NAVIGATOR OF THE SEAS
"Greetings Mate ... letís navigate!" ... Little did the well-known comedian, Jerry Colona, realize when he adopted this phrase for his own introduction that he would be the forecaster of one of the most amazing ships now navigating the seas. The Navigator of the Seas, one of the Royal Caribbean International cruise lines newest and brightest stars is now traveling regularly from Miamiís Seaport to the Caribbean.
And what a ship this is!!! ... A sister ship to the Majesty of the Seas, this newest Voyager-class ship has everything....plus. Even the christening by her Godmother, famous international tennis star, Steffi Graf, was accompanied by all the pomp and ceremony befitting a royal. Scottish bagpipers led the parade and Graf, standing at a pedestal in one of the shipís theaters, said the magic words, her strong tennis hand elegantly connected with the button, and on the video screen all could see the huge champagne bottle release from its perch and smash as it made contact with the bow of the ship.
Graf was chosen because of her excellence as a champion but also as a person who has contributed so much to the world. In addition to holding the #1 ranking in tennis for the longest consecutive period ... more than seven straight years ... she also holds 22 Grand Slam titles overall and is the only player ever to win a Golden Grand Slam. That is five international championships in a single year. Graf is a champion of children and animal rights. She is the founder of "Children for Tomorrow" an international effort to aid and empower children traumatized by crisis and violence, and serves as an Ambassadress for the World Wildlife Fund. She is certainly a distinguished Godmother for an amazing new ship.
Our introduction to the Navigator of the Seas was what we might hope for but usually do not find. The parking at the seaport was easy, fast and accessible. Entering the embarkation building we were greeted and directed politely and then gathered all our boarding passes, keys, etc. without a long line. Our baggage was inspected but that, too, went smoothly and quickly and we were on our way to our cabin.
Though the ports we may visit are certainly of interest, we spend most of the time onboard and so the shipís offerings are important to us. Two things strike you immediately ... the size of this ship and the beautiful decor. The walls, ceilings, stairways and halls are lavishly decorated with magnificent works of art. Our stateroom had room for everything ... plenty of storage area for our "stuff", all the amenities, a very nice bathroom facility and a larger than usual balcony. We also checked out some other cabins and found them to be just as comfortable ... even the ones that did not have a balcony, or were inside rooms. Of course, the suites are palatial.
Of the 1500+ staterooms, 707 have balconies, a large number are equipped with third and fourth berths and there are 26 that are wheelchair accessible. They all have private bath, phone, TV, hair dryers, mini-bar and individually controlled air conditioning.
Enough about the rooms ... though they are great for lounging and relaxing ... the best part of being on a ship of this size is the facilities it offers.
Instead of having a huge atrium the Navigator of the Seas has a Royal Promenade shopping, dining and entertainment "street" that runs down the center of the ship. We absolutely loved this!
It is four decks tall, longer than a football field and punctuated by two atria. We watched each evening as the street came alive with a Mardi-Gras parade, magicians, jugglers on stilts and mimes all accompanied by song and dance. We sat at Vintages, a wine bar that combines wine appreciation, education and entertainment for aficionados and novices like us. We sipped champagne at the elegant Champagne Bar, a pint or two of beer at the Two Poets Club and grabbed a bite to eat at the Cafť Promenade, a sidewalk cafť that was the perfect place for us to people-watch and enjoy the street fair. But we have to tell you, the "killer" for us was the new Ben & Jerryís Ice Cream Parlor that kept beckoning to us each time we walked by. Occasionally, we managed to propel ourselves past this shop and help ourselves to the self-serve Sprinkles frozen yogurt.
Talking about food .... The Royal Caribbean ships are known for their gourmet selections and Navigator is no exception. Several evenings we went for the traditional ... the Navigatorís magnificent three-story main dining room which allows 2 dinner seatings as well as open-seating for breakfast and lunch. Each level is dedicated to a famous ballet .. Swan Lake, Coppelia and The Nutcracker. The decor of the room is elegant, the service excellent and quality of food scrumptuous.
We also managed a dinner at Portofino, a specialty restaurant offering Northern Italian cuisine with spectacular views and a romantic atmosphere ... and another evening at Chops Grille steakhouse where you simply have to try that ... to die for ... Mississippi Chocolate Mud Pie.
You would think we would be stuffed by now, but what is it when onboard that we continually want to eat more? We found Johnny Rockets a blast. They had good old-fashioned burgers and milkshakes, the Windjammer Cafť had treats for breakfast, lunch and dinner ... all buffet style which also encompassed Jade, the lineís first Asian fusion restaurant. Feeling very guilty with all this, we occasionally topped it all off with foods from ShipShape ... dishes that are low in fat and cholesterol, but high in flavor.
With all the eating done onboard you would think the pounds would just fly onto our waists but with all the activities we found ... we did not gain an ounce! Pure heaven! Eat and play ... sounded like a great schedule to us. Begin each morning with a run around the outdoor sports deck jogging track ... or a swim in one of the large deck pools ... that worked up an appetite for breakfast. Relax for a short time after eating ... our parents always taught us to do that ... and then lots more choices. We played a complete game of golf with the fantastic golf simulator, decided whether we should play basketball, paddle ball or volleyball on the sports deck or take advantage of the in-line skating track. We enjoyed the skating so much we decided to try out the unique ice-rink on this ship where we could don ice-skates and twirl around the rink. It is one of the only ice-skating rinks at sea. Some of the more adventurous attempted the towering 200 foot rock-climbing wall.
Feeling "entitled" we enjoyed delightful lunches and then decided to take advantage of the ShipShape Spa Fitness Center ... of course, after the pre-requisite resting period. They offer so many different levels of aerobic exercises that we could easily find one where we would fit in.... yoga, cycling, balance, toning plus so many more. It was hard to make choices. In addition we could select a walk-a-thon, all kinds of dance classes and line dancing or even some ping pong ... absolutely something for everyone. Of course, there is a workout area with a full-range of equipment, including treadmills, recumbent cycles, elliptical cross trainers and other cardiovascular and strength training equipment. The room is filled with soft music and TV monitors but the best is the huge windows looking out on the ocean. What a spectacular view!
What better way to top it all off than a relaxing treatment in the sumptuous Spa. There is a sweeping spiral staircase that leads to the Spa and Hair Salon that is surrounded by murals depicting an Italian Tuscan landscape. All the treatment rooms contain a series of colorful watercolors in addition to sketch designs for ceramicware that are typical from this region. It is a serene, peaceful atmosphere that allows for complete relaxation. This is where we had our "afternoon nap" as we dozed off each afternoon with our private massage.
Because of all the eating we were doing, the exercise and fitness activities pulled us to them but there is so much more offered onboard. There is something for everyone. The ship is technology state-of-the-art with a Cyber-lounge that provides 24-hour access to the Internet with connections to the popular web sites for updates on stocks, sports and entertainment. We could check our email and send off some of our photos immediately. Each cabin also has unlimited Internet access for anyone who brings a laptop onboard.
There is a lovely card and game room, library and so many presentations there is no way you can get to all of them. You can learn about almost everything ... from experts! The elaborate gambling casino .. The Casino Royale opens and closes late. It is difficult to just walk by as you hear and see over 294 of the hottest new slots with unprecedented interactivity and incredible state-of-the-art features. There are also ample blackjack tables, Caribbean Stud Poker tables, roulette wheels and a craps table.
If "shop till you drop" is one of your mottos, you will find lots to take back home. We found not only fantastic duty-free shopping but unusually great pricing all the time, and especially when they ran some "specials". If that is not enough there are always unique demonstrations along the Royal Promenade, Art Auctions and pool parties to give you several more choices.
Want to soak up some culture? The Navigator has an $8.5 million art collection that rivals top galleries onshore. The works include blown glass and ceramics, to stainless steel sculptures and tile mosaics, to pop culture posters and costumes from famous ballets. A great deal of thought has been put into the placement of each piece. We enjoyed gazing at the different styles from classical to whimsical and were in awe of the people who were so inspired with their selection and placement.
There are over 200 paintings in the traditional three-level main dining room. We loved the funky, upbeat sculpture on the pool deck and the brightly painted, sculpted caricature of a portly duffer with golf club and balls in hand near the sports court. All of the pieces on the shipís starboard-side are representational paintings featuring motifs such as landscapes, still-lifes and interiors, while the port-side landing paintings are abstract. Knowing this made it easier to orient ourselves.
We got to see a cooking demonstration with Master Chef Rudi Sodamin where we learned the art of his Caribbean dishes and had him autograph the amazing cook book we brought home with us. We wanted to continue tasting these fabulous dishes. Later, a visit to his kitchens on the ship showed us a huge area, an immaculately clean expanse of tile and chrome, with lots of preparation going on for the evening meals. It is hard to realize that thousands of meals have to be prepared three times a day for varying restaurants and be served in a short period of time with each one coming out looking beautifully appetizing and tasting superb. Not only do they have to be great cooks but extremely well-organized!
Did we tell you that this ship has a special walk, Bridge Overlook Area, where you can sneak a peek at the captain or his first officer charting a course through the Caribbean? That was amazing to us as we could see the huge amount of instrumentation, computers and charts that are used to navigate this ship.
We did not bring any children with us this time but checked out everything for kids so we would know for our next family outing. We expect we shall never hear that a youngster does not have enough to do. We were amazed at the size of the space this ship has allotted to the children. They have dedicated over 22,000 square feet of prime ship space for use by its younger guests. Thatís 6,000 square feet over and above the already-expansive kids areas on its other Voyager-class ships.
Their Adventure Ocean program is one of the most comprehensive activity programs at sea. The staff of energetic and educated young people manage a program tailored to five separate age groups. Most of the staff are certified in CPR and First Aid....a big plus in our minds. We loved the age break-down ... 3-5; 6-8; 9-11;12-14; and 15-17. We like having 2 groups for the teenagers as there is too much of a difference from 13 to 17!
Also, teens have their own nightclub ... Fuel; a lounge area ... The Living Room; a private sunbathing area ... The Back Deck. as well as the Video arcades and computer labs. Younger ones have a host of exciting activities gauged to their ages ... so that they will have loads of fun ... learn a little and be excited to be part of these special events planned for them.
Each age group has separate areas to hang out and interact with each other as well as their own computers that are programmed for age-specific activities. Even at the Royal Caribbeanís private beach at Labadee, Hispaniola, there are various events and fun activities arranged for all groups, including beach relays and wacky Olympics.
We have already noted that our next trip on this ship WILL be a family outing.
Before we realize it, the evening is upon us and our short respite in the cabin, with possibly a quick, though relaxing drink on our balcony, comfortable shower and change of clothes for evening activities and we are off. Each night we tried something different as there were lots of choices. Should we have a glass of wine in the Vintage Bar? Or sip some champagne at the Champagne Bar? Decisions, decisions! There are several other bars all around the ship ... we counted 17 ... so there are ample areas to sit, unwind, chat and imbibe. We met some friends early each evening and then went off to a fabulous, elegant, relaxed dinner.
After dinner, we had even more choices. While we were onboard, there were two main performances .. One the Now and Forever Production Show was held in the 1,350 seat Metropolis Theater, with its spectacular early Art Deco design and state-of-the-art sound and lighting. We watched, entranced as before us was a Broadway-caliber show produced by Royal Caribbean.
Next evening, after dinner, we went to Studio B, a two-story, 900-seat arena with stadium seating and state-of-the-art broadcasting facilities that housed the ice-skating rink. We were captivated by the skill of these professional skaters and the interactive, fast-paced, high-tech production numbers in Ice Danciní. .... a fabulous show!
But the evening was young and we were just getting started. On the Navigator you can keep going almost all night and we certainly tried to. Music of all kinds is abundant ... Classical guitar melodies at the Vintages Wine Bar, piano bar entertainment at Schooner Bar; easy listening in the Cosmopolitan Jazz Club; top discs music at The Dungeon; Latin music at Boleros; music in the pub at Two Poets Pub and dance music in the Ixtapa Lounge.
Ecstatic but exhausted each evening, at some point we had to call it a night and head back to our cabin. Oh, and what do we discover but a great movie showing on our cabin TV. Guess this is what they mean by late, late, late nights onboard.
Of course there are the ports of call for each sailing. The Eastern Caribbean itinerary highlights San Juan, Puerto Rico; Nassau, Bahamas; St. Thomas, U.S.V.I and Labadee, Hispaniola ... while the Western Caribbean itinerary makes stops at Labadee, Hispaniola; Ocho Rios, Jamaica; George Town, Grand Cayman and Cozumel, Mexico. Trips offshore are always fun, exciting and informative but we love this ship so much ... it almost seems a shame to leave it.
Just to round things out ... when we got back to Miami to disembark ... that, too, was painless. Our bags were where they were supposed to be and got there before we did. A perfect ending to a fantastic voyage.
Though this is a huge ship, we never felt overwhelmed by its size or the number of other people onboard. There is room for everyone to find his own private, secluded spot if that is what you want or to mix with the crowds and join in the fun.
We sure hope we see you on our next cruise onboard the Navigator of the Seas. We plan to book one soon.
In 2003 the Navigator of the Seas will offer alternating, year-round, seven-night cruises to the Eastern and Western Caribbean, departing Saturdays out of Miami.
Eastern Caribbean from Miami .. 7 nights roundtrip from Miami
Nassau, Bahamas; St. Thomas, U.S.V.I., San Juan, Puerto Rico; Labadee, Hispaniola
Western Caribbean .. 7 nights roundtrip from Miami
Labadee, Hispaniola; Ocho Rios,Jamaica; George Town, Grand Caymn; Cozumel, Mexico
Some information, from our experience on a cruise ship, to guide you with your planning:
As for the staterooms .. There obviously is a wide selection. We found the deck you were on made absolutely no difference on a ship as large as this one. All the rooms are situated above the water line. Whether you are located at the bow, midship or stern also did not seem to make a difference.
The inside rooms, which cost less, are about the same size and have ample storage. If you can manage without a window, these rooms are very good. The outside rooms can have a large picture type window overlooking the water, or a small balcony with a table and two chairs where you can sit outside and enjoy the privacy. The size of these rooms seems to be very much the same, though we did not get to measure them. Of course, there are the suites. These are deluxe with sitting rooms, bedroom, small kitchen area with refrig, extra TV, and bar, etc. Depending on your pocketbook and need for comforts you can make your choice. For the most part, once on the ship, you spend very little time in your room.
We had a balcony room and found it a plus for us. We also liked to check out the sunrises and sunsets from the balcony.
The cost of one of these cruises certainly can vary. The cruise line has set rates for each of its staterooms for each week it is traveling, so quoting prices is almost impossible. On top of that, there are many, many agents who can get special rates for you. If you check the local papers you will see rates from hundreds per person to many thousands for the same trip.
Cruise ships have to sail with all or most of their rooms filled. As a result, as the sailing date draws close, there are some discount agents who can obtain really bargain rates for you, so the ship goes out full. Of course, you have to be ready to make last minute plans.
As for additional charges, there can be some extra costs once onboard. Most everything is included in the basic fee ... the food, all shows, entertainment and most shipboard activities. There are additional charges for drinks, shopping, massages, beauty parlor, photos, possibly computer Internet time and for the shore excursions. It is your choice to spend or not. It is possible to cruise without laying out an extra penny but we would highly recommend taking some of the shore excursions.
Tipping is expected but certainly not manditory. Guidlines are provided so you have some basis for determining what you elect to do.
Each cruise line has its own sales office and most licensed travel agents book cruises. Many now have website addresses so you can check them out on the Internet. We shall list a few but cannot vouch for any. You had best check them out yourself.
For additional information about the cruise line ...www.royalcarribean.com
Cruise Supermarket .. 800-960-7447
Cruises Only .. 800-278-4737
Travel & Such .. 800-321-3961
Liberty Travel .. 1-888-569-2851