August 2014 - Navigator of the Seas to Caribbean - Western
As a Gold Club member, I was concerned about some of the negative reviews for the Navigator of the Seas (NOTS) during the summer. Not to worry. My overall take is that there are some folks who simply can not be pleased. Bottom line: Royal Caribbean International (RCI) and NOTS met and exceeded all of our expectations. From the beginning:
1. As Texans, (my wife & I) we have taken many cruises out of Galveston. This is important!!: No cruise line has any control over the port area. (baggage drop-off traffic control, parking, shuttles, clearance through security, etc,) If you want to get to the area where the cruise line has control, GET THERE EARLY! If you don't, you will get bogged down & 30 mins will turn into 2 hours or more, guaranteed. We arrived at 11:00 am to a prepaid parking spot across from the pier, walked across the street and were at the RCI welcome desk in less than 30 minutes. (As seasoned travelers, we cut our needs down to to two large carry-ons and two back packs. If you need more, again, get there early.)
2. Once at the Welcome desk, took less than 10 minutes to confirm our reservations, issue the SeaPasses, & get in line for on-boarding. Walked straight on, all the way to our cabin. (Make sure you have: your confirmed reservation (printed, hard copy); credit card for Seapass purchases; ID (passport) ready, for all persons in the party, & whatever else is required for your party. One missing document will hold up the whole show!!)
3. From the moment we stepped on-board, every crew member we met was courteous, friendly and anxious to please. Even with our early arrival (12:30 pm Sunday), our room was ready, and we had the opportunity to meet our room steward, Gloria White. She ensured we were pleased with the room, confirmed the correct pronunciation of our names, and was an impeccable hostess during the balance of the cruise. The little 'folded towel' animals prepared for our nightly 'tuck-in' were always something to look forward to.
4. Cruise details: NOTS is an immense ship. Recently renovated and it SHOWS. We were informed that there were 3500 passengers on board (full capacity), but it never seemed so. All of the amenities: promenade mall & cafe; wall climbing; putt-putt golf, pools, spas, shows; surf-boarding, outdoor movie theater (very cool); and especially the Windjammer Cafe (7 day morning, noon & dinner buffet) were often busy, but never overly crowded. NOTE: See Simon Magalhaes in the Windjammer (Food Service Manager). He will provide a personal greeting that is unsurpassed.
5. We are not into formal stuff (been there, done that), so we only had 4 meals in the Main Dining Room. Again, extremely courteous and efficient waitstaff (made sure of the correct pronunciation of our names, which is obviously part of their training). No problems there.
6. Entertainment: Nightly show on the immense poolside screen was great; indoor 'Vegas' style shows were entertaining, but not for every taste. Really impressed by the talent of the crew members who contributed to many of the shows.
7. Shore excursions: took several, but they were not related to the ship (booked them online, separately). However, we found out on board that excursions booked through RCI are not only close in cost to online bookings, but RCI excursions get priority disembarking at all ports. Will very much consider this option next time.
8. Disembarking was similar to on boarding. Booked a 'speed pass' for leaving ship the night before (with out checked luggage) for the next morning (Sunday), had time for breakfast, stood in line 30 mins, & were back to our car by 9:30 am.
9. All in all, would consider this a first class trip. Time to do everything or nothing. Ship staff, from the Captain (whom we met personally) down to the room cleaning crews we met going to & from our cabin, were always smiling, friendly & seemed truly interested in our cruise experience. Business as usual for Royal Caribbean & the Navigator of the Seas.