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Navigator of the Seas Eastern Caribbean review
My wife and I just returned from 7 day NOTS cruise. A review is in
order to pass along information to others. I'll break it down:
We ported out of Miami on November 27, 2004. This was our second
cruise, the first being on the Galaxy (Celebrity) in 2000, Southern
EMBARKATION - Our travel booklet from RCCL said boarding time was
3:00pm, but they started to let people board around 1:00pm.
Considering the ship carried +3,000 passengers, it was not bad. About
an hour of standing/slowly moving in line. No complaints.
THE SHIP - I was quite impressed with the size, and newness of NOTS.
As I had read earlier, the center section is the "Promenade" which is
literally a "street" lined with shops and a couple of bars. NOTS is
definitely a family-oriented ship, with plenty of things for kids to
do. A family would enjoy this cruise, with older kids able to find
things to entertain themselves, and younger kids can participate in the
programs RCCL offers to let them take care of your kids with fun things
to do. I suspect there is a rather hefty charge for staff to entertain
the kids, but I do not know that.
We had good weather the entire trip, and hardly noticed any movement of
the ship. My wife got somewhat queazy on the Galaxy, but she took
ginger to control the effects on our first cruise. Personally, I think
the size of NOTS, and its modern stabilization features, helps to much
more control the rocking and rolling.
Our balcony stateroom was on the sixth floor; on the Galaxy we only had
a window. If money is not a real issue, then a balcony is a must.
However, if the decision was to either take a really great cruise but
save money by not getting a balcony vs. taking a mediocre cruise but
get a balcony, I could do without. We did not spend a lot of time out
there, but maybe other people would.
We took 3 pieces of luggage + carry-ons. One of our suitcases is about
the biggest piece of regular luggage you can buy, and all three fit
under our bed! I was really surprised. We carried a lot of hanging
clothes, and it did pretty much fill up the closet. All in all, the
cabin was good, no complaints. Stand-alone shower is rather small, not
for newlyweds or people with marked obesity.
One really great thing I had already learned beforehand: NOTS has
dial-up internet service available in your cabin, but only 50 of the
cybercabin units are available. The unit is simply a desktop telephone
with a modem built in, very easy to set up and use. The speed is slow,
but we live out in the country anyway, so we are used to it. Having
access to the internet in the cabin was just GREAT, as I had to keep in
touch with the office by email. If you want to get one of these units,
make sure you board early, and go quickly to Guest Relations on the 5th
floor and get one. It is a flat $100 for the entire cruise, and well
worth it if you have the need for using your laptop as I did. NOTS
also has per-minute access in its regular business services area, and
Wi-fi, but I am not sure if the Wi-fi is available ship-wide, or only
in certain areas.
One noticeable difference with RCCL is the on-board annoucements about
what is going on all the time. You can cut the speaker off in your
cabin, which we did. I could do without the announcements. Another
irritation was the never-ending selling of tropical drinks in the
common areas. You can be eating a staff member with a tray full of
drinks comes by asking everyone if they wanted to buy a drink. Kinda
tacky, I thought.
THE FOOD - we had early dining, won't do that again. We had late
dining on the Galaxy, but found out with early dining that after a long
day outside, to then come back onboard, get showered, dressed and down
to eat was rushed. Then we you are done, there were no activities that
interested us until 11:00pm (like dancing - more on that later - there
was none). And by 11:00pm, we were ready for bed.
The food on NOTS was reasonably good. We ate breakfast and lunch
buffet style in the Windjammer, lots to choose from. The views from
the Windjammer are just spectacular if can sit near the windows. For
the dinner, it was a 3 course meal (Galaxy was 5) and the food just did
not come near the quality of Celebrity. No complaints, just a
difference in quality, on the Galaxy the food was wonderful.
Our biggest disappointment on this cruise was the entertainment: the
live music was just bad, and the DJ music was worse. My wife and I
love to dance (uh, we are 46 and 55 years old, baby-boomers that like
to get loose and dance!!) and the music was either Latin music (we
liked "Dirty Dancing" but can't dance like that) or it was RAP music
that made me want to go out and steal a tire. On the Galaxy, we stayed
up until 2:00am dancing every night to good music. Just really
disappointed. On the last evening, NOTS advertised a "Going Away Dance
Party" and while the band was a good band, it was not dance music, no
one danced at all, but rather, most people walked in to see what it was
liked, turned around and left. We left after 20 minutes when it became
clear that this was not dance music. This was in the Ixtapa Lounge,
which probably held 300 people, and when we left, maybe 10 people
THE SERVICE - is why I am writing this review. This is not to be
critical, but to be instructive and informative. It is our opinion
that the staff on NOTS was just totally of a different caliber that
with our first cruise on Galaxy. Staff just seemed unhappy and
certainly did not bend over backwards to help. Never saw our stateroom
attendants except on the first day. No complaints about their service,
it's just that on the Galaxy we saw the attendants at least once each
day, as they would come by the cabin and check on us, see if we needed
anything, it was that extra personal touch.
The same was true with everyone else who worked onboard, except the
waiters. They just did not seem happy, did not smile or exchange
pleasantries. We did strike up a long conversation with our waitress
in one of the bars, and she complained that RCCL only paid a stipend,
and the employees lived off tips. She said that RCCL recruited workers
from the islands, and in doing so it certainly offered most of them a
lot better room/board than that to which they were accustomed, but the
low wages did not leave any of them any opportunity to otherwise
improve their quality of like. They are just stuck working for a
cruise line, with a good roof over their heads, and good food, but low
pay. We can only compare this to the employees on Celebrity's Galaxy,
where all of the employees were cheerful, smiling, and went out of
their way to treat you like a King and Queen. We just felt like we
were staying in a Holiday Inn, and not the Hyatt or Hilton. And I
guess that is the difference with RCCL and other cruise lines that are
more expensive, such as Celebrity. The waiters were a lot better than
the rest of the RCCL staff, but they, too, just did not have that
classy style like Celebrity's staff.
THE ITINERARY - we went to Labadee, Jamaica, Grand Cayman and Cozumel.
We did not take any of the ship's excursions, we prefer to do our own.
Labadee was good, it is RCCL's private beach in Haiti. We tendered in,
and just stayed on beach, or in the ocean on one of the floating
mattress pads. There is a large outdoor pavillion where RCCL served
lunch. There were 2 quonset huts where the locals sold their wares,
one is where no one pressures you, the other is with individual booths
where you are almost grabbed as you walk past each, desparately trying
to get you to buy something from them. Somewhat pitiful in a way, but
I guess that is comparing my life with theirs.
Labadee was our first stop after a day at sea, and we were all anxious
to get onto the beach, so it served the purpose. And once again, the
beach was patrolled with RCCL staff wanting to sell you drinks, but at
least they were quite entertaining with their sales pitches ("More
Rummie for the tummie" and "More booze makes for a better cruise").
But still tacky.
In Jamaica, we simply walked a short distance from NOTS to the shopping
area where Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville is located, and stayed there
the entire day. It appears to be an area that is starting to decline,
as some of the stores were empty. Plenty of vendors on the sidewalks.
One lady wanted to sell us a simple beaded necklace, when we asked the
price, she said $40. In disbelief, we just walked away, and she
started immediately coming down to $25, then $20, as we kept walking.
Disappointed me that she thought we would pay anything more than $4 for
a simple beaded necklace.
But then we went into Margaritaville, and you can just spend the rest
of your day there. It is a combination gift shop - bar - swimming pool
- restaurant - dance floor where we did all of the above. The food was
good and not too expensive, the pool was great, not a huge pool, but
certainly big enough, and deep. Good music playing, a lot of drinking
going on at the swim-up bar, we just sat and took it all in and had a
great time. There has to be a million other things to do in Jamaica,
but we were on vacation, to relax and get away from it all, and this
was where we ended up.
Grand Cayman - was just devasted by the hurricane(s) earlier this year,
and November was the first month that the cruise ships were allowed to
return. The island has just been destroyed, but new construction and
clean-up will continue until everything is back to as good of condition
as they can get it. We took a bus/cab to the public beach, part of 7
Mile Beach, and it had all been cleaned up, only about 200 yards of
good beach, though. We were ready to spend the day there, only to
discover that because the telephone service had not been restored to
this area (and probably not restored to very many places at all), the
beach's little bar/restaurant could not take credit cards, and you have
to use cash. We did not have enough cash to rent chairs, umbrellas,
buy food and drink, so we left, with the intention of getting cash at
an ATM at a bank, but we never came back.
We ended up at the pier and ate lunch at a restaturant called Eden
Rock, where the service was HORRIBLE. It took an 1 1/2 hrs. to get our
food, and it was mediocre at best, and the prices were outrageous. Do
not go there. Hard Rock Cafe is nearby, but closed due to the
hurricane damage. I have heard so much about Grand Cayman over the
years, and very sorry they have suffered so much damage, and would like
to return someday when things return to normal. If I had to do it all
over again, this time I would have just stayed on NOTS.
Cozumel: I had checked out the better places to go to meet our
desires, to do the beach thing, swim, eat, drink, be happy. After
reading a lot and reading different opinions, we went to Chankanaab
National Park. Out taxi driver told us this was not a good place to
swim, but I made the mistake of not trusting him, thinking that some
other beach club made it worth his while to steer cruise passengers
I should have trusted him. Don't get me wrong, when we arrived (after
a $13 admission fee), Chankanaab has a beautiful entrance and walkways
to get down to the beach, it is groomed so well, like a tropical rain
forest. But once we got to the beach, we quickly discovered this is a
beach for those people who love to snorkle, or scuba. There is not a
sandy beach bottom, but rather, it is all hard coral and nowhere to
stand up, much less very few places to get into/out of the water
without risk breaking your neck. Now, if you want to snorkle, and be a
beach bum, then by all means, go here. The staff was friendly, and
there is the "Swim with the Dolphins" thing, which we went over and
observed before leaving. It seemed like great fun, but it is
expensive, and we wanted to do the beach thing, so we left.
Our next taxi driver, after telling him of our experience and what we
were looking for, recommeded another place I had read about, "Mr.
Sanchos," which is a beach club. You don't have to pay anything to get
it, but once you are escorted to a table and chair with umbrella on the
beach, you need to understand that to stay there you are expected to
drink and eat, or in other words, keep buying food and drink. This was
fine with us, as the beach was WONDERFUL, with the smooth sandy bottom
we wanted, it was not overly crowded, service was good. We spent the
rest of the day here, and I recommend it. It's a $14 cab ride from the
pier to these beach clubs, which are basically one right after the
other once you get out to them.
Finally, I was impressed that after returning to the ship each time
after going to an island, you and everything with you went through
security, x-raying carry-ons and the like. No problem, made me feel
DEBARKATION - this went smoothyly, it's a long wait, but we knew that.
They want you to vacate your cabin by 8:00am and wait in either the
Metropolis or Ixtapa Lounge, but actually most everyone went wherever
they wanted to go, so long as you were not in the cabin. This is the
only time those loudspeakers with messages came in handy, you are
called out to exit the ship according to the color of your luggage
tags. We were off the ship by 11:00am.
To conclude here, I think NOTS is a wonderful ship, much better than
the Galaxy, but RCCL is scrimping on paying its staff a decent wage,
and scrimping on paying for decent entertainment. If you are
family-oriented, you will like this ship more than us. For couples,
this is not your ship or cruise line, and this will be our last cruise
I just got back from the 7 night Eastern Caribbean on the Voyager of
the Seas that left the same day as your cruise from Miami. I think
your complaints about the entertainment probably have a lot to do with
the cruise director. The shows on our ship were pretty good for the
most part. I wasn't expecting broadway quality though because if these
people were broadway quality, they'd be on broadway. They were
entertaining and mostly impressive though nonetheless. The cruise
director was great and super high energy making everybody laugh.
Your complaint about the music selection seems the opposite of what
there was on our ship. There was a disco night, music through the ages
night with 50's, 60's, and 70's, and lots of other opportunities to
dance to different kinds of music.
I was surprised that you never saw your stateroom attendant. We saw
ours almost daily and he was always all smiles and friendly. He also
had my wife's side of the bed fixed immediately when she mentioned
about it slanting down in the middle a bit.
Our waiter's were also very friendly and always smiling. One was South
American or Puerto Rican and the other was Jamaican guy about 6'6" and
always happy-go-lucky. I did notice that some of the waiters were not
so friendly though. Maybe we just got lucky in all of this. When you
consider the tips these guys get though every week, I'm sure they have
plenty of money to send home to their families or enjoy themselves.
The drink guys were funny I thought. They didn't bother me at all. I
found myself saying (in a Jamaican accent) "Aaahlright, sippin' time
sippin' time", "sip n' smile, sip n' smile".
All in all, I would recommend Royal Caribbean and a Voyager class ship
to anyone. Celebrity Cruises is owned by Royal Caribbean's parent
company so I'm surprised the quality of workers is any different at all.
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