April 2014 - Navigator of the Seas to Caribbean - Western
Note: This review is wordy but I think it is worth the read. Sailed out of Galveston without delay. The cruise port was easy to get to and parking at EZcruise across from the cruise terminal was a breeze. They are courteous, professional, and will leave you laughing. Also, the lot is surrounded by a barbed wire fence so you know that your car in all likelihood is in a very safe place. A great way to start your cruise. :)
My wife wasn't feeling well and so I was destined to spend the first few days exploring the ship mostly on my own. The nice thing about that is that the bedsheets in our stateroom were some of the comfiest sheets we'd ever slept in. It honestly made me want to spend a lot of time in bed and sleeping in was very easy to do. So at least if she wasn't feeling well, she wasn't feeling well in a king size bed with luxurious sheets.
I was on the Navigator of the Seas last year and so I was able to see the differences of the dry dock upgrades. The main noticeable differences were the Flowrider (which I took major issue with and will mention shortly) and the new restaurants. Also, we had a beautiful TV in our interior stateroom. Last year we also had an interior stateroom and there was just a small tube tv in it, which was fine, but the new TV was a Samsung HD tv and it was somewhere about 26-32 inches I would imagine. Great picture and it swung out very conveniently for watching in bed.
They got rid of the dungeon night club and I believe, if I'm remembering the ship layout correctly, that the mexican restaurant Sabor is in place of it, partially. Kind of a bummer because the Dungeoun was a pretty cool 2-story club that was a lot of fun. I went up to check out what was going on at the Cosmopolitan club late one night, as the music was incredibly loud and that's supposedly where young adults (and older ones too, I suppose, lol) are now supposed to drink and dance the night away. When I ventured up there there was literally only 3 or 4 people in the place and the bouncers looked like they were extremely bored. I thought that was odd seeing as how the Dungeon was usually pretty full last year.
The service in the main dining room was great and the food was also very good. I recommend the steak (the free steak, not the steak that you can add on for an additional cost) as it was extremely good and I do know my steaks. I ordered it on the last night and I wish I had ordered it before then because I'd have ordered it more than once if I'd known how good it was. The shrimp salad on one of the nights as an appetizer should be avoided. It was below the quality of food I expect from them. Something that would have been good is if I didn't get the sense that my server was slightly annoyed whenever I ordered sliders as a 2nd entree. It's a very small portion and shouldn't even be considered a full entree, as it is listed. If you order the sliders as your only entree you will leave hungry, unless you have a very small appetite. I'm sure that very, very few people on the boat order more than one entree at dinner, and it's not as if me ordering sliders as well as another entree is a big problem. Just a tip for the servers: Show a happy attitude throughout your dinner service unless your table orders more than 2 entrees each and/or is treating you like garbage. Don't give a table even the slightest hint that you are annoyed at them for any small reason. A smiling, happy, jovial, thankful, appreciative, friendly young couple should be able to order 3 entrees between them (if you consider the sliders an "entree") without getting a slightly odd, awkward response from their server. That's all. Other than that everything was great!
On to the Flowrider: First let me say that I'm GLAD the flowrider is on the boat. It's awesome!! It's not only fun to use but it's also fun to sit and watch everyone else give it a try and inevitably wipe out and get swept away by the powerful current! There is great stadium-type seating with shade for you to sit, watch, photograph and take video of friends or family on the flowrider. This is an awesome, awesome addition to the ship. HOWEVER, it was also a source of extreme discontent for me during my cruise. So upsetting that I wanted to find the person in charge of this activity and lodge a complaint, but I just couldn't be bothered to waste my time. First off all, if you are more interested in the stand up surfing like I was, you only have 2 times during the day to use this attraction. 9am-11am, and 3pm-5pm. The wait in the line can last quite a while. Most times I was waiting 15 minutes between turns. This is because it's a popular attraction on board and most people require assistance from the flowrider staff to get onto the board and to get going on the water. They help hold you up and also give you verbal tips to teach you what to do. I don't take any issue with the wait times because it's necessary to help people learn how to ride it, and I understand lots of people want to give it a try, and keep on trying. However. I don't want to get up at 9am on my vacation to use the flowrider. If I sleep in until, say 10:15am, by the time I grab a quick bite to eat and get out to the flowrider, I might get one turn on it before they switch over to body boarding which I don't want to do. How annoying.
Then at the 3pm-5pm time slot you know it's going to be incredibly busy and you won't get very man turns. 2 Hours goes by very quickly. 5pm is when they shut down the flowrider for the evening and it's no longer in general use. They offer private lessons for $70 (very steep if you ask me) which take place at 5pm. I asked the flowrider staff if they ever open it at nighttime. The guy told me that they open it for the private lessons at 5pm and that if you want to use the flowrider you have to buy a private lesson. So I asked him "well what if nobody signed up for any private lessons? Will you open it back up to the rest of the people that would like to keep using it?" His response was "no" because he said the sports staff close it down at that point and go to work in other areas of the ship if no one has purchased private flowrider lessons. So imagine my surprise when 5pm rolled around and I waited around to watch the private lessons take place to see if I could pick up on any additional tips. After about 15 minutes of watching the sports staff using the flowrider by themselves it became obvious to me that no one had signed up that day for any private lessons. I stayed there for another hour watching them use it by themselves for their own enjoyment while I, a paying customer simply watched them have all the fun. They took more turns each in that hour than I had on it the entire week. Did that piss me off? Ohhhhhh yeah. Imagine how much MORE I was pissed off when I came back at 7:30pm and the sports staff were still using it all by themselves. No private lessons. Having a ball. This is seriously, seriously a problem and if a Royal Caribbean official is reading this, you should change the hours on the attraction immediately and make sure this type of thing doesn't happen. Ever. By the way, I witnessed this same situation play out twice during the week. The other 7 nights I didn't check. Did they have it all to themselves after closing it to paying guests more than twice that week? More than likely.
Excuse me, but why the heck should 2-3 staff get it all to themselves, having the time of their lives, while I am not allowed on it. If we are in a port that day, I'm likely not going to use the flowrider on either the morning or afternoon session. So really, there are 3 days to use it, and during those 3 days you'll have to get up early (while also standing in a long line) or only attend the afternoon session and wait in an even longer line and have a few turns. You are probably starting to see my point about the staff having more turns on the flowrider in an hour than I had during the whole week. It really ticked me off. The flowrider even has night time lighting, all colorful and what not. What is the point of the lights if you don't let anyone on it at night. Oh that's right. The staff need the lights as they ride it for hours while you are told to hit the road.
They need to extend the hours of the flowrider and prohibit staff from having a monopoly on the use of it if there are guests wanting to use it. After all, we are the guests. They are the staff. A quick note on the body boarding: It's fun, but not very challenging. Not only is the line longer because more people are willing to try it because of it's lower skill level, but each turn is probably 5-6 x longer than a stand up surfing turn because you can just lay on the bodyboard for almost as long as you want without falling off, and some people do. Posing for picture after picture for 3-4 annoying minutes taken by equally annoying family members who, like the riders, don't seem to understand that there are other people waiting to try and won't do the decent thing which is to take some pics, watch for a little bit, and then if the rider hasn't figured it out by themselves, encourage them to finish up. I only saw a staff member encourage a rider to finish his turn once, an the rider completely ignored the request and went for another 2-3 minutes (no exaggeration) without the staff member telling him to finish up a 2nd time.
The weather was a lot better than expected and only rained once, I think. The port in Cozumel was awesome, the port in Belize was okay. Lots and lots of shops, mostly all selling the same souvenirs. We did a quick tour of Belize city by a really nice tour guide who was very proud of his country. I have to say I'm a more adventurous guy but I thoroughly enjoyed the tour.
Roatan was a whole different story. As soon as you leave the port area gates you see poverty. Bad poverty. Starving dogs and third world scenes are everywhere. This is not the type of stuff I want to witness on my way to relax at the beach. 3 days before our port stop in Roatan, a cruise ship worker from Norwegian cruise lines had gotten off of the ship for a few hours and was shot and killed while being robbed for his cell phone. I would have appreciated being warned of the violent crime. The night before Roatan, a warning letter was left on our bed by our stateroom attendant. This letter was drafted by Royal Caribbean to warn passangers of crime on the island. I wish I kept the letter so I could be sure, but I'm pretty sure that the letter was warning of non-violent crimes such as bags being stolen, etc. Knowing now what I know about Roatan, and after learning (after I got home from the cruise) of some other violent attacks involving guns and knives against tourists, I would not have taken myself and my wife into Roatan or the beach area. I don't care if the chances are low. I don't have a paranoid of dim view of the world just because most of it is not as wealthy as the USA and Canada. I know in all likelihood we would be safe if we went to Roatan again, but I'm not willing to take my chances especially with the US state Dept. issuing a warning, and a cruise worker shot and killed 3 days before our arrival, near the port.
Other than the things listed above we actually had a great time on the cruise. The ship was immaculate. The food was great. Anyone who complains about the windjammer is not being fair. The selection is huge and covers many styles of food.
The staff on the boat were AWESOME. The comedian on the last night was disgusting and the room got pretty quiet a lot. He had a few good lines but that's it. The comedian they had the first few nights was great!! Mitch the cruise director and his staff were great. Very personable and funny! The one staff member we were looking forward to seeing was George the Sanitize dancer in the Windjammer. But he wasn't onboard. He's amazing. If you don't know who he is just youtube him. I'd literally find whatever boat he's on and specifically take a cruise on his boat just to see him. He makes your day with his upbeat attitude!
I'd definitely go again, and hopefully someone from RCI reads my comments on the flowrider and makes some changes. Overall an 8.5/10 for the week. :)