargot, and the Prime Rib with Baked Potato entree.   The Welcome show was this evening, but I retired to the cabin to watch the Dallas Cowboy game. The others explored the ship.

Day Two—Monday—at Sea
Metropolis Theater
A very restful night and beautiful weather today.  We slept late for us and room service was delivered at 9:00 am.  We enjoyed a good breakfast on the large balcony enjoying the weather and view.  We ordered eggs with cheese, bacon, fruit plate, hash browns, and pastries.  This will be our norm for the cruise. I did purchase an unlimited internet package this morning, the cost will be my excursion and entertainment cost for the cruise ($80 after $40 Diamond credit).  I don’t consider a drink package with the drinks provided to Diamond Guests (plenty for me anyway).  We didn’t have to pick up ice tickets as is the norm on board on the first sea day as we actually got them the previous night in the Diamond Lounge.  We had lunch in the Windjammer, they always have a nice meat selection at the carving stations as well as other entrees, hamburgers, vegetables, and desserts.  Very easy and nice selections in the Windjammer.  About 5:00 pm we met up at the Diamond Lounge on deck 14 for cocktails then at 6:30 we went to the Metropolis Theater for the production show: Ballroom Fever featuring a selection of Music and Dance Tunes.  The Navigator Singers and Dancers were very good. They have a nice orchestra, but no orchestra for this show…it was recorded.  To be honest only a fair production.  After the show I did get a champagne on the promenade on the way to the Captains Gala Dinner.  It was a wonderful meal, I ordered: the Bay Scallop Gratin appetizer, the Artichoke-filled Crepe au Gratin, and the Carved Fillet of Beef Tenderloin  entree.  For dessert I had the BBB Creme Brulee.  All very good.  There was a 10:30 Adult Comedy show featuring Don Barnhart in the Theater, but after a great sea day I retired.  The others enjoyed the ship.

Day Three—Tuesday—Cozumel
Woody's our Cozumel HQ
I slept very well overnight and the weather was beautiful although hot and humid.  I went to breakfast in the Sapphire dining room about 8:30 am and ordered mixed fruit, Eggs Benedict, and a side of Bacon. It was excellent. DW had room service on the balcony.  We are docked at the International pier, the only RCCL ship, but I watched the Carnival Magic dock followed by the Carnival Paradise at Puerto Maya Pier.  It looks like the expansion at Puerto Maya is almost complete and actually may be now as they were only doing cosmetic clean up…they will now be able to dock three ship at the Carnival pier.  We left for San Miguel about 9:30 am arriving at the main square about 10:00 am.  I dropped my backpack at Woody’s Bar & Grill our usual HQ in San Miguel and the girls went shopping and the guys went to Angelo’s Barber Shop for my usual haircut.  Martin was late (as usual) so we went to the spa where I usually get a pedicure and they had closed.  So back to the barber shop and very soon Martin came along.  He does a great job and I really needed a haircut.  We scouted a new place for a pedicure and they did a good job ($20) my feet felt great afterward.  Returning to Woody’s the girls where in deep conversation with Nelly the owner and good long time friend.  They have my favorite Mexican beer, Bohemia, a European style pilsner. We spent several hours visiting and enjoying some Guacamole, Margarita’s and good food. Look at the size of the margarita glasses.  The ship sails much too early so we headed back about 2:30-3:00 pm.  The girls shopped at the pier shops and I boarded and went to the Windjammer for a snack.  After sail away it was time for a visit to the Diamond Lounge while waiting for showtime.  Tonight’s  entertainment was comedienne Etta May.  A very interesting comedy act, it was very funny and I’m intrigued by the person behind the persona. Think we need to book her for our local theater in Clifton.  Dinner in the Sapphire Dining Room was very good as usual.  It was a busy day so I retired after dinner, but there were a lot of evening events including: 70’s Night functions, Karaoke, Movies, and much more.

Solarium area
Day Four—Wednesday—Grand Cayman
A good nights sleep overnight.  We have decided to stay on board the ship today.  We had a very nice breakfast on the balcony and enjoyed the sea breeze and view of the island.  We went to the Solarium area located on the lido deck forward and enjoyed the swimming pool and extra large hot tubs.  It’s really nice to use the ships’ wonderful facilities when most passengers are off the ship.  Very nice indeed.  After a full morning in the Solarium it was off to the Windjammer for lunch, they had a great veal cutlet today.  I spent the afternoon enjoying cabin time and the balcony, I did bring a small sound system for music on the large balcony…a very nice relaxing day.  Soon it was cocktail hour so up to the Diamond Club for some cocktails and their nice Hors d'oeuves/Appetizers (the chicken wings were great).  The Crown & Anchor past guest party was this evening @ 7:15, but it was really much better just staying in the Diamond Club in my opinion.  I really like the Cosmopolitans they prepare on the Voyager, only a ‘touch’ of cranberry.  We had an earlier light dinner in the Windjammer and they do a very good job there for was enjoyable and the food is better in the evenings.  Only glitch is they lost power on the ship while we were eating.  We had tickets to the first Ice Show this evening at 8:00 pm.  The sound was slightly off (due to the earlier power outage) so they stopped and restarted the show and it was flawless from that point.  An ice show, especially at sea, is always entertaining and we had very good seats.  This evening was the Love & Marriage Show in the Metropolis Theater, but I watched it later on cabin TV.

Day Five—Thursday—Falmouth, Jamaica
The new cruise terminal in Falmouth
It is another very clear and warm day.  I was up early and watched Captain Frank back the Navigator into the new pier at Falmouth.  Perfect view since we are on an aft facing balcony.  I have been to Jamaica many times, but never to Falmouth before today.  Soon room service delivered our breakfast that we enjoyed on the balcony while viewing the island of Jamaica.  We only planned to see the area around Falmouth so we were in no hurry to debark.  We have a great view of the new pier area that was developed in part by Royal Caribbean.  It has a Margaritaville and all the new upscale Caribbean tourist shops one would expect.  They do have a craft area for locals as well, sort of a clean straw market area one would find in the islands.  We took the local trolly for an hour+ tour of Falmouth’s Georgian architecture.  Interesting, but also a bit of a disappointment.  The others shopped a bit, but I boarded the ship and had a nice late lunch in the Windjammer, they had my favorite pork cutlet in addition to the usual.  I just relaxed until sail away from Falmouth and enjoyed it as we have a perfect view.    We enjoyed our usual cocktail hour+ in the Diamond Lounge.  The main entertainment tonight was comedian Dean Austin, it was also 1980’s night, and the ‘Love and Marriage Show’ was this evening.  We had reservations tonight at Giovanni’s Table, the specialty Italian restaurant on board.  They serve the appetizers family style so we got four different ones.  I liked the Eggplant and really liked the Scallops.  My entree was the choice New York steak and it was prepared exactly to order and was very good. The DW rarely praises food, but she loved the Spinach Ravioli (vegetarian) entree.  I enjoyed the Tiramisu for dessert.  An excellent evening.

Sapphire Dining Room
Day Six—Friday—at Sea
Beautiful sea day.  We enjoyed another nice breakfast on the balcony.  DW was off to the Solarium to swim and I enjoyed balcony time this morning.  I have enjoyed the Windjammer lunches all week and did so again today.  This afternoon I walked around the ship and enjoyed just relaxing.  They did have a lot of day events such as: two Ice Shows, dance classes, bingo, and more.  Wouldn’t miss cocktail hour+ … in fact we enjoyed it so much we missed the production show: Motown Live although I have seen it previously.  This was the second scheduled formal night and we’ve missed our English tablemates the previous two nights.  Dinner was again very good,  I had two very good Snow Crab Salads and the dessert was Baked Alaska.  After dinner the primary event was the adult Quest game in Studio B.  Other entertainment included the usual ship performers including the 'Salsa Band', the ‘Rock’ band, and the Piano Bar.

Day Seven--Saturday--at Sea
Cosmopolitan Club - our cocktail hour HQ
Sunny beginning that became a cloudier later today.  For a change I had breakfast in the MDR and ordered my ‘country’ breakfast’:  Assorted fruit, three fried eggs, bacon, ham, hash browns, white toast, and milk.  Very good.  DW had her balcony breakfast.  DW was off to the Solarium again and I had a repeat of the previous sea day morning.  I did visit the Future Cruise desk and booked a cruise (same corresponding cabin) on the Liberty of the Seas for 2017.  We usually always sail RCCL in January and September of each year.  I also discovered I only need 8 more days to move to Diamond Plus in the Crown & Anchor loyalty level.  Perhaps I should consider a ‘bargain’ cruise to reach that level.  After lunch I had a walk about on deck and then got a Self Assist pass from Guest services for tomorrows debarkation.  I split my time between the open decks and the cabin this afternoon.  A nice relaxing sea day.  The feature show this evening was comedian Dean Austin in the Metropolis Theater.  We all visited the Diamond Lounge for our final cocktail hour+, we have enjoyed this very much all week.  I actually have a zero bar bill for this cruise…this Diamond benefit is well worth value when determining your cruise costs.  You do not need a beverage package if you take advantage of this benefit.  Final dinner was good and I went with the NY Strip Steak.  They offer this every day and it’s not like the specialty dining steaks, but fine if you have it cooked.  (A friend ordered one medium-rare and she did not enjoy it)  After dinner were several late shows, but I did some preliminary packing before turning-in this evening.

We were docked by 7:00 am and it is a rainy day in Galveston.  I was up early and finished packing. No room service on debarkation morning, but a full breakfast menu is served in the dining room.  We are doing the self debarkation and have a 7:45 - 8:00 am meet time for our self-debark Group A. You have to request self-debark on the Navigator and get a ticket at Guest Services the day prior.  Since we docked a bit early I suspected the debark would as well and it did but there was a very large self group guests, I suspect B’s and C’s were also there at the early time.  I think the smart think would be to go with Group B and let the anxious folks get out of the way.  We were off fairly soon though after a long line started moving and customs went smooth.  They did have a TABC booth set up to collect taxes on liquor and cigarettes as we left the terminal.  We took the shuttle over to EZ Cruise parking and we were off  the island by 8:40.  We dropped our friends at the Houston Hobby airport and were on our way.  We stopped in Hearne at the old Anna’s location and had Miga’s.  They were good, but not Anna’s.  We got gas in China Springs and made the ranch about 1:15 pm.  A safe travel day.

The Navigator of the Seas is Royal Caribbean’s current ‘Texas’ ship being the first to berth in Galveston year round since the Rhapsody of the Seas.  After Navigator it is to be the Liberty of the Seas and following that is supposed to be an Oasis class in Galveston.  With a large ship there are a lot of people and the pools can be very crowded during peak times and the elevators are always full, but the additional size also means that there is room for an ice skating arena, the photo gallery, casino, bars, etc. without any one of them dominating an entire deck.  The Grand Promenade is very impressive indeed and must be experienced.  The theme of the ship seems to be Hollywood Movies with movie posters decorating the passageways and stairwells. They have added a Flow Rider, the Sabor restaurant, Diamond Lounge, Digital photo displays on deck three, of course the virtual balconies on deck ten.   I really like the new interactive touchscreen information centers located near all the elevators and other locations.  They have the daily Cruise Compass, guides, maps, and more.  They also have interactive menus at the Windjammer and on all entry floors of the Sapphire Dining room.  The swimming pools are saltwater and nicely designed.  Great Solarium and Lido deck areas.

We had cabin 7688 our favorite cabin with the large aft facing corner balcony.  You can find in from the outside by find the two large 'O' cut outs in the superstructure.  The upper 'O' is our side balcony view.  (see lead photo above at top of review)  The room is a standard size balcony with: key pad safe, hair dryer, refrigerator, couch, full chair at vanity/desk, nice sliding shower door, and great lighting. The second great feature was the flat screen TV that could be adjusted to view from anywhere in the room.  Very well designed.  The air conditioning & water pressure worked well, but I’m glad I brought my personal cabin fan for circulation.

Overall very good and my individual crew contacts such as cabin steward and MDR waiters were excellent.  Manuel Stirling my Stateroom attendant was actual exceptional.  John Perry the CD was to my liking, he does not try to be an entertainer...just a good host.

Our dining room was the Sapphire Dining Room, deck four the middle level of the 3 level restaurant. The waiters were nice and service was good.  The bread and appetizers were very good, and you can order the Escargot, Cesar Salad, Shrimp Cocktail, or NY Strip Steak every night.  The Windjammer is also a very good place to eat, the quality of food was very good.  It’s the best food buffet at sea IMHO.  Room service was always good and prompt averaging 30 minutes for delivery.  Johnny Rockets was a good alternative for lunch or afternoon snack.  Lunch in the Sapphire Dining Room has the same menu each day with one special item that does change daily. There are several ice crème and yogurt machines.

Cruise Highlights

Diamond Club
Complementary cocktails loaded on Sail Card
Etta May