April 2016 - 8 Night Eastern Caribbean (Ft. Lauderdale Roundtrip) Cruise on Navigator of the Seas
After I booked our cruise, I started reading mixed reviews of this ship and Port Everglades. We had sailed on Celebrity Solstice last year as well as Disney Dream and Magic, so I was a little concerned. The cruise port was great. We arrived early and the baggage handlers were professional and friendly. The check-in process was efficient. The on-board greeting was so-so (Celebrity welcomes you with champagne). The Navigator of the Seas is as lovely as the Solstice except for the public restrooms. The welcome buffet in the Windjammer was good. It is a little confusing getting a table for 4 while toting our rolling overnight bag ( the one we didn't leave with the baggage handlers). They have roaming servers that get drinks for you and remove your empty plates (Celebrity was lacking in this) and the food is good and varied.. something for everyone. We would have enjoyed an outdoor eating area like the Solstice. They hit you up right away to buy specialty dining and drink packages. Chops is wonderful and Giovanni's is OK. We didn't try Izumi or Sabor. If you don't want to drink all day and night to justify paying $467 each for beer, wine, water, soda and frozen fruity drinks, they have a package of 10 drinks for $80 that I will buy when I go on Royal Caribbean again. Our stateroom with a balcony was clean and modern with lots of storage. You may want to bring some extra wire hangers, but plenty of storage for an 8 night cruise. The Sapphire dining room and My Time Dining worked out great for 4 of us. We ate some breakfasts there as well as 5 of the 8 dinners. They will seat you with strangers if you don't pitch a fit, but those strangers will become friends and many have lots of cruising experience and can help you decide excursions. We did a St. Kitts tour with our guide Winston Churchill (he was great). Romney Manor was very crowded and our fellow tourists were rude and grabbing at everything in the gift shop. They do batik there and unless you really want to know about that, avoid this. Labadee, Haiti was a nice surprise. Royal Caribbean charges way too much for the zipline, roller coaster and everything else, but the beach is beautiful and we had a relaxing day. The barbecue is not good... Disney crushes this on their Castaway Cay. A sad aspect is that there is a barbed wire fence separating cruise guests from the locals. They were pantomiming to us that they wanted our food. Poverty is prevalent in Haiti and St. Kitts. San Juan was pretty. We walked around Old SJ (there's a 3 story Marshalls and a big CVS with a Walgreens coming soon right by the port). There was lots of police presence and we were encouraged to be careful and not bring our passsports as our picture ID needed to re-board. On St. Maartin, we took a van to Maho Beach ($7 each) to experience jets flying right overhead to land on the Queen Juliana runway right across the street. This beach was packed with thrill seekers and the planes did not disappoint. Some pilots even waved as their planes kicked up sand and flung towels and small people into the ocean. The Sunset Grill is a great place to get lunch and drinks and use the bathroom. Leave your beach towels at home... the ship will check them out to you, but bring them back or they'll charge you $25 for every towel you don't return. Back on board, the entertainment is fun. The shows are good (Elton John and Beatles tributes, 2 comedians, an ice show, a magician, singers Whitney and Giovanni and the ships own singers and dancers). There is plenty to do on the ship during sea days (spa, gym, rock climbing wall, Flow Rider and planned activities). You will only be bored if you want to be. We really didn't buy much merchandise (bring a lanyard for your Sea Pass, sun screen, etc with you from home). Jewelry and purses are pretty, but nothing you can't get for less at home. We didn't book another cruise (the incentive is up to $500 on-board credit to use on the cruise you're currently on, but 2 of you have to cruise many nights to qualify - we would probably only get $100) because you lose your deposit if you cancel and I think we can get a better deal closer to the next cruise we choose in the future. Departure was a breeze and they aren't pressuring you to get off the ship.. just vacate your room by 8am. All in all, this was a wonderful vacation and a good value and I'm looking forward to my next Royal Caribbean cruise.