Monday, January 14, 2019

[Day 2] Navigator of the Seas - At Sea

Our first true day on the ship was a sea day - perfect for sleeping in and not really doing anything!  To our surprise, our father did not call and try to wake us up.  We found out a few days later that the ringer on our phone was muted, so he actually might have tried to call, but we didn't hear it.

We got up and I unpacked Rachel's suitcase.  Rachel has learned that over the years all it takes is for her to ask, "Will you unpack my suitcase?" and I'll do it.  Storing things away is something I enjoy doing.  Like I said, there was space for everything - and even extra shelves up high that we didn't use.

Then we debated for awhile and decided to head to the gym.  The gym on the Navigator is really nice.  It's large and at the front of the ship with a great view.  There's a nice open area for cardio where they also host classes.  Unfortunately, they're going to be doing away with this large gym in the remodel - they're putting additional staterooms in its place and moving the new gym to a different location.  I took a few really horrible photos of the gym -

Fitness Center

Fitness Center

Fitness Center

There's also a whirlpool in the gym and saunas and steam rooms in the men's and women's locker rooms. I think this is one of the last ships in which you can use these "hydrotherapy" amenities for no additional charge.  I'm sure if there's whirlpools and steam rooms after the dry dock, you'll be paying additional for their use.

Fitness Center

Rach and I finished our workout with a mile run around the top deck.  It was a little too late in the day to do that, as people were starting to pull lounge chairs out into the running path.  It takes 8 laps to make a mile, too, so I couldn't imagine running for more than a mile, it's so boring and crowded.

We spent some time in the sun that afternoon.  Here is what the Solarium looks like from above:

Pool Deck

Royal Caribbean now has lifeguards at the pools during operating hours. This is relatively new.

Pool Deck

Main pool area -

Pool Deck

Pool Deck

Pool Deck

This evening was the first formal night, and the Captain's Gala.  We decided to get dressed early and do some people-watching.

Formal Night

The good thing about the Ultimate Beverage Package is that you no longer have to hit up events for free cheap champagne.  So we ordered martinis. The scavenger life ain't for us anymore!

Lemon Drop Martini

We never saw the captain, and I never heard him speak.  Usually he'll get up on the bridge over the Promenade and speak to all of the guests and maybe introduce some of his crew.  If that happened, I wasn't aware.

Captain's Gala

So for dinner, my first course was the Chicken Waldorf Salad.  I like to take a break from the standard Caeser (offered nightly), so I typically ordered whatever other salad was on the menu.  The menus are different than I remembered - they used to offer entirely different foods every night.  Now the bottom half of the menu remains the same, and they only have three or four new offerings for each course nightly.  And then there were only maybe two desserts that differed from night to night.  Definitely less variety overall than has been offered in the past.

Chicken Waldorf Salad

Then the Horseradish Crusted Salmon.  It was pretty good.

Horseradish Crusted Salmon

Here are two desserts that are offered every night.  The apple pie -

Apple Pie

And I *think* this is the Royal Chocolate Cake -

Chocolate Cake

Also, there is a nightly cheese plate offering.  However, over the duration of the cruise, they would run out of things for the cheese plate.  I think by night 6 they had run out of crackers.

Cheese Plate

The champagne that you order from the drink package is much better than the free champagne they give out at events.

Captain's Gala

After dinner, we went to Vintages, the wine bar on the Promenade.  It was not yet poppin when I took this photo -

Vintages

Good night!

Saturday, January 5, 2019

[Day 1] Navigator of the Seas - Miami Embarkation

Ahoy!  Welcome to my Navigator of the Seas Trip Report, and my family's 10th Annual Christmas Cruise!

My family started cruising over Christmas back in 2009 with a 9-day Eastern Caribbean Cruise aboard the Grandeur of the Seas, and we've gone every year since.  We like to sail where it's warm, so we often choose Caribbean itineraries, and we've also done 10 and 17-day Panama Canal cruises (my personal favorite itinerary if you have the time).  We aren't loyalists to any particular cruise line, and choose our cruise based on the itinerary, length, and ship.

Rachel has taken over as the family's cruise planner, so she narrowed down our options.  We ultimately chose the 10-day "ABC" Caribbean Cruise on the Navigator of the Seas because it included ports that we haven't traveled to before.  While we've been to Aruba a few times, none of us had been to Bonaire, and only I had sailed to Curacao.

Also, Rachel was on the Royal Caribbean website and excited about the Navigator's new upgrades including new pools and water slides... only to learn that they hadn't actually happened yet.  The upgraded Navigator of the Seas will start sailing in Spring 2019.  The Navigator of the Seas we were sailing on had been most recently updated in 2014 to add the Flow Rider to the aft.

The Navigator departed from Miami.  I live in Los Angeles, so I had to fly cross-country.  My parents live in South Carolina, and my sister in Atlanta, so they had the option of driving.  For better airline pricing, my dad decided to have my sister and I fly into Orlando the night before, while he and my mom would drive to Orlando.  We'd all spend the night near the airport there, then drive the rest of the way to Miami the morning of departure.

Alas, the Port of Miami, and a glimpse of the ship!

Port of Miami

We often drive to the port, and it always results in the same kind of scramble.  My parents like to tetris-style pack the Suburban with luggage and snacks and a cooler.  And my mother always packs in an assortment of bags - some which stay in the car (they were headed to Walt Disney World after the cruise), so when we pull up and they start unloading our luggage, it results in my mom saying, "Woah, woah, woah!" and then crawling into the third-row seat and pointing and what should stay and what should go.  And then there's the tidying of the car to situate everything before it's parked.  And my dad trying to decide whether or not he should carry his own passport or leave it with us.  All while Rachel and I wait on the curb awkwardly dodging men tossing around suitcases.  At least we're organized and not bringing things on the ship that we don't need.  Nearly 20 years of cruising, now, and some things just don't change.

Then we wait on Dad to park the car, and hopefully remember where (one time we returned from a cruise to check every single level of a parking garage, only to learn that had returned to a different terminal and were parked in a different garage).

Port of Miami

Port of Miami

From the moment we walked inside, everyone in this terminal was incredibly rude.  When Rachel went through the metal detector, a security worker yelled at her and gave her a hard time, making her walk back through.  Then we walk over to the check-in area and a woman yells at us because we're trying to get in line.  "NO, NO, NO - Where do you think you're going?  You need to go through ME first!"  Really?  And then she let us go through, and the signage was poor, so we got in the regular line.  Rachel realized that the Emerald C&A check-in line was actually one over, so we hopped over there, and it actually was much shorter.  Then when we got to the check-in desk, the guy actually never said anything to us.  Not a "Welcome! Hi! Hello!"  He just looked at us, and we looked at him, and we handed him our passports.  And then he didn't say anything until, "I need a credit card on file."

In all of that mess, Rachel and I lost Mom and Dad.  They were directed to another side.

Rachel was not impressed -

Port of Miami

Don't worry, Mom and Dad found us!

Waiting to board the ship, a crew member was audibly freaking out.  "No!  No!  This is a disaster!  There are too many people!  Let me by, let me through!"  It was stressful.  Poor thing clearly hadn't received proper training in crowd management or leadership.

As for the workers at the Port of Miami, I believe they are employed by the port, and not Royal Caribbean.  However, they are wearing the RCCL logo, and representing their brand, so their complete lack of professionalism reflects poorly on Royal Caribbean.  We've boarded many cruise ships, and have stood in really long lines, but I cannot recall a time before when we were treated this poorly by terminal staff.

Once aboard, we went straight to our staterooms which were ready.  Rachel and I had 6224, and my parents were in 6228 - both balcony staterooms.

Now, it's important to note that we were sailing on one of the very last cruises before the Navigator goes to dry dock.  By the time I finish writing this review, there's a good chance this room won't even be intact anymore.

Balcony Stateroom

Balcony Stateroom

Balcony Stateroom

I will admit that I did some major color correction on the bathrooms just to make them presentable. The true lighting color is a really yucky yellow.

Balcony Stateroom

Balcony Stateroom

As far as storage goes, Rachel and I never really struggle in that area because there's only two of us in a stateroom. And there were even enough hangers in the closet for all of our dresses! (Usually we have to request a few extra.)

You can really tell that these staterooms need a hard goods refurbishment. The millwork was all really beat.

Balcony Stateroom

The mirror arrangement in the stateroom is actually perfect for checking out the back of your hair. That's one thing I would suggest they keep the same in the dry dock renovation.

Balcony Stateroom

Sizable balcony. And if you know the people in the stateroom next to you, you can ask your cabin attendant to open the balcony partitions. Thankfully there was another family between us and our parents, so we were not subjected to our father banging on our balcony door in the morning to wake us up.

Balcony Stateroom

Port of Miami

Port of Miami

Port of Miami

After much debate, my Dad decided to get all four of us the Ultimate Beverage Package which includes unlimited alcoholic beverages, specialty coffees, soda, and bottled water.  Our stateroom had six bottles of water and our two refillable mugs (which we never used), but for some reason our parents got four bottles of water and two Diet Cokes.  Their Diet Cokes sat there hot all week, and when I asked if I could have them if they weren't going to use them, I was told no!

Also, even though we had the Ultimate Beverage Package, they were still trying to sell us bottles of champagne!

Deluxe Drink Package

We had guests! (Diet Coke hogging/wasting guests) And right after this photo was taken, my mom of all people says, "I need a drink!!!"

Balcony Stateroom

So we went down to the Promenade level to Two Poets, a pub-style bar. And I'll note now that our rooms on the 6th deck were very convenient to the Promenade, which we really enjoyed.

I was pumped when I saw the menu. It looked like a craft beer menu - "Pilsner, Pale Ale, IPA" And then you read the beers listed, and they're all very generic brands - Budweiser, Corona, etc. Oh well, at least it kind of looked authentic?  Given this crafty menu, Stella was my beer of choice.

Two Poets

Two Poets

After I think three rounds, we decided to head up to the Windjammer and get some lunch.  The Windjammer food is nothing to write home about.  Unless you're writing home that it sucks, and you're confused because you thought you were eating in a cruise ship cafe, not a high school cafeteria.

Windjammer Food

Then decided to walk the pool deck a bit in anticipation of the Muster Drill.

Very soon, this large Cubist-like sculptural work will be no more.

Pool Deck

I'm not sure what their dry dock plans are for the Solarium, but right now it is outdoors but covered, with two large covered hot tubs.

Solarium

Solarium

I will note that a few days later, Rachel went through my camera and said, "Yeah, you can post all of these photos of me." This was one of those photos that she verbally consented to.

Solarium

Then we found ourselves walking down the stairs to our muster station in the Star Lounge. This was the only time I ever entered the Star Lounge because I don't play Bingo. I think Bingo is held in there. I'm not sure, actually, because I don't play Bingo. Anyway, we were *gasp* early to Muster. But still, there were no seats. So we were stuck standing there, and it was sooooo boring. Especially because we're used to cruising into these drills at the very last minute, so we don't have to stand around and wait for as long.

After, we headed back to Two Poets! And then up to the top deck for sail away..... which was delayed 45 minutes for an unknown reason.

Sail Away

Sail Away

That's me! I was there, too! Looking especially bronzed because I got a pre-cruise spray tan. It will fade.

Navigator Sail Away

Miami

Balcony Stateroom

Pool Deck

So we headed down for My Time Dining... which is when we learned that My Time Dining is not the same as Freestyle Dining (the Norwegian Cruise Line come-when-you-want concept). Nope, My Time Dining means that you choose a time to make a reservation for, and you dine in the dining room at the same time every night. So the most difficult spots to get reservations for are those that are standard eating times, but not traditional seating times (5:30 early seating and 8:30 late seating). So if you want to dine between 6 and 7:30 PM, I'd suggest going to the My Time Dining reservation desk as soon as you board the ship. When we got there, the only reservations available were for 5:30 or 8:00 PM or later. So we went with the 8 PM time and went to the R Bar downstairs to kill time before dinner.

R Bar

For the first course I ordered the Roasted Carrot Cumin Salad.  I had some sort of fish for my entree, but I forgot to photograph it.  Not nearly as bad as the food in the Windjammer, but again, nothing memorable.

Roasted Carrot Cumin Salad

At the end of dinner, we were sick of sitting there, and not fully understanding the concept of My Time Dining, we thought, "Well, never have to see these guys again."  So we got up and walked out before desert.  Our waiter, Alvin (I remember his name... I wouldn't remember his name if I never had to see him again.....) tried to get us to stay.  "Nah, we good!"

No towel animal tonight. Towel animals seemed to be an every-other-night thing. Which is fine with me, but if you have kids or are someone who lives for towel animals, note that Royal Caribbean has scaled back on their frequency.

Balcony Stateroom

See you tomorrow at sea!