Unbelievable cruise, magnificent ship! We just got back from an Eastern Caribbean cruise on the Navigator. It was an all gay chartered cruise, 3100 guys, 37 women, so things ran a just a little different than a "normal" cruise. There was one or two straight couples who heard about the cruise and thought it would be fun. I talked to one of them, they had a vacation of a lifetime. They had been on many cruises but never had so much fun as they did this time with all gay men. Here are my thoughts:
Embarkation: remarkably fast. We went from being dropped off at the port to inside our cabin in 25 minutes. Would have been sooner but we stopped for a Rum Runner on the way. Most of the waiting was getting through the security scanners.
The Ship: in a word, magnificent! Never felt crowded. Never a wait. Never hard to find deck chairs
Cabin: we were in an outside cabin on level 2. It was fine. We really didn't need a balcony, since we were never in our cabin much. Got lots of exercise, though, taking the stairs all the time (the ship has 14 levels). There was rarely a wait for the elevators when we did take them. The cabin itself was roomy enough. We and our 4 friends had 3 cabins in a row. Our cabin attendant, Gil, was great, and we got a kick out of the towel animals he made every night, although, you do end up with this weird towel zoo by the end of the cruise, LOL.
Food: because this was a chartered cruise, dress code, formal night and early/late seating was thrown out. The only dress code for the dining rooms was no shorts or tank tops. Some people may frown upon that and may want the "Dockers and collared shirt" look at every meal, and may want the formal night. Personally, I'm on a vacation to relax and be comfortable, and for me, that means a nice pair of jeans, a dressy T-shirt and Top Siders, so I was thrilled. The seating was "open seating" at every meal. You just walked up, told them how many in your party, and whether you wanted your own table or wanted to join with others, and you were seated. There was never any wait, ever, not even a minute. I don't know why RCI would not do this every time. It seemed to work like flawlessly. You could eat dinner in the dining room any time between 6:30 and 10:00. The food was fine, not exceptional, but fine. The choices were adequate. We ate at Portofinos one night and I have to honestly say, it was one of the best meals I have ever had. Both the food and the service was 5 star. Pay the extra money and treat yourself. Never ate at Johnny Rockets.
Drinking: I'm going to set the record straight, so to speak. We brought a bottle of rum and mixers in our checked luggage. No problems. I asked our cabin staff to make sure we always had plenty of ice, and since the rum was always on the coffee table, he knew why we wanted the ice. We mixed our drinks in one of those plastic drink containers and were on our way. In San Juan, we bought 4 more bottles of alcohol. We put these in a duffle bag that we had with us, and when we re-boarded the ship, we just walked right by the table where you are "supposed to" declare your alcohol purchase and surrender the liquor until the end of the cruise. If they do "catch" you bringing alcohol on board, they will ask you to surrender it, but they honestly seemed to not really make a big deal out of it. A funny note, the ship had to purchase additional alcohol from the duty free shop in San Juan because we drank so much on the first 2 nights. If you're a beer drinker, The Two Poets and Cosmopolitan bars have 20oz import drafts for $4. Can't beat that anywhere! The coke card is a great deal. The give you refillable metal container for the coke, as well as put a sticker on your Sea Pass. And they honestly didn't care if you ordered 2 cokes at once.
Entertainment. Because this was an all-gay ship, the entertainment was specifically tailored to the crowd. Gay comedians, gay hypnotist, even a gay ice show featuring US champion Rudy Galindo, and male/male ice dancers. The RCI Broadway type shows were entertaining as well. Also, because this was an all-gay cruise, the nightly parties typically ran from 11PM to 6AM. We usually made it to around 2AM. Don't even ask what the themes of the parties were (OK, if you ask, Ill tell). Sound systems, DJs and lighting were all brought on board for this cruise.
Service: Service across the board was excellent. I saw very little complaining by passengers, and I think in general, the staff really appreciated and enjoyed serving this specific crowd.
Ports: San Juan: not enough time to really see the island. We saw the Fort, walked around Old San Juan, had some drinks, bought lots of liquor, and went back on board St Maarten: If you do nothing else on this cruise, take the America's Cup Sailing Regatta shore excursion. It was the highlight of the trip. We were on Stars and Stripes, I was a "rear stay grinder" and we won the race. It was unbelievably fun and unique. The crew was blast. Labadee: We were the only ship there. Beautiful beaches, views, rock formations, and yes, although the Haitians were pushy, keep in mind that you make more in an hour than they make in a week. But do bargain! Friends of ours wanted two large wood carved masks. They were $120 each. They got them down to $50 for both, and they threw in a small painting.
Children's Facilities: never saw them, there were no kids on this cruise. Average age was about 35.
Debarkation: This took a loooong time, but mostly because there were only a handful immigration agents for all these passengers. Here's a tip, on the last night, ask your cabin attendant for a white "early debarkation" tag. Then you can get off the ship when you want, and your luggage will already be there waiting for you.