Eastern Caribbean on the Navigator of the Seas
11/22/03 to 11/29/03
Eastern Caribbean Ports of Call: Nassau, Grand Bahamas; St. Thomas; San Juan, Puerto Rico; and Labadee, Hispaniola
A week on the Navigator of the Seas is a great way to spend a Thanksgiving vacation. We had never taken a cruise during a holiday, due to family visitation commitments and a concern that the cruise would be overrun with unruly kids. Well there were 750 children on board, but for the most part they must have been well occupied and having a good time, since they weren’t causing disturbances. Most were well behaved and polite. You will always have a few kids on any cruise that aren’t properly attended to; but for the most part, they were very good cruise mates.
Speaking of cruise mates, we had a good size group of Cruise Critic friends that we had conversed with on the Roll Call Board for many months. Since the official Meet and Mingle was set up for day three at 11:30AM, we set up a pre-meeting on day one at 3:00 in the Cosmopolitan Club in the Viking Crown Lounge right after the lifeboat drill. We had a good turnout of about 20 people and were finally able to meet our new friends from the board.
Michelle, Jerry, Karl, JoElla, & Nancy Lilly Jo, Kim, and Allan
Patrick and Bernadine Kathy, Anne, and Michelle
By the time we had the official M&M we already knew most of the folks and didn’t have to remember too many new names. The Navigator social director Mikiko Ikemoto hosted our official party. We were very pleasantly surprised when Captain Bang and his wife showed up for our M&M. He spoke to us and stayed for a good time afterwards answering questions. He is very personable. We ran into him several times during the cruise and he was always very friendly and genuinely nice. This was our tenth cruise, and it was the first time I have ever felt that the captain really cared about the passengers. He's a great guy.
Capt. & Mrs. Bang, Mikiko Capt. Leif Otto Bang Mike/Carol, Jerry/Anne
Robin with Mikiko Nancy with Mikiko
The weather during our cruise was surprisingly mild. It was great for touring; and it kept the pool very comfortable for relaxing, but too cool for swimming. It did allow us to keep the balcony door open at night.
Due to the potential problems from the Fair Trade Meeting in Miami, we got to the port particularly early, 10:30. We parked the car and proceed to the terminal, expecting to have to wait for a while before being allowed to board. To our surprise, we were able to go inside the terminal, clear the initial security check and get in line. The process was very organized and it moved very quickly. We were in our cabin by 11:30. That was the first of many unexpected and pleasant surprises.
This was our first cruise on a Voyager class ship, and we found it to be a wonderful design. The Royal Promenade really is a great addition to a ship. It is set up to be just like a Main Street in any town. The shops have store fronts, and the cafes have sidewalk tables where you can sit and watch the people go by. There’s a sandwich shop with freshly baked chocolate chip cookies. Since the cruise is all inclusive, you just walk up and tell them what you want and they hand it to you. No money needed.
There is always something going on that will entertain you or occupy your spare time should you have any. It is a very functional area for numerous activities. Street bands, clowns, jugglers, and magicians were just a few of the sights to see. The lighting changed throughout the day to give it a different look. It is the nerve center for most activities on the ship, as well as the parades.
Entrance to Main Street Two Poets Lounge
The soft serve ice cream machine and 24-hour snacks at the Café Promenade provided incentive for a steady flow of people to the forward areas of the promenade.
Café Promenade Soft serve ice cream at any time
Navigator is a lovely ship with many interesting and well-decorated public rooms. The three-tiered Dining Room is particularly nice.
The service was very good wherever we went, and the employees’ attitudes were quite friendly. Any time we wanted help there was always someone right there willing to see to our every need. The only time that the ship seemed in the least bit crowded was when shows were over in the theater, and everyone was trying to exit through only two doors. Other than that, the people movement was surprisingly smooth.
Since the seas didn’t appear particularly rough, we were surprised to find that the Navigator seemed to have more movement than some of our previous cruise ships. Although we felt the movement, it was more of a short jerky motion than the big swings that can get me queasy. I would say that it was enough to be noticeable, but not enough to cause seasickness.
We had a centrally located balcony cabin that was very functional and comfortable. It was basically the same cabin layout as we had on the Brilliance, except just a little smaller and with less closet space. The shower had the sliding doors rather than the curtain and seemed a bit bigger, which was very welcome.
Cabin # 7588 Class DB
One thing that we really liked was the safe. In most ships and hotels with safes, you need to enter your code to open and close the safe. On Navigator, when you want to close the safe, you just push a close button and it locks. Very handy and much quicker.
The food was good to very good in the dining room and Windjammer; although with the relaxed schedule we didn’t go to the Windjammer very much. The service was very good in both the dining room and Windjammer.
Head Waiter Mustaffa Waiter Jorge
Asst. Waiter Janet
We went to Portifino’s on Carol’s birthday. The food was excellent and the service impeccable. We also ate at Chops another night. Both restaurants are worth the extra charge. Delicious!
The entertainment on this cruise was just outstanding, a pleasant surprise indeed. There are normally a few mediocre performers, but not on this cruise. Although we had seen one of the production shows on the Brilliance in June, they were still very well done. The three comedians (Steve Solomon, Rondell Sheridan and Gregory Carey) were all hilarious. They didn’t use the same old material that you normally hear from ship comedians. Everything was fresh and their own stuff.
There were two specialty acts. One of them, El Gaucho, was rather unique. He played several different instruments, but his main show was comedy and using whips and bolas in strange ways. Quite entertaining. On the first and last nights they also had an act called the Amazing Duo Iouvilov. This couple had previously been with Cirque du Soleil and did some amazing routines. I couldn’t believe the way that girl could twist her body. The very last thing she does is so amazing, that I would not have believed it had I not seen it.
The ice show is a must see. As many people had told us, it is amazing what they can do in such a small ice rink.
The Navigator has one very unique form of entertainment in its parades. Our cruise had two parades down the Promenade. The first had an ocean theme.
The second parade followed a Mardi Gras Around the World theme. Both parades were so colorful, and you were right there within reach of the performers!
There are lots of things to do to keep you entertained on board. We realized on the last day that we never made it to the miniature golf course. Oh well, we will have to save it for another time. We aren’t big gamblers, so we never made it to the casino except to pass through to get somewhere else. Our tablemates and several of our CC friends did win money, even in the slot machines, which is quite unusual.
When we booked this cruise, we weren’t expecting much from the ports since, except Labadee, we had been to all of them several times. Once again we were very pleasantly surprised.
Nassau - Since we had been to Nassau numerous times, we thought it would be nice to do something different. We booked the Dolphin Encounter. What a great experience! Blue Lagoon is an outstanding facility and in a very scenic location.
There were two trainers working the dolphins and we got the best one. He was entertaining and the dolphin kept us laughing during most of the time. We had been on a Dolphin Swim recently, and this was much more enjoyable to us. We had more contact with the dolphin on this Encounter, and it was just more quality time. (These pictures were taken with a disposable camera from a distance, then blown up. Therefore, they are not as clear.)
The Dance The Hug
Some of our CC friends were with the other trainer. I went over to get pictures of them and it was a much more subdued atmosphere. They even commented to us that they could tell that our group was having much more fun because of all of the laughter and shouts; but they still enjoyed their encounter, although it was different.
St. Thomas – Since our first port of call was Nassau, Grand Bahamas, we had to go through customs before reentering the United States again at St. Thomas. This was an absolutely painless, quick procedure, and just a matter of showing the agents our passports. I don’t know why anyone would complain about it, as I have heard some on the Cruise Critic boards do.
Since it was Carol’s birthday, we had planned on spending the whole day shopping in the shopping capital of the Caribbean. Believe me, we accomplished our goal. We both found some great items. It is funny that with all the great stores in St. Thomas, we keep finding the special jewelry items at the same store I have been going to for almost 20 years, Imperial Jewelers.
We found out later that the excursions to St. John were cancelled due to rough seas, so there were some disappointed folks.
San Juan – The one place we had never been able to go to on our previous trips to San Juan was the well-known fort, El Morro. Since we weren’t in any rush and had nothing else planned, we took the free bus to El Morro. We had to wait about 30 minutes for it to pick us up; but since the weather was mild, it was a pleasant wait. The fort itself is in a lovely setting and provides numerous photo ops.
When we were ready to leave, we found the best photo location of all; it was actually in the rest rooms! Go all the way through the rest room and out the back, and you will find a great view of the ocean and the wall of the fort.
Labadee – I have read so much about how people really enjoyed Labadee. I just really wasn’t that excited about it. Since we live in a tropical area, it just seemed like a wasted port when we booked the cruise. Boy, was I wrong. What a great setup!
An absolutely beautiful location with lots of things to do and very good shopping. Everything is within a short walk or you can take the little tram around the grounds for free. Be sure to go out to Dragon’s Rock. Very pretty.
We had signed up for the parasailing; but the winds were too high where the parasailing was to take place. They warned us that they might be canceling it; and if they didn’t, it would be very rough. They offered a full refund, so we passed. We were glad later, because one of our friends said she had a rough landing and hurt her ankle and knee.
The beaches were quite nice and everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves. There are two marketplaces. The Artisan market had very nice native crafts with no sales pressure from the vendors. The items were mostly handmade by individuals. On the other hand, the Haitian Market had relatively aggressive salesmen doing anything possible to sell you something. They really had some nice unique stuff though. It seemed like you could get most things at 25% to 35% of their starting price.
I was very impressed with the tendering in Labadee. RCCL has it down to a science with boats designed especially for tendering. It was very easy and quick to get on and off. The special piers they had constructed made it even easier to get onto the land. One of our handicapped friends had no problem going onto the shore.
The only down side was that the food was not great at the barbeque. But, it was free; and it was a good opportunity to give your stomach a rest.
We were in the 4th group to disembark. We got off the ship very quickly once our color was called just before 8:00. Probably the only disappointment was that with the quick exit off the ship and an easy “go” through customs (very well organized for moving a lot of people quickly), we had to wait almost 45 minutes for our luggage to finally come off the ship and find its way to the luggage carousel. Even so, we got to our car by 9:00 and were home by 10:00. All in all a pretty quick exit for us, but the luggage handling caused a lot of stress to those that had early disembarkation due to early flights. Even with the last minute stress, we had a very nice and relaxing cruise.
Below is a link to the Shutterfly albums with other photos from the vacations:
© 2013 ThePreismans.com • All Rights Reserved