We sailed on Navigator of the Seas December 4-11. This was our second cruise; our first was three years ago on Carnival Triumph. While we were very satisfied with Carnival, we thought the bigger RCI ships looked pretty neat. Overall, we thought Royal Caribbean was a notch above Carnival in many respects. We had a wonderful experience and would definitely cruise with RCI again.
We decided to fly into Miami the night before departure, which we recommend to anyone. We stayed at the Sofitel (a very nice hotel-we used Hotwire and got a room for $77), then took a taxi to the pier (cost: about $24 for 4 people). We met a very nice couple from England and split the tab. We got to the pier about 10:30 a.m. and were inside within minutes. We then went through the necessary procedures at the front desk. The very first RCI person we ever met was extremely nice, a pattern that was followed for the week to come. We had to wait in line for about an hour after we got our cards, etc., because they didn't let people on the ship until noon. Once they opened the doors, we were on within minutes.
We went to our room (an interior cabin toward aft) and found it to be acceptable. The room was set up much better than Carnival and had lots of mirrors, which made it look big. It also had a lot of storage space. We always think it's worth saving the money by booking an inside cabin because you're hardly in it anyway.
We then went to check out the deck. We sunned for a while and then took a run on the running track (a very nice track for the ship, but an obstacle course on later days when everyone was sunning). We found running on Deck 4 to be much easier -- even though the signs said to not run there, no one said anything to us. It was in the shade and much less crowded.
Our first day was at sea and formal night. They had the first of the Broadway-type shows at night, which was fabulous! We thoroughly enjoyed it. Also a plus -- they did not push Bingo before the shows like they did on Carnival; you could go play Bingo in a separate area on the ship if you wanted to (we never did).
The ship stopped in the afternoon and in retrospect, this was the port where we probably should've arranged for a shore excursion. By the time we got off the ship and to the taxi, it was about 3:30 p.m. We had wanted to visit the Bacardi Rum Factory but found out that we wouldn't be able to get there before it closed. Instead, we met a very nice family with whom we shared a taxi to downtown and the fort ($3 per person each way). Downtown was nothing special although they did have a Walgreen's, which was kind of nice. The fort was neat and made up for the disappointing shopping.
A beautiful island; we went to the shopping area by taxi ($6 per person each way) and picked up some rum for a fair price (we found it cheaper later at the pier in St. Maarten). We also did the necessary hair-braiding, which took up most of our stop (we found this probably was cheaper in Nassau; but it saved the hassle when on the next stops, the braiders saw I already had braids). Others we talked to went to Magen's Bay beach and said it was nice. As with all of these islands, we left feeling that we could definitely visit again and have more things to do.
We took a taxi ($5 per person each way) to Orient Beach. There was a taxi line just outside the pier so it was very easy. On our first cruise we did some shore excursions, but decided this time we'd save the money and go on our own. We generally found it to be much cheaper and less structured. Orient Beach (clothing optional) was absolutely beautiful. We rented a jet ski for an hour and that was a really neat way to take in the island. We slept on the beach a while and returned to the pier. There were lots of little shops near the pier and this satisfied our shopping for the day (same stuff, different island, basically). We had the second of the Broadway-type shows this night, and this was as excellent as the first. The singers were amazing, sets and costumes were awesome.
The fifth day was another relaxing day at sea. These days were wonderful and allowed us to take in the ship. It was another formal night, and this time we got tickets (free) to the ice show, which was fabulous! It's hard to believe something like that can be on a ship.
We had a lot of fun going to the Straw Market. That's our kind of shopping --bargaining. We got some good deals and the necessary souvenirs, bought some more rum and headed back to the ship. If you don't like being hassled, this might not be the place for you. We found out near the end it was best to tell them how much money you had left and they'd get the price down to where you wanted it.
On the seventh day we were back in Miami. We had packed up the night before and waited around, sadly, for our colors to be called. It took about an hour after our colors were called to get through customs and off to the airport.
The food was absolutely excellent the entire time. We never tried Chops or Portofino restaurants because the dining room food was so good. Even the Windjammer café was very good with its buffets (hard to believe they can cook so well for so many people). And the little café on the promenade also had good food to snack on. We tried Ben and Jerry's -- it was okay but not really worth the extra money. We also tried Johnny Rocket's -- same thing, good onion rings and sundaes, but not really worth the $3.95 per person cover charge when the other food was so good. The drinks were not too pricey, and we found they were poured very generously, which made them worth the money.
The service was very good as well. We didn't get to know our waiters quite as well as on the last cruise, but the staff was generally very attentive, helpful and courteous, making sure everyone was satisfied. Our stateroom attendants were excellent and provided the necessary towel entertainment each night. It was amazing how they could slip in and out four or five times a day and make sure everything was neat and clean.
The entertainment was much better than on Carnival. Also the games were very good and RCI gave away some nice gifts rather than the plastic gifts on Carnival. The cruise director, James Andrews, was very funny and very good at his job. We saw him around the ship all the time. The parades on the Promenade were also very neat; we thought it would've been a treat to have one of the rooms that overlooked the Promenade for these.
The mini golf was fun. We didn't experience the casino, bingo, rock climbing wall, spa, gym or kids' programs, so we can't speak to those things. The kids did put on a fun program at dinner one night. We were amazed that all the kids seemed generally happy; maybe this was due to the fun stuff they had on board for the kids. We were glad to have left ours at home, however.
We did a lot of research and read a lot of reviews before going on this cruise. Our overall impression is that the people that have so much to complain about really must have much higher expectations than we did. When we tried, we were hard pressed to think of anything to even complain about. It's all what you make of it, and what your attitude is. RCI was awesome, the ship was just beautiful and very clean, and we would definitely sail with Royal Caribbean again.