Navigator of the Seas Live Blog

Navigator of the Seas Live Blog - Day 9 - Sea Day

In:
25Feb2017

Our last day on Navigator of the Seas, and while I cannot say I was excited for today, I also was glad to have one more day onboard. Being a nine-night sailing, this felt like a significantly longer cruise and I think that made the last day slightly less depressing.

We slept in and went up the Windjammer for breakfast. Even rolling in around 9:30am, there was not much of an issue finding a table. In fact, crowds were rarely a problem. Even going later in the evening to Guest Relations desk in the evening of the last night had no line.

We had a few group meets this morning, including a podcast recording and stateroom crawl. In fact, even the cruise ship’s hotel director and food and beverage manager joined us to say thank you and answer some questions.

We decided to order lunch to the room one last time. Of all the suite perks we have, the lunch in the room was very convenient for a family.

Speaking of family, I took my oldest daughter ice skating. I had promised her I would take her again and so I took her for a few laps. She insisted before the skate that she wanted to skate without me holding her hand but that did not really hold up. We had fun and I’m hoping when we go on Harmony of the Seas in September, she will continue to improve her skating skills.

I may have also made a stop at the NextCruise office and inquired about a sailing or two. More details to come once I have some firm details.

We had dinner at Sabor, in what has become a pseudo-tradition on group cruises to enjoy, “one last guac”. The meal was terrific and I can say that I will sleep better tonight with that food consumed.

Overall, this was a phenomenal cruise. The weather was absolutely perfect and the friends that joined me on this cruise were so much fun. Going on a Royal Caribbean is always fun, but when you have friends join you, it makes the experience so much better. I am grateful to everyone who took time out of their lives, and spent their vacation time on a cruise with us. I know everyone had a good time onboard because of the great personalities, and everyday was better than the next.

Our next group cruise is in September 2017 on Harmony of the Seas and I will take this opportunity to invite you to join us for that sailing. I cannot wait to start that journey and even more excited to see the friends I made on this sailing and meet new ones.

Thank you to everyone who followed this live blog. I never had so much fun staying up late to write blog posts!

Stray Observations

  • Interestingly, Allure of the Seas appeared nearby this morning and we seemed to follow each other all day.
  • As per usual, there were a number of souvenir glasses for sale around the ship. One table was set up at the Windjammer entrance and another on the Royal Promenade.
  • The ocean was as calm as a pond. Impressive and beautiful.

Live Blog Index

    Navigator of the Seas Live Blog - Day 8 - Sea Day

    In:
    24Feb2017

    After three days of ports, we took today to sleep in and take it easy this morning. I always joke that relaxing days make for good days for me, and boring live blogs.

    We enjoyed breakfast in the Windjammer, and even though we rolled into the Windjammer around 10am, we were still able to find an empty table relatively quickly.

    We took the kids to do mini golf after breakfast. I briefly contemplated attempting to show the girls how to properly mini golf, but they were having a great time making up all of their own rules and playing how they wanted.

    We noticed on the Cruise Compass there was a watercolor class offered in the main dining room during the afternoon. My oldest daughter loves to do anything art related and we decided to try it out. I was not sure what the class would entail, but it turned out to be a great opportunity to hear painting strategies from the teacher, but ultimately, it was open to painting however you wanted and my daughter really enjoyed it.

    The folks in our group cruise decided to try our hand at mini golf at the Navigator Dunes. We had a great time playing the nine holes of golf. With the wind and various obstructions in the course, it was more challenging than I thought.

    We also wanted to try the tapas offered at Vintages. I have always seen tapas as an option, but never tried it. For $5, you can get a plank of meats, cheeses and fruit.

    We have had flawless weather all week and I finally got a chance to catch a sunset at sea while waiting for Adventure Ocean to open. I do not care how many times I see a sunset at sea, it never gets old.

    This evening’s entertainment was Broadway Now and Forever. I think we have seen this show five times now and it is a great performance. The Mamma Mia finale is particularly good.

    \

    For dinner tonight, we were in Chops Grille. Chops never disappoints and this evening was no different. I had the NY Strip steak and my wife had the Filet Mignon. Great choices all around.

    Stray Observations

    • Remember how we skipped ahead an hour a few days ago? We will set the clocks back on disembarkation day morning.
    • When using the WiFi on Navigator of the Seas, if one person is logged in and another uses the same login, it knocks the other user off. On other ships, it will deny the login for user #2 until the first user logs out.
    • The golf simulator is still on Navigator of the Seas, but the sports deck crew member indicated it was not properly working. But at the very least, it is still in place and sort of functional.
    • Earn enough points in the casino and you can win a free cruise!

    Live Blog Index

      Navigator of the Seas Live Blog - Day 7 - Bonaire

      In:
      23Feb2017

      Today is our last port stop, and it is in the island of Bonaire. Completing our tour of the “ABC Islands,” we had the least planned for this day. And by least, I really mean no plans.

      Our ship docked at 7am, just as it did in other islands, and we enjoyed breakfast in the Windjammer before dropping both children off at Adventure Ocean. We decided to leave both children onboard for this port stop so they could have a fun day and my wife and I could enjoy some time onshore.

      Bonaire seems to offer the least things to do of the ports we visited near the ship dock. It is a nice, small town that has a few restaurants and some open air markets, but it is not like Cozumel, Curacao or St. Thomas in terms of having a lot to offer in town.

      We made the best of the day, with a quick stop in a coffee shop and then started walking around to see what was available.

      We had hoped to find a nice beach that we could walk to, but came up short in that endeavor. We did enjoy a nice water taxi ride back to the dock ($5 per person) and then a good lunch in town.

      With no children in tow, we decided to cut our losses and head back to the ship for swimming. Believe it or not, we had not gone swimming on this cruise yet. So my wife and I enjoyed some time in the Solarium. It was glorious and in case you are wondering, the Solarium pool water is salt water.

      We watched sailaway from the pool deck and wished adieu to Bonaire on another stunning evening. Each evening has been perfect weather wise.

      We had planned to go to the main dining room for dinner, but decided to try out Izumi. As many of you know, I had eaten Izumi takeout over the course of the cruise, but we wanted to full experience.

      Izumi is on deck 14 and we had really good waiter service with Glen. Glen has been working at Izumi since 2013 and I remembered him from past cruises. I went for sushi while my wife tried the hot rock.

      I do not remember the hot rock having various sauces to cook the food in, but our waiter Glen assured us it was not anykind of recent change.

      Izumi was a really good meal, and I think its strength is not just the amazing sushi, but the other items on the menu are excellent as well. The hot rock is a fabulous option for guests who prefer not to eat sushi, and is a fun experience in and of itself.

      Stray Observations

      • We spotted the drink card! $85 for 10 drinks. Any takers?
      • The view from the men’s room on deck 11, near the Windjammer, is amazing.
      • Points for these folks who were creative in how they made it known they will return to their pool chairs.

      Tomorrow is a sea day and no firm plans.  Plenty of fun still to go!

      Live Blog Index

        Navigator of the Seas Live Blog - Day 6 - Aruba

        In:
        22Feb2017

        Our second port day brought us to Aruba, another island I have never visited on any previous cruises (or land vacations).

        Our ship docked at 7am, and we got the kids up and ready right around that time. Our plans today were to join everyone else that booked into the RoyalCaribbeanBlog.com group cruise for a tour of the island. I try to give back to folks that support our group cruise endeavors anyway I can, and on this sailing we opted to take everyone on a bus ride around Aruba, followed by a beach stop in Palm beach.

        We met at a few minutes before 9am and boarded the Kunookoo buses. These buses are designed for a fun time, with maracas available to make noise, plenty of classic party songs to sing along to and a colorful and eclectic bus experience.

         

        Our excursion took us to the California lighthouse and Alta Vista church for brief stops there, before heading to the beach.

        I was blown away by how much fun this excursion ended up being, because it was such a great time all around. Traveling with friends always makes for good times, and we all had a blast on the two buses we filled. I am guilty of overusing the phrase, “friends make everything better” but in this situation, it is well deserved. Singing along to “Sweet Home Alabama”, shaking maracas and spending time at the beach made for a very fun day.

        The bus brought us back to the port and we decided to head back to the ship. We had a few hours left before sailaway, but the walk to town was a bit long and I also hesitate being away from the ship more than a couple hours before all aboard time.

        Onboard the ship, we took some time to relax onboard and enjoy the afternoon and evening. It is a great feeling to have a port day and sea day experience on the same day.

        Many of us in the group enjoyed the sailaway out of Aruba from the pool deck and reflected on our time during the day.

        For “pre-dinner” I once again visited Izumi for a sushi “fix” this evening. Izumi offers a take-out option when they are open. I simply call up and about 10-15 minutes and pick it up from the restaurant.

        For dinner this evening, we wanted to take it a little easier and had dinner in our suite. It was nice to have a relaxing meal in our room for one evening.

        Tomorrow is our last port day and we will visit Bonaire.

        Navigator of the Seas Live Blog - Day 5 - Curacao

        In:
        21Feb2017

        Today kicked off the bulk of our Southern Caribbean cruise, with our port stop in Curacao. I have never been here before and I was excited to see what this island has to offer.

        We set the alarm for 7am and got the family prepped and fed prior to disembarking at almost exactly 9am. As the ship pulled into port, Curacao was revealed to us and the closer we got, the more beautiful it became. The color of the water was just amazing.

        We had booked a Private Journeys excursion through Royal Caribbean, which is a Royal Caribbean excursion that allows for complete customization. It started off almost like any other Royal Caribbean excursion, with heading to the tours area of the pier and meeting our driver. Instead of a bus full of other guests, it was just us.

        Our tour guide was actually two ladies, one of which worked for a local tour company. Her friend did the driving and she provided the actual tour, with commentary all along the way. We drove around Curacao in a late model SUV that had plenty of air conditioning (something never to be overlooked).

        Prior to the cruise, I had negotiated with Royal Caribbean directly as to what we would be seeing and doing. I had essentially listed a half-dozen historical Jewish spots around the island and was good with that as our itinerary. When we met our driver, she informed us we would be doing all of that and would also have a tour of the island’s west side included too. Score!

        One of my concerns about the excursion was we were just getting a glorified taxi driver, but our guide knew her stuff. She seemed to know the history of every inch of the island, and when it came to the Jewish cultural sites, she knew the history of it all.

        The plan was to start off with a tour of the western half of the island, and then return to Williamsted to see the sites.

        The western half of the island is quite beautiful, and much more sparsely populated. We stopped at various historical and cultural spots. We saw stunning beaches, monuments to the history of slavery and the highlight of seeing wild flamingos.

        Our tour guide even prepared for us pumpkin pancakes, which were terrific.

        A few hours in, we saw the historic Jewish sites of Curacao, including the Sephardic and Ashkenazi temples. We also made a stop at a Jewish cemetery and the house of a prominent Jewish artist.

        I will write a full post about my Private Journeys excursion in the future, but overall I was quite satisfied with the experience. If I could do it over again, I would have reversed the itinerary and started with the Jewish sites first and then worked in the tour, but hindsight is 20/20.

        Following the tour, my kids and wife wanted to head back to the ship so I went back with them to the room. The allure of exploring Williamsted some more was too enticing and I headed back into town on my own.

        The walk from ship to town is a short 10 minute walk along a nice waterfront walkaway. It culminates with a walk across a pontoon bridge, before arriving in downtown Williamsted. Williamsted can best be described as a more affordable Grand Cayman. Well-manicured, lots of shopping and dining but without that premium price tag.

        I really wanted to get a local cell phone provider SIM card for my phone to use so that I would not feel tethered to WiFi spots. I found a small shop that helped me set it all up and they assured me that it would well in Curacao and Bonaire (might have an issue in Aruba, but TBD). The SIM card and 3 GB of data cost me $45, and while the live streaming performance of the data plan might not be the same as in the United States, it was lovely having a fast connection for social media around town and even while onboard.

        If you are looking for a recommendation for what to do in Curacao, I would recommend going to Williamsted for the morning and then take a taxi to a beach for the afternoon. There are plenty of taxis and the city and countryside offer a lot to do.

        Back onboard Navigator of the Seas, I cleaned up for dinner. My wife and I decided to make reservations for Giovanni’s Table for dinner on a whim and were able to get the exact time we wanted.

        Giovanni’s Table was quite good and I fell in love with the cheese and spinach crepes that came served in a bolognese sauce. Wish I had asked for a second helping of that.

        Our after dinner entertainment was the show, All Access, which is a medley of pop hits from the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s. It was the kind of show that you would sing along to as the cast put a lot of energy into their performance.

        Tomorrow we are headed to nearby Aruba for a day of exploring with my friends onboard the cruise with me.

        Live Blog Index

          Navigator of the Seas Live Blog - Day 4 - Sea Day

          In:
          20Feb2017

          Our second day began an earlier wake up than I thought I would have. Not certain why, but each morning I keep remembering I am on a cruise when I wake up, and then have an overwhelming sense of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) and want to get up and go. Of course, the rest of my body responds, “go back to sleep, you fool!”

          Once we got everyone up and changed, we had breakfast in the Windjammer. One of the nice things about Navigator of the Seas is even though we rolled in for breakfast around 9am, there was still plenty of seating available. In addition, I like the added international foods that I have seen in the Windjammer on this seating.

          This morning we held a very fun event in the Conference Center for the folks in the Royal Caribbean Blog Group Cruise. It’s our version of the 1970’s game show, Match Game. In our version, we made it Royal Caribbean themed and I think we all had a blast. 

          We had a few rounds of Match Game, with Sheila ultimately winning the game and coming home with a lovely $75 onboard credit prize, courtesy of MEI Travel.

          As I mentioned in yesterday’s blog post, the we changed time zones at 11am, so that meant there was no 11:00 hour, and at 10:59am, we went straight to noon.

          My oldest daughter wanted Johnny Rockets for lunch, so we decided to give that a try. Johnny Rockets across all Royal Caribbean ships is an incredibly consistent experience. Whether it is Navigator of the Seas or Freedom of the Seas or Harmony of the Seas, they are very similar experiences.

          There was a quick turnaround for the next event, which was something we called “GuacFest.” We rented out Sabor and provided guacamole, chips, salsa and some other appetizers for everyone that booked into the group cruise free of charge. I feel if folks support RoyalCaribbeanBlog.com and come to our events and support our sponsors, I want to turn around and support them. Holding fun events like this are a great way to do just that.

          The kids went up to Adventure Ocean for the afternoon and my wife went to see the ice skating show in Studio B ice skating rink, while I went with some friends to visual trivia in the Schooner Bar. Visual trivia means you get a sheet of logos and have a fixed amount of time to correctly identify them all. There were 50 and we got 46 correct, but sadly missed out to the winning team that scored 48 correct answers.

          As afternoon began to turn to evening, I collected the children and headed back to the room to get ready for dinner. Losing that one hour in the morning really made this day seem like it was over in a flash.

          Tonight was the Top Tier Crown and Anchor Society welcome back party, where guests that are Platinum or above are invited for a special event to thank them for their loyalty. It was held in Studio B, and I really enjoy the fact Royal Caribbean takes time out of the cruise to thank its most loyal customers.

          We headed to the main dining room for dinner, which was another great meal all around. I usually do not order dessert unless it is coffee ice cream. Tonight, this was my dessert.

          Following dinner it was time for some evening entertainment. We started out in the Pub and then saw the Love and Marriage game show in the Royal Theater. Love and Marriage is a classic show, and the couples this evening did not disappoint. The old couple, in particular, were very funny.

          Stray Observations

          • The Diamond discount for internet is valued at 24 hour access (1 day) of Voom Surf. That means 1 day of Voom Surf & Stream costs $8 out of pocket with the Diamond coupon applied. The lesson learned from this is it is a better value to pre-pay for any Internet package before the cruise.
          • I can vouch there is lots of waiters available at the various bars, especially the pool deck.
          • We spoke to the head waiter after noticing the assistant waiter was taking bar orders in lieu of the bar waiter. Evidently there is a change happening across the fleet to remove the bar waiter and let the assistant waiter grab the drinks. The reasoning is the bar manager had to cover a vast area, and that lead to gaps between visits for refills. Also, the assistant waiter taking drink orders has lead to significantly more sales. If you are still not sold on the idea, the head waiter did note that any land-based restaurant has the waiter taking drink orders.
          • I spoke to Navigator of the Seas’ Food and Beverage manager about the change to having the guacamole made in the kitchen (instead of tableside). The change was precipitated by recommendation by the U.S. Department of Public Health. I then mentioned that land-based restaurants do it all the time, and they pointed out cruise ships are under a different set of rules compared to land restaurants. While I prefer tableside guacamole, the final product remains the same.
          • Trying to figure out if the Golf Simulator onboard is still there and is actually open. There are signs, like this one, but was not around when a crew member was present to ask. The mystery continues.
          • Here are the FlowRider private lesson rates
          • I spotted an epic Donkey Kong reference in the pub

          Tomorrow is a port day, and we will be visiting Curacao.

          Live Blog Index

            Navigator of the Seas Live Blog - Day 3 - Labadee

            In:
            19Feb2017

            Our first port stop on this nine-night cruise is Royal Caribbean's private destination of Labadee.  It is one of my favorite spots in the Caribbean, and I was looking forward to a really fun day at the beach with the family. 

            Our ship docked at 7am in Labadee, and that is also what time we decided to set the alarm for to ensure we get started early.

            While my wife rounded up the kids and got them ready, I ran upstairs to the Windjammer to bring back breakfast for everyone.  I grabbed the usual cheerios, bagels and fruit for the family and I got for myself a vegetable curry. I am really liking the greater breakfast variety in the Windjammer!

            We got off the ship around 8am or so and made our way to Barefoot Beach.  

            Barefoot Beach is reserved for suite and Pinnacle guests and since we are staying in a Grand Suite on Navigator of the Seas, we have access to this beach.  

            We also decided to rent a beachfront cabana, primarily for the expansive area and service that it comes with.  We have rented cabanas at Nellie's Beach for the past few cruises and have come to really like what they offer.  Being that we are in a suite for this sailing, we decided to give the Barefoot Beach cabanas a try.

            The cabanas come with a private space, as well as towels, a cooler full of Evian water, waiter service, upgraded buffet and water floats.  The beach front cabana cost $395 and accommodates up to six guests.  That may sound like a lot, but when you break down the cost per person, per hour over the course of the day, I think it makes a lot of sense.  Plus, it provides us somewhere for the kids to relax (and hopefully nap).

            We got settled into the cabana and went for a swim on a really beautiful day.  It was partly cloudy and temperatures that started in the upper 70's and got up to perhaps in the low 80s. A perfect day for the beach.  For what it's worth, the forecast online had a 40% chance of rain, but it was nothing but sunny and beautiful while we were there.  The lesson learned is do not assume the forecast is definite, especially in the Caribbean.

            I joked with some friends that beach days make for very relaxing and fun times, but boring live blog posts.  So I apologize I do not have more stories to regain you all with, but it was a great time.  Keep in mind that any guest can reserve a cabana in Nellie's Beach, and the experience is nearly identical there to the Barefoot Beach cabanas (the only big difference is no upgraded buffet). 

            All aboard time was 3:30pm, so we headed back to the ship around 2pm.  I took my oldest daughter for a quick swim and snack back on the ship, while my wife took my youngest to nap back in the room. Afterwards, we switched off and my wife went to take a hot stone massage at the Vitality Spa while I took care of the kids in the room.  Having the extra space with the suite (especially the balcony) really makes a difference when trying to keep the kids entertained onboard.

            Following the massage and showers for everyone, we fed the kids dinner and sent them up to Adventure Ocean.  I skipped pre-dinner this evening, just because we had dinner lined up at Sabor and I need all the space in my stomach to accommodate the influx of super amazing guacamole that is headed my way.

            We had a few pre-dinner drinks at the Schooner Bar, which also had Abba trivia being held. Not being much more than an average Abba fan at best (as in I may hum along to a song of theirs on the radio), I did not think much of the idea, but the Schooner Bar was packed! 

            As I mentioned, tonight we had dinner at Sabor.  We managed to get Sabor for just $15 by pre-booking on Royal Caribbean's Cruise Planner. 

            I can confirm that the guacamole is in fact being prepared in the kitchen now instead of tableside.  The wait staff indicated the change was because of U.S. Health Regulations and not a company policy.  The good news is the guacamole is still custom made to your taste and while I may prefer the tableside approach, I can live with the current method.

            As always, I will write a formal review of Sabor in a future blog post, but Sabor remains a great restaurant that I will return to again and again (including this sailing).

            We did spot one new feature at Sabor, which is a margarita flight called, "Three Amigos" which is a series three margaritas to enjoy (rather than ordering each individually). The cost is $18 and if you have a drink package, it is just a $6 surcharge.

            In the most bizarre event to occur to me on a cruise ever, we received a notice that tomorrow at 11am, clocks will move forward one hour.  Not only is the time change occurring, but it's happening in the middle of the day (instead of at night) and that means there is no 11:00am hour.  Very odd!

            Stray Observations

            • There is no kids movie channel. Usually there is a channel with kids TV shows (which there is) and a kids movie channel (which there is not).  
            • I saw at the pool this afternoon a 10 minute massage for $20 offered.  Not a terrible deal for a quick Swedish massage.
            • Here are some things to keep in mind if you visit Labadee and it is your first time:
              • There is complimentary transportation around Labadee that you should take advantage of.  A tram can take you to all the beaches and you can hop on or off.  Likewise, there is a one-way ferry that will take guests from the dock to Columbus Cove.
              • You can get the official drink of Labadee, the Labadoozie, with or without a souvenir cup.  The souvenir cup costs extra if you have an unlimited beverage package.
              • The drink packages work on Labadee.
              • The beaches around Labadee offer different views, but the experience is quite similar.  The further you go from the dock, the less crowded it can be.
            • Johnny Rockets was offering a 20% off coupon for today only.

            Tomorrow is our second sea day and we have some fun activities planned (except during 11am).

            Live Blog Index

              Navigator of the Seas Live Blog - Day 2 - Sea Day

              In:
              18Feb2017

              Our first full day on Navigator of the Seas and I started things off by sleeping in.  I was so tired from not sleeping well the night before the cruise and not getting to bed until about 1am, that I needed to get a few extra hours of sleep to be semi-functional.  

              My oldest daughter seemed to have the same idea, as she slept later than I did and we had to coax her to get her going too.

              For breakfast, we headed up to the Windjammer.  It was about 9:45am, so we were hitting it at peak time, but the crowd was quite manageable.  As usual, I opted for a custom made omelet and it hit the spot.  

              We dropped the oldest daughter off at Adventure Ocean.  She is six years old and it is her first time in the 6-8 year old group in Adventure Ocean.  She had no issues last night, but this morning they mixed Voyagers (9-11) and Explorers and my daughter told the counselors she was not enjoying the antics of the largely boy-dominated group that was there.  The staff allowed her to go down to Aquanauts (3-5) and she did quite well.  When there are not a lot of children on a sailing, the groups are often merged, but this is the first time my daughter had any kind of issue with the mixing.  I think she will end up with the Aquanauts since it is what she would prefer and we will give Explorers another shot on Anthem next month.

              My youngest daughter spent some time in the Optix teen club, where during the day there is open play toys for the toddlers to enjoy.  She loved being in there and there were a few more toddlers for her to play with too.

              For lunch today, we decided to take advantage of our suite benefits and ordered the main dining room lunch menu to be delivered to our room.  All we had to do was call room service and order off the lunch menu provided in our suite.  It was wonderful letting the kids play in the room, but not compromise on the food my wife and I got to enjoy. The turkey parmigiana was awesome!

              One of the oldest debates among cruisers is the decision to splurge for a stateroom with a balcony or not, and I believe if you have one, you spend more time in the room than if you do not.  With that in mind, we spent our early afternoon enjoying a gorgeous day outside.  It was sunny, high in the upper 70s and just a few clouds in the sky.

              By about 2pm, Adventure Ocean reopened, so I brought my oldest daughter up to Adventure Ocean while my wife let the little one nap.

              This afternoon was our Group Cruise bar crawl meet, where many of us in the group sampled some fine concoctions at a few bars around the ship. We started out at the Two Poets Pub and made our way to R-Bar, Boleros, Schooner Bar and the Sky Bar.  A fine time was had by all!

              I managed to sneak in pre-dinner at Izumi. I opted for crispy spicy tuna with an eel sashimi.  I then combined the two and it was amazing. Eating it on my balcony may have contributed to it tasting even better.

              It is formal night tonight, so I collected my daughter from Adventure Ocean and then it was back to the room for showers all around and getting our hair done (mine takes especially long to make perfect).  For us, formal night represents the best opportunity for family photos and we take advantage of the opportunity.

              After taking some nice family photos, we checked out the Concierge Lounge for the first time.

              The Concierge Lounge is for suite guests to enjoy, similar to the Diamond Lounge.  It is smaller, but a very nice spot for meeting friends.  And like the Diamond Lounge, there are snacks and complimentary drinks served.

              Tonight was formal night, and took a formal night group photo, complete with a pinkies up fun shot!

              Dinner was in the main dining room this evening and a great meal.  There was a red snapper on the menu that was quite good.

              We spent our evening at the bars along the Royal Promenade.  There was live jazz music at first and then the pub guitarist returned again this evening.  Love bar hopping around the ship each night!

              Stray Observations 

              • Prior to the cruise, someone asked about noise from the pool deck above us.  No issues with noise above us sleeping last night, and even on the balcony, you do not hear much.  The noise and music tends to go up, and so I can vouch for it being quite lovely out here.
              • Each evening during the Diamond members reception, the Viking Crown Lounge area is closed off for exclusive use of Diamond members as a spillover space. Evidently there are a lot of Diamond members onboard.
              • Tomorrow is our first port stop at Royal Caribbean's private destination of Labadee. Excited to return to paradise!

              Live Blog Index

                Navigator of the Seas Live Blog - Day 1 - Embarkation Day

                In:
                17Feb2017

                Our nine-night Navigator of the Seas adventure is about to begin, and each day I will be sharing with you a look at the fun activities, highlights and events from our time onboard.  

                I am a big proponent of arriving to your embarkation port at least a day in advance of your cruise's departure date and my family followed this mantra by packing up the car and driving down from Orlando to Miami. 

                We spent the night at the Hyatt Place Miami Airport East. As the name implies, it's near Miami International Airport and about 20 minutes by car to PortMiami. The hotel was new, had a modern look and feel and struck me as a business traveler hotel that felt akin to the types of hotels I had stayed at near Newark Airport in the past.  Our room was a nicely furnished suite, with pull out sofa bed for the girls to sleep in. 

                We had arrived in Miami around dinner time, so we did not do much in the way of touristy activities. The kids showered and played, and later in the evening, met up with some friends who are joining us on our cruise. There was a large group of folks in the RoyalCaribbeanBlog.com Group Cruise staying in this hotel, and we hosted a mini get together in the lobby, complete with Papa John's pizza. Nothing but the best. 

                I usually sleep terribly on the night before the cruise begins, and this time would be no different. I managed to fall asleep easily enough, but woke up from one of the kids fussing a few hours later and that was it for me.  

                As usual, the kids woke up early and we got our things together to make our way to PortMiami to meet Navigator of the Seas.

                We made a few pit stops for gas (so that we do not have to stop before going home) and cash (tips, use onshore, and investments in the casino) before arriving at PortMiami at just around 10am.  The drive was easy despite some light traffic.  I believe the way the ships are lined up makes PortMiami the best spectacle of a cruise port that I have been to.  There is no industrial look to this port area.

                We first dropped the luggage off at the drop-off area, and then parked the car at the PortMiami parking garage across the street.  I know it costs much more than some off-site options, but the convenience factor is important to me when it is time to get to/from the ship.

                The security line did not open until 10:30am, but being in the suites/Pinnacle line meant we were among the first to get through the line.

                The check-in process was seamless and we had a brief wait in the Diamond lounge before we were onboard quite quickly, right around 11am.

                The Windjammer did not open until 11:30am, so we hung out by the pool deck for a bit because the weather was wonderful. Once the Windjammer opened, it was the great spread of food I always look forward to enjoying on embarkation day.

                The staterooms opened at 1:15pm and we got our first look at our Grand Suite on deck 10. The room is massive, and the bathroom might be the real highlight.

                We also have a connecting standard balcony stateroom next door, so we have plenty of living space.  My wife thinks the bathroom size is the best part of the room, although I really like the extra-large balcony.

                Next up, we went to register the children at Adventure Ocean.  The staff indicated there were not a lot of kids on this ship. In fact, at the Nursery they let us book as much time as we wanted for the cruise.  

                Our afternoon mainly consisted of enjoying the beautiful weather and letting the kids catch up on some energy.  The youngest managed to squeeze in a nap, but the oldest was not having any of that.

                Following muster drill, we went up to the pool deck to enjoy sailaway with our friends onboard. It was an absolutely beautiful day for sailaway with the sun shining, cool breeze and low humidity.  Probably one of the best sailaways in a long time.

                We went back to the room to get ready for dinner and I called to Izumi to enjoy Izumi Express, which is essentially a take-out option.  I ordered from the menu and went up to Izumi to pick it up to bring back to enjoy in my room.  While waiting, the staff offered me a hot bowl of miso soup while the chef's prepared the sushi.  Big shoutout to chef Jonathan for a job well done!

                I brought my sushi back to the room to enjoy on my balcony, and let me tell you, this is such a great way to start my cruise!

                Dinner tonight was in the main dining room. The vegetarian Mexican dish on the menu was really tasty!

                We spent the rest of the evening at the Two Poets Pub with the muscic of Danny Rodriguez.  He has a great attitude and put on one of the better pub shows I have seen in a long time.  

                Stray Observations

                • Check it out, it's Royal Caribbean's headquarters with Empress of the Seas parked out back!
                • I think Miami is the nicest looking cruise port I have been to, in terms of it not looking industrial at all and the Miami skyline is amazing.
                • The brewed coffee at Cafe Promenade is now using Illy coffee beans instead of Starbucks.
                • Check out the kids main dining room menu
                • The internet onboard is certainly not as fast as some other ships, like Anthem or Harmony.  It is fine for some basic browsing and whatnot, but even uploading the photos in this blog post took a good 10 minutes.  Hoping for some improvement as the cruise continues.

                • I think today I managed to get in around 6 or 7 alcoholic beverages, a macchiato and an espresso shot.  Off to a good start with the unlimited drink packge!

                Tomorrow is our first sea day, and our first full day onboard.  Should be a great opportunity to explore the ship some more and get to spend time with the friends joining me on this group cruise.  Day one was already a blast and I cannot wait for tomorrow!

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                  Navigator of the Seas 2017 Live Blog - Cruise Preview

                  In:
                  14Feb2017

                  Royal Caribbean's Navigator of the Seas has been a favorite cruise ship of mine since I first cruised on her in 2014, and it is time once again for me to return onboard for what I am certain will be an amazing journey.

                  My cruise on Navigator of the Seas coincides with the first Royal Caribbean Blog Group Cruise of 2017, with a great group of fellow Royal Caribbean fans as we enjoy a 9-night journey to the Southern Caribbean from Miami, Florida. Throughout the cruise, I will share a daily update of everything I did onboard to provide you a "virtual" escape with me.

                  The Cruise

                  As mentioned earlier, this is a long 9-night cruise that will take me to a destination I love and three ports that are brand new to me.  Anytime I get a chance to visit somewhere new, it is a real treat.

                  The story of booking this cruise goes back a few years ago when I was looking for a group cruise idea.  If you are new to Royal Caribbean Blog, it is important to mention my name is Matt, and I run Royal Caribbean Blog.  Twice a year, I put together a Royal Caribbean cruise plan, where I invite everyone who enjoys reading Royal Caribbean Blog to join me on a cruise together. I figure everything is better with friends, and we fellow Royal Caribbean fans love nothing more than any excuse to book another cruise.

                  This sailing stood out to me for two reasons. First, it is aboard Navigator of the Seas, one of my favorite Royal Caribbean ships in the fleet. Royal Caribbean refurbished her in 2014 and added a number of new options and I loved it all.  Navigator is large enough to be a "big ship," but she still retains a lot of character and I have been lucky enough to sail on her twice.  With lucky number three, we get a chance to spend more time onboard and this time, bring friends. We started planning this cruise back in December 2015, so it has been a long time coming to be able to finally get onboard.

                  The other really intriguing aspect to this sailing is the itinerary.  We sail out of Miami, Florida (a port I have never sailed out of), and will visit Royal Caribbean's private destination of Labadee and the ABC islands (Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao) in the Southern Caribbean. It is rare to get the opportunity to sail to the Southern Caribbean from the mainland United States, and the timing worked out perfectly over President's Day holiday.

                  I will be sailing with my wife and two children, who are 2 and 6.  This will be my oldest daughter's first time in the Explorer's room of Adventure Ocean and she is very excited to try it out.  My youngest daughter will be spending time in the Royal Tots and Babies Nursery, and she has already told us she is excited to "play with the babies" onboard.

                  Of course, this is a group cruise too, which means we have a large contingent of fellow Royal Caribbean fans joining me and I could not be happier.  There is just something so fun about seeing friendly faces all around the ship, and being able to share in the experience in person is second-to-none.

                  Stateroom

                  We reserved two staterooms for this cruise, one for my wife and I and one for my kids.  I love my children and enjoy cruising with them, but we have learned that when it comes to sleeping and children, it is ideal to have a second room.  Plus, it provides an additional full bathroom. 

                  For this cruise, we have reserved a Grand Suite and connecting standard balcony room. Depending on who you ask, the story of why we booked this arrangement differs. I will offer both and let you decide.

                  My account of the booking: Being the loving husband that I am, inbetween sweeping the floors and preparing another gourmet meal for the family, I suggested to my wife she should get, nay deserves, a suite for once. After we could have danced all night in jubilee, we happened to find the perfect suite option that provided me and my wife the opportunity to book a Grand Suite and the kids in a connecting room next door.

                  My wife's account of the booking: She was fine with two balcony rooms, but it was all my idea to book the room, which proves it is better to ask for forgiveness than permission.

                  Whichever tale you prefer to believe, the bottom line is we are staying in our first true suite on any cruise. We have stayed in a Junior Suite on multiple occasions, but never the real deal. We happened to book this cruise under the then-epic Cyber Monday deal of 2015, which netted us quite a bit of onboard credit on top of the great rate. 

                  Our concierge emailed me this past weekend with the usual welcome letter (shoutout to Nadja), and we are really excited to see what a suite experience is all about.  Personally, I am looking forward to the smaller perks which I think will make a big difference. Namely, the reserved area for suite guests near the pool, priority embarkation and private beach in Labadee. 

                  Itinerary

                  As excited as I am about the ship, where we are sailing is even more impressive.  A blend of sea days and port days, we will get a chance to explore a part of the Caribbean I have yet to see.

                  Being a nine-night cruise, this will tie my longest cruise ever, and provide us plenty of time to explore onboard and on shore.

                  Three things I am excited to try

                  3. Barefoot Beach

                  I love Labadee because of the absolutely beautiful serenity this private destination offers.  I am also a self-described cabana junky and on this cruise, we will be trying out the Barefoot Beach cabanas.  The fact of the matter is I did stay in a Barefoot Beach cabana once many cruises ago, but that was not as a suite guest and I barely remember it.  

                  There are a few cabana types to choose from in Barefoot Beach, and we opted for the Beachfront cabana, which I hope will provide my kids easy access to the ocean.  Plus, it looks to be a great spot and the same cabana experience we have come to love.  Yes, the cabanas are pricey, but given the price breakdown of how much it costs per person, per hour over the course of the day in Labadee (and the privacy and service), it is worth every penny in my opinion.

                  2. Private Journeys

                  Royal Caribbean created a new shore excursion option just about a year ago, where guests can create customized shore excursions to do what they want, without having to compromise on the benefits of taking a Royal Caribbean shore trip.  It is called Private Journeys, and in the name of research, I decided to try this out for myself.

                  While in Curacao, we booked a Private Journeys trip to take an historical tour of the historical and cultural Jewish sites of the island.  The tour includes private transportation with our own private guide to visit historical Jewish locations, such as the Jewish Cemetery, Mikveh Israel Emanuel Synagogue with photo stops at Jewish village Mahaai and New Ashkenazi Synagogue.

                  I will post a full review of experience with Private Journeys, but we are excited to try out this new service and discover some really intriguing historical landmarks.

                  1. Suite Life

                  I would be remiss if I did not say I am really excited to finally be able to stay in a suite on our cruise. My wife and I have dreamed about staying in a suite for a long time, but we were never able to jump at the chance.  This time, we managed to make it work and it is really exciting.

                  Personally, I am most interested in taking advantage of the subtle benefits, such as reserved chairs by the pool and in the theater, priority embarkation and disembarkation.  I think it will be a nice change of pace for this sailing, and with it being an even longer sailing than normal for us, we get to enjoy the suite just a little bit more.

                  What's next

                  Our Navigator of the Seas cruise begins on Friday, February 17th, and I will be sharing the details on the blog, as well as across my social media channels.  Be sure to follow me on TwitterFacebookInstagram and Periscope for live updates throughout the day.

                  I invite you to share in this experience with me, by posting in the comments for any blog post questions and comments you may have.  I try to make these live blogs as interactive as I can, so I want everyone to feel welcome to share their thoughts.

                  Thanks for reading all of this and welcome aboard our next fun live blog experience!

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