Navigator of the Seas Live Blog

Navigator of the Seas Live Blog - Day 4 - San Juan

In:
03May2016

Today we visit our second port of call, San Juan, Puerto Rico.

If memory serves me correctly, we were drawn to this itinerary because of the San Juan stop.  We love Old San Juan for its amazing culture, history and food.  

We let the kids dictate what time we woke up today, which meant the 1 year old was up at dawn and the 5 year old wanted to sleep until noon.

We managed to get everyone out the door by 8am for a breakfast in the Windjammer.

Today was kind of a mashup of sea day and port day.  We were not due to dock in San Juan until 2pm, so the morning was effectively a sea day.

After breakfast, we went to the Nursery for a parent and child activity, where kids can play with all sorts of instruments.

They had maracas, drums, triangles and lots of other instruments that the kids could "play" to their hearts content.

It was 45 minutes and a great way for kids and parents to do something together and something just for the youngest children.

By about 10am, we were all feeling the effects of getting woken up at dawn, so headed back for a nap.  The theme to this cruise is napping is the best vacation ever.

We awoke at 11:30 to see we were entering San Juan harbor, signigicantly earlier than we were planning.

The Captain informed us that there was a medical emergency, and so the ship got to San Juan much sooner.  They took care of the guest and by about 12:30pm, we were cleared.

Ordinarily this would be great news to get an extra hour and a half in port, but we were dependent on Adventure Ocean and the Nursery being open, and they were still on track to open at 2pm.

We took it easy onboard until both facilities opened up, dropped both children off and then were on our way.

My wife and I had a simple plan for Old San Juan: there was no plan.  We would just explore the city and see where it took us.

The most sensible strategy for walking Old San Juan is to head to the forts first, which are at the top of the hill that San Juan is built on, and then work your way down.

We began at Fort San Cristobal, because my wife had never been there.

Admission to the fort is $5 and admission to one fort gets you admission to both forts for that day.  

Both forts are impressive in their architecture, history and views.  Even if you do not care about the history at all, the views you get of the city from these forts is quite impressive.

After exiting the fort, we wandered the streets and stopped here and there to see art, window shop or grab a drink.

The weather was hot and humid, but not oppresively so.  Had this been a few more months from now, it might have been awful but today was just hot.  Luckily, there clouds and a decent breeze, so that helped.

Nonetheless, we took opportunities to stop, sit down and sip on something tasty.

We ran across Las Palmas restaurant and had their mojito and pina colada, both of which were excellent.

You forget what the real thing tastes like after having so many mixes.

In short, we did a lot of walking and just meandered.  For us, this is what makes Old San Juan fun and it is great to see the city on foot.  It is a gorgeous as it is hilly!

For dinner, we ended up in El Jibarito because the reviews were too good to pass up.

Naturally, I opted for the mofongo and chicken in garlic sauce.

I love mofongo, which is the national dish of Puerto Rico, and is essentially mashed plantains.  It tastes really good.

We made one last walk up to El Morro to see the sunset, which was quite lovely, despite the clouds.

 

Next it was off to 3 convenience stores in search of swim diapers (neither Walgreens or a local market carry them, but CVS had it) and then it was back onboard.

Since we had eaten dinner on shore, we skipped dinner on the ship and enjoyed sailaway from the helipad.

Tomorrow, we are headed to St. Kitts, which will be our first time ever there.

Stray Observations

  • According to my iPhone, I logged 17k steps today.  Evidently San Juan is great for walking off those drinks.
  • I admit, it felt really good to have a cell connection and high speed internet once again.  
  • There is a complimentary shuttle from the port area to El Morro and another complimentary shuttle that brings you from the entrance of El Morro all the way to actual fort. Your feet will thank you for being able to use them.
  • The Captain indicated many taxis were on strike today because they were protesting Uber coming to the island. 
  • I love visiting ports, but I would love to have a sea day tomorrow just to get a break from the excursions.  Four port days in a row is tough!
  • There was not as much street food as I was expecting, unfortunately.  I made up for it in drinks and mofongo!
  • The nursery also offers everyday a self-play option in Optix, where parents can go anytime 9am-5pm to play with toys. We liked doing this on Allure of the Seas, and will be using this more going forward.
  • I joked that San Juan must mean, "land of many hills and equally as many cats"

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Navigator of the Seas Live Blog - Day 3 - Labadee

In:
02May2016

Today is our first port stop and it is among my favorite ports to spend the day, Labadee.

Labadee is Royal Caribbean's private destination and it is all about a beach day.

We were scheduled to arrive at 7am and be cleared by 7:30am, but we did not get the announcement until 8:30am.  It did not really matter, since we were not up and ready until maybe 9am.

We had breakfast at the Windjammer and then promptly dropped my 5-year-old daughter off at Adventure Ocean.  She wanted to stay onboard rather than deal with the heat and sand of the beach. Whatever makes her happy!

Getting off the ship was quite easy and it is remarkable the difference of visiting Labadee on Navigator of the Seas versus our last ship, Allure of the Seas.

I had booked online a beach lounger because it was something I had not seen offered in Labadee previously.

For $35, you could get a beach lounger, along with attendant.  It is somewhat similar to what has been offered on CocoCay for a while.

The beach loungers are set up at Adrenaline Beach in a roped off area that essentially has its own private beach.

Each beach lounger has two beach chairs inside the lounger and an attendant who can get you drinks.

I will post a more formal review later on, but it was a nice way to spend the day.  We all ended up napping, which was fine with me.

I love Labadee's sheer natural beauty, warm waters and tons of activities, but getting a visit from the "Labadoozie fairy" is just what I wanted!

Our schedule at Labadee was a bit odd, with an early arrival and then departure by 2:30pm.  Given that, we got back on the ship around 12:30pm, rinsed off back in the room and had lunch in the Windjammer.

We checked on my daughter on Adventure Ocean to see if she wanted to leave, but she was having too much fun there, so we let her stay.

We walked by the NextCruise office to see if they were taking walk-ups. They had availability, so we stopped in for a quick "chat".  That is all I am allowed to say at this time. 

We headed back to the room for my 1-year-old daughter to nap and to figure out our plans for the rest of the day.

Seeing as my daughter was napping, it looked like a good idea, so I partook in the hard to find but often sought after, two naps in one day!

When I (and the baby) came to again, it was close to dinner time so we retrieved my 5 year old from Adventure Ocean.  I made a quick pit stop at Cafe Promenade for a Starbucks infusion (it's not easy taking two naps in one day).

As the sun started to go down, it was a very pretty sight to behold from our balcony. 

It is views like this that make a balcony worth every penny!

After we got the kids dressed and fed, we brought them up to Adventure Ocean and the Nursery and my wife and I headed down to a place we loved on our last Navigator of the Seas cruise, R-Bar.

R-Bar is a throwback kind of lounge, with kitchy furniture and personalized cocktails.

I looked over their menu but remembered a drink they used to make at the R-Bar on Navigator of the Seas, called the Raspberry Ricky.

The waitress was surprised I knew what that was and was able to make it for me.  Score!

Tonight was Italian night in the main dining room. I love the Italian night menu and think it is the best overall main dining room menu.

I went with the lasagna and eggplant parm, neither of which disappointed!

Following dinner, we did a little gambling and enjoyed some time on deck before collecting the children.

Tomorrow is our next port stop in San Juan, Puerto Rico.  We are going to do a lot of exploring, so it should be a full day.

Stray Observations

  • The Diamond drink coupons are evidently available to use at Cafe Promenade for select coffees: lattes, cafe Americano and a few others. Sadly, my go-to caramel macchiatto is not included.
  • Maybe this is what happens after you cruise on Allure of the Seas, but I have found very, very few lines onboard. Crowds are nearly non-existant.
  • Tonight's entertainment is 70's night, but we decided to skip in order to get some needed sleep and get energy for San Juan.
  • Speaking of entertainment, today's Cruise Compass activities felt very light in terms of things to do.  I believe 70's night plays a lot in that.
  • Tomorrow morning in the Nursery is a complimentary music event from 9:00 - 9:45am and I would like to go there, unless by some miracle the kids sleep in.
  • A special hello to Chad and his family, who said hello while we were in the R-Bar.  Talking to Chad got me super excited for our group cruises!
  • If you have read all of this and thought, "Gee, it sounds like all Matt did was nap today" then you would be 100% correct. Never pass up a good nap opportunity!

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

In:
01May2016

With all the anticipation of a Royal Caribbean cruise, embarkation day is the day we all look forward to the most because it is the first day of the cruise, but the first full day onboard is truly when the cruise begins.

I certainly count down to embarkation day fiendishly, but there is so much going on in those first few hours that it is that odd day that differs from the rest.  

With our first full day and a sea day, today is when we really get a chance to experience Navigator of the Seas.

Our youngest daughter woke up quite early (6:30am) and so we got an earlier start than we would have liked. Evidently it is quite difficult to explain to a baby that dawn does not mean it is time to get up.

I took this opportunity to check to see if Voom internet had been activated, with the ferocity and excitement of a young boy on Christmas morning. Alas, there was no Voom waiting for me under the proverbial tree, and I resigned myself to using the conventional internet for the rest of the sailing.

We got dressed and headed up to the Windjammer for breakfast and to witness the beautiful start to our morning.

Breakfast was your classic Royal Caribbean Windjammer breakfast, and the omelette station continues to offer my favorite choice.

We had no firm plans for the day. Our whole plan was to have the kids sleep in (or not) and then play it all by ear.

Following breakfast, we had some time before Adventure Ocean opened up. We walked around the Royal Promenade (grabbed a much needed Starbucks coffee), played mini-golf and otherwise explored the ship in the time it took before Adventure Ocean opened.

At 9am we promptly dropped my daughter off, while my wife took the toddler back to the room for a morning nap.

I took this opportunity to try my hand at morning trivia.

The trivia theme was general trivia and I joined a couple from Michigan. Lo and behold, we won! 

Next, I headed up to the pool deck for a little sun, figuring it might make sense to enjoy the Caribbean breeze and some sun.

Of interest was the pineapple drinks being served and Sabor did a guacamole demonstration (followed by guacamole sampling).

Surprisingly, the Sabor staff were offering dinner reservations for any night for $20 (a $5 per person savings) if you booked on the spot.  I booked Sabor for dinner on the last night as a means of enjoying "one last guac."

Some folks had requested photos of the Diamond Lounge, so I happily obliged.

 

For those keeping score at home, the coffee maker is working once again and the Diamond Lounge attendant is Jayeon.

Next was the Cruise Critic Meet n Mingle in the Cosmopolitan Club.

This was a rather large group, with over 120 members in attendance!  I did not win anything, but did enjoy the company and complimentary rum punch.

I collected my daughter from Adventure Ocean (they take a two hour break in the afternoon) and at her request, we all had lunch at Johnny Rockets.

I was concerned about a line to eat at Johnny Rockets because it was a sea day, but there was plenty of seating.

I recall cruises in the past where Johnny Rockets would be crazy busy on sea days for lunch, but my wife I think that has changed since the Crown and Anchor Society coupon changed from a BOGO cover charge to just a BOGO milk shake.

We did some more exploring after lunch, including seeing the newly redesigned NextCruise office.  I think it looks great!

With Adventure Ocean back open and one of our children off doing her own thing, I told my wife to go do something fun on deck and I would stay with the baby while she napped in the room.

One key lesson about taking young children on a cruise is not to skip naps.  They need them or the rest of the day will just end badly.

Following nap time, the girls all took showers while I took an opportunity to enjoy some "pre-dinner" at Izumi.

For those new to my live blogs, sometimes I ike to have something to eat prior to my second seating at dinner, which is at 8pm.  I am only human, so I need a snack...may as well be sushi!

I picked Izumi and had reserved it on the website.  I was seated promptly right by the window.

I make it no secret that Izumi is a favorite restaurant of mine and this time I went with my usual: miso soup and DX Sushi Combo.

The reason I pick the DX Sushi Combo is for the money, I believe it is the best value piece-for-piece on the menu and the selection is quite good and ample.

I also had to try this drink, the "Call a cab! Sakirita" just because of the name!

I returned to the room and dropped the kids off at Adventure Ocean and the Nursery.  At the nursery, my daughter was the only kid there, which I found peculiar given it was formal night and prime time (7:30).  We always suspected there are very few children on this sailing and I am pretty sure that is still the case.

Dinner was in the main dining room and it was formal night.

Great food all around and we have a great waiter (Vanju) and assistant waiter (sorry, I cannot think of her name at the moment).

We finished dinner ealier than normal, so we wandered the Royal Promenade.

First up was the Royal Caribbean logo store, where I spotted these new shirt designs, perfect for the Royal Caribbean fan.

We also stopped in a for a set at the pub and sang along to some favorites (Country Roads!).

Our entertainment for the evening was the Broadway revue show.  We had seen it the last time we were on Navigator and I am fairly certain it is the same show as on Brilliance of the Seas.

My wife loved it, and that is all that matters.

Tomorrow we are in Labadee, and that is our first port stop.  Our timing there is odd, as guests can disembark at 7am and must return by 3pm.  

Stray Observations

  • I spotted another cruise ship following us and I think it is a Princess ship.
  • I also spotted a baby splash pool for kids in diapers.  I will be investigating this further because....
  • We realized we forgot to pack swim diapers.  They do not sell any diapers onboard, so part of our San Juan excursion plans now include a stop at CVS. Oh, the exoticness and pizazz that await me there!
  • One team at morning trivia attempted to cheat, by saying they had more points than our team in trivia, until they were told the prizes were pens and keychains.  At that point, they folded like a cheap table.
  • Weather has been great, with waves less than one meter in height.  My kind of cruise!
  • Regarding Voom, I spoke to a few officers but have not gotten a firm answer on when it will arrive. Almost no chance for this cruise, but it sounds like for the transatlantic it could be activated.
  • We were sailing really close to Cuba today. Much closer than I ever remember cruise ships going.  It was close enough you could see trees, not just land.
  • There are few relaxing experiences as sitting on one's balcony and enjoying the view and breeze!

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

In:
30Apr2016

Embarkation day is here, which is the best possible feeling for any self-diagnosed cruise geek!

Last night, we started our vacation a little early with a hotel stay closer to port.  We considered a hotel in the greater Fort Lauderdale area, but found significanty less expensive pricing about an hour away in Port Saint Lucie.

We stayed at the Holiday Inn Express & Suites Port St. Lucie West, which was about half the price of what we found near the port.  Our room was a king suite, which meant the kids had plenty of space to mess around.  The hotel was clean, relatively new and offered a decent breakfast.  It is the perfect kind of hotel for a pre-cruise stay!

We left the hotel at 8:30am and headed down I-95 to Port Everglades.

The drive was uneventful.  There was one bit of traffic in West Palm Beach, but otherwise an easy drive.

We arrived at Port Everglades at around 10:15am or so and proceeded to drop off the luggage and family at the port and then I went to park the car.

The parking garage at Terminal 29 is much further away than the parking lot at Terminal 18 (that is where the Oasis class ships dock).  Nonetheless, I was able to hop on the complimentary shuttle easily and made it back to the port to get in line with my family at 10:30am.

There was a bit of a line at check-in, but we got through the line relatively quickly. There were two lines: one for suites and any Crown & Anchor Society member and a line for anyone else.  

Being in a Junior Suite, we were in the Suites area, which meant we got to be among the first to get onboard. While the Junior Suite perks are not exactly amazing, priority embarkation is a really nice touch!

At 11:15am, we were onboard Navigator of the Seas and so many memories came flooding back to us from our 2014 cruise on Navigator of the Seas.

Our first stop was our traditional first stop on any cruise we go on: the Windjammer.

After sailing on Allure of the Seas earlier this year, it was so refreshing have a "normal" size Windjammer, given that the Oasis-class Windjammers are oddly smaller.

I enjoyed the Asian food spread available and we all had a very filling and pleasurable meal.  

We tried to do the spa tour after lunch, but they were not doing it until later, so we walked around the ship a bit to explore.

Our rooms were ready right at 1pm and we got our first look at the Junior Suite.

I was impressed by the sheer amount of living space in the Junior Suite.  It was much wider a room than I was expecting and with 2 kids, it is very welcome.  I wish there was a curtain between the bed and couch, but I think we will be fine.  Our issue will be when my one year old daughter needs to sleep. I think we will all have to wait her out on the balcony and then sneak back in after she falls asleep.

We registered the children for Adventure Ocean and the Nursery next.

The nursery on Royal Caribbean ships limits you to 20 hours of reservations, but by day 3, they open up space if there is availability.  Essentially, they want to ensure everyone has a chance to get their kids into the nursery.  

We have lots of experience with the nursery and it usually works out just fine for us.  We got our hours in and will wait for day 3 to nab some more time.

We attempted to do some more exploring but the kids were starting to get really cranky, so we headed back to the stateroom for them to nap.

My wife opted to stay with them while I did some more exploring.  Navigator is a great ship and it is easy to forget just how much she offers.

I checked out the Diamond Lounge, which marked my first time in the Diamond Lounge as a Diamond member.

I liked there was an outdoor seating section and of course, it is impressive to have a special part of the ship just for you.  With the kids, I am not certain how much time we will spend up there, but it is nice having the perk!

I realized at this point that I had not "christened" my cruise vacation properly yet and had my first drink of the cruise at the Viking Crown Lounge.

I chose the lava flow and it really hit the spot!

Speaking of drinks, all over Navigator of the Seas are these select drink specials, which are something I have never seen on any other ship.

 

They are not of interest to me, but I am sure some folks may find value in these deals!

Our muster drill was later than usual (5pm), so we proceeded to our muster station.  The muster drill was like every muster drill we have ever been to.  The kids were reasonably well behaved, so not much else we can ask for.  Our muster station was outside, so no seating unfortunately.

Following muster, it was time for sailaway, which I took in from the helipad.

The helipad on Voyager-class ships is a terrific option, and when you are doing sail away or sail-in, it is the place to be. 

I headed back to the room once the kids woke up and we all got dressed for dinner.  Adventure Ocean had limited hours this evening, so our plan was to feed the kids in the Windjammer and bring them to dinner with us in the main dining room without having them subjegated to the menu there.

It was around this time that my wife and I took advantage of our Diamond drink coupons for the first time.

One pretty big perk of being a Diamond member (or higher) is that you get three complimentary drinks per evening outside of the Diamond Lounge.  I did not think we would sneak the drinks in with the kids present tonight, but we totally aced the parenting thing by supervising our children while grabbing a drink from a bar we walked by.  Woot!

There was family time in the arcade tonight, so we brought the kids up to the arcade to enjoy some free video games.  What better opportunity to play random video games?

Dinner tonight was at the main dining room and we have a table to ourselves.  I do not mind sharing a table with others, but will not complain about a table to ourselves either.

As we sat down, it was around this time that my youngest daughter "hit the wall" from being over-tired. My wife decided to go up to the room to order room service and put her to sleep.

My daughter and I finished dinner, just the two of us and I brought her up to Adventure Ocean.

Being left alone to my own devices, I wandered the ship some more to do some exploring.

I may or may not have ended up at the casino and I may or may not have lost my money quite quickly.

Oh well, I wrapped up my evening watching Star Wars: The Force Awakens on the pool deck, after I had returned my daughter to the room.

Tomorrow is our first sea day, and that means plenty of time experiencing everything Navigator of the Seas has to offer!

Stray Observations

  • The elevator keypads have been updated and I have not seen this "style" on any other Royal Caribbean ship.
  • Adventure Ocean was only open from 9pm to 10pm tonight (with up to midnight available for an hourly charge).  My daughter in Adventure Ocean was literally the only kid there.  We kind of figured there would not be many kids on this sailing.
  • Regarding Voom, there is no definitive answer if we will get Voom activated during our cruise.  My guess is that it will not be active tomorrow, but a man can dream, right?
  • I saw another deal that I have never seen before. Johnny Rockets was offering a free milk shake if you dined there tonight
  • Good night, sweet prince

Share your comments or questions in the comments section below! This live blog is meant to be interactive, so please feel free to comment!

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Live Blogging from Navigator of the Seas - Preamble

In:
26Apr2016

As a parent, I am keenly aware of the saying that you do not have favorite children, but when it comes to Royal Caribbean ships, it is a completely different story.

This week, we are heading back for our second cruise aboard Royal Caribbean's Navigator of the Seas, which I am unabashidly call my favorite Royal Caribbean ship.

 

I sailed on Navigator of the Seas back in 2014, following her refurbishment that added a lot to the ship.  You can read the live blog I did from that cruise here.  We are returning to Navigator of the Seas largely in part because of the great experience we had the first time.

I think it is insightful to share why people book the Royal Caribbean cruises they end up going on, because it reveals the thought process in picking between the 24 ships in the fleet and what compels us to pick one ship over another.

In booking this cruise, I engaged in some pro spouse strategy.  I figured my wife would be somewhat hesitant to book a cruise around this time of year, so I did the sensible thing: I told my wife I was booking a cruise for her birthday!

Despite some eye rolling and that look wives give their husbands when they know there is scheming going on, she went along for the ride and we started looking for cruises.

We had some requirements when booking this cruise: it had to be on or around her birthday, it had to be reasonably priced and it would be nice to get a special stateroom category to make this cruise more memorable.

The issue with cruises in late-April is Royal Caribbean is about to move many of its ships over to Europe for the summer season, so the inventory of possible cruises to choose from is somewhat varied.

We ended up picking this eight night eastern Caribbean cruise on Navigator of the Seas because it meant a return to a ship we really enjoyed, a somewhat different itinerary than we had done in the last few years and we managed to snag a junior suite.

First and foremost, I really liked the idea of going back on Navigator of the Seas.  I thought the 2014 refurbishment added a lot of great amenities that breathed new life into the ship.  I really liked the assortment of specialty restaurants added and the ship in general was a lot of fun.

We also booked a Junior Suite, which is something we have not done since our honeymoon cruise on Mariner of the Seas.  With 2 kids, we should have plenty of space and a balcony that faces the ocean (my wife loves these).

Our itinerary is also interesting to us, because we get to visit some favorite ports and a new one too.

  • Labadee
  • San Juan, Puerto Rico
  • St. Kitts
  • St. Maarten

Labadee will naturally be a beach day. No cabana this time, but I did reserve a beach lounger because it was something I have never seen available on Labadee previously.

In San Juan, we are there from 2pm - 9pm, and that is some odd timing.  Nonetheless, our plan is to leave the kids in Adventure Ocean and my wife and I walk around Old San Juan.

We have never been to St. Kitts before and because I love exploring new ports, I cannot wait to see what St. Kitts offers.  We were going to book an old time train tour of the island, but it was no longer available to book online.  Our plan is to try to book it onboard or just get off the ship and see where we end up.

In St. Maarten, we will be using the services of a taxi driver that we have used many times, Leo Brown, and will likely do a few different things.  I would like to go to Marigot first and then end up at the beach, rather than beach first and then take tired (and wet) children to try to eat.

Onboard Navigator of the Seas, we made reservations at Sabor Modern Mexican on Cinco de Mayo, because... why not?  We also aspire to try as many of the specialty restaurants as we can.  My wife has requested we hit up Chops Grille, because we did not go there on Allure of the Seas.

Otherwise, this should be a great family cruise and we are all super excited to get onboard and start our adventure.  Follow along right here for a new blog post every day all about what we did that day.  I will also be sharing the experience on Twitter and Instagram, if you enjoy lots of photos.

Hope you will follow along with us and please feel free to post questions and thoughts in the comments of this and any post.  I want this live blog to be an interactive experience, so please join in and don't be shy!

Our next update will be on Saturday, April 30, when we board Navigator of the Seas!

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Navigator of the Seas Live Blog - Day 7 - Sea Day

In:
15Feb2014

Today was our last day and I wish I had a lot to report to you but I spent most of the day either sleeping, eating or lounging.  There's nothing wrong any of that but I think the events of the last 7+ days finally caught up with me.

We slept in, or as parents with young children call it, sleeping until our kid woke us up.  So about 9am we all got up and started getting ready and made it up to the Windjammer closer to 10am.

With such a late start, it didn't make sense to bring my daughter to Adventure Ocean because today the morning session ended at 11am.  So we roamed the ship, taking a walk on deck 4, the Royal Promenade and the pool deck.

Lunch came around again so we had a quick bite to eat in the Windjammer, which was actually my first time this cruise eating lunch in the Windjammer.  That is really odd for me.

After lunch, my daughter took her nap so I went up to the pool deck to lounge.  It was one of those weather days where in the shade it was cold but in the sun it was hot.  So I managed to snag a chair in the Solarium that had my legs in the sun and put a towel over my legs so I could warm up without getting sunburned.

I took my first of many naps here and eventually woke up to go downstairs to gather the troops.  My daughter was still asleep so I took the opportunity to take yet another nap.

When my daughter woke up, I woke up too and took her to Adventure Ocean for the afternoon session.  Then my wife and I took a short walk and then decided to start packing now rather than leaving it to the end. Packing the night before your cruise ends is the second worst feeling ever (with the last day and leaving the ship being the worst feeling). 

Since I really didn't do much to report on, I wanted to share my overall thoughts of the cruise and some observations that may benefit others looking to take this cruise eventually and/or a cruise out of Galveston.

It's an older crowd. Much older crowd.

On our cruise, the vast majority of cruisers were people at least 50 years old or older.  And emphasis on older.  

If you're younger, that may or may not be a problem.  I'm not someone who needs to make dozens of new friends on a cruise to have a good time.  And there are advantages of cruising with older people, namely older people don't care nearly as much about getting a chair on the pool deck, so chair hog issues weren't much of an issue.

The downside to cruising with older people is the elevator situation is worse than usual.  I don't judge people if they take the elevator instead of the stairs but it just felt like the elevators were more crowded than usual.

We were also cruising during a time of year when kids are in school so not a lot of school-age children here, which may have contributed to the older crowd.

Hope you like country western music

By far, a majority of the live music and even recorded music played across the ship was country western music.  

I'm talking Glen Campbell, Alan Jackson and the sort of old-timey country western songs.  Heck, even in the bars in ports they were playing country western because the vendors knew the people on the ship want that and not Miley Cyrus.

At first I didn't really mind the music, but about half way through the cruise I really wanted something different.  Events like "Name this tune", "dance it if you know it" and others were predominately country western.  The only place that did not play country western was the Cosmopolitan Club on Deck 14.  

Forward cabins: the good and bad

As you may know, we had booked cabin 6500, a family oceanview stateroom all the way forward.  Looking back on it there was good and bad to it.

The good is the amount of space we got.  It's insane how much space we had in the stateroom and my daughter having her own room was very nice.  To get a similar amount of space in a different kind of cabin would have required a suite of some sort.

The bad is the motion.  I can't tell you how many times I'd be somewhere on the ship and feel little to no movement only to get back to the room and feel like I'm on a turbulent airplane ride.  My wife didn't feel the effect nearly as much as I did and thinks I'm too sensitive.

One thing we can both agree with about the room is the random noise that occurs. The room is close to the crew relaxation area near the bow of the ship and you will often hear a loud bang or clang sound.  It's enough to wake you up at odd hours of the night.  I'm not sure it's that big a deal but worth noting.

The renovations make a big difference

There aren't many ships left in Royal Caribbean's fleet that aren't refurbished but I cannot imagine cruising on any of the "old" ones now.  The upgrades to Navigator are unbelievable.  It's made the ship so much better and appealing.

The new paint, furniture, restaurants and more all make this ship feel like it's brand new (again). Regardless of if it's Navigator or some other revitalized Royal Caribbean ship, do yourself a favor and stick with the upgraded ships for now.

The internet is still ship internet

The internet WiFi connection is ship-wide, which is nice, and there are two unlimited internet plans, which is great but the speeds are still the kind of speeds you expect to get at sea.

I'm not 100% certain if the 11ac network upgrades we posted about previously have been implemented but as it is today, the ship internet works in bursts, with nothing for a second or two and then a lot coming in, and then more waiting and then another burst of download.

For using the internet for Facebook or Twitter or Instagram, it's great.  I can post photos, update timelines and other common social media functions quickly. But booting up the laptop and going surfing still has noticable delays.  

Still, if I were going back on Navigator fo the Seas next week I would buy the unlimited plan again for the ability to use it whenever I want and stay connected with friends and family.  I mean, how else can I send them photos of the pool deck while they are stuck in snow?

Everyone is from Texas!

Or Oklahoma, Lousiana or Kansas.  But when you tell someone you're from New York (or anywhere north of the Mason-Dixon line) they look at you like you are crazy for having booked this cruise.

Most often they ask why we booked the cruise.  It's fine and all but again it feeds into the first two observations I made of an older cruising age and the country western music thing.

Fog!

You may remember from earlier this cruise when we were delayed about 7-8 hours because of fog getting onboard.  If you are cruising out of Galveston in the winter, keep in mind it happens. 

Unfortunately fog is out of your hands, so my advice is fly in a day before and enjoy what Galveston has to offer if you are delayed.

Adventure Ocean is wonderful

My daughter had a blast there and every time we picked her up she was having the time of your life and often cried when we told her she had to leave.  To me, there is no more ringing endorsement.

As a parent, it was great having 5-6 hours a day to ourselves and it made a huge difference for me and my wife's ability to have as good a time as we had. I would not hesitate to recommend bringing your kids to Adventure Ocean, especially on the revitalized ships.

I love the R-Bar

Maybe it's the retro-cool furniture or maybe it's fact it's new to me, but the R-Bar quikly became my favorite place to grab a drink onboard Navigator of the Seas.

What's especially neat about R-Bar is the bartending staff really know their stuff.  Forget the drink menu, just tell them sort of liquor or juice you like and they will make up a drink based on that.  I have yet to see this fail.

I still love cruising with Royal Caribbean

'Nuff said.

Navigator of the Seas Live Blog - Day 6 - Cozumel

In:
14Feb2014

Today we are in one of my favorite ports to visit in the Caribbean, Cozumel, Mexico!  What I like about Cozumel is it offers a lot to choose from and in terms of the port being able to support cruisers well, there's a lot of great infrastructure.

We were docked in Cozumel at 7am but we decided to sleep in today make up for getting up early the day before and hoping to wait out the masses leaving.  

Navigator of the Seas was hardly the only ship in port.  We were across the dock from Allure of the Seas and there were two Norwegian ships (Epic and Dawn) at the other dock in town along with the Carnival Sunshine.

As per usual we had breakfast in the Windjammer but after breakfast we were going to do something different and leave our daughter at the kids club while we left the ship.  My wife suggested it the other day because we were planning a day in Cozumel with shopping and walking, two things that my daughter doesn't deal well with.  Plus, my daughter's acclimation to Adventure Ocean made it an easier decision knowing she was going to enjoy it.

So we dropped her off, when at the time she was the only one there although later more kids did show up (only 4-5 total).

We disembarked from Navigator of the Seas and walked into the port area, which was packed.  Also, the port has become a maze (on purpose) to try to get out of. I've been to Cozumel at least 4 times and I had trouble finding the exit to the street.

We made a bee-line through the port shops and out to the street only to find a gargantuan line for taxis! I called an audible and grabbed my wife and we exited the port area, walking about 30 feet up the street and nabbed a taxi waiting at the El Cid hotel next door.  No wait and we were on our way!

Our basic plan was to do shopping and eating, with emphasis on eating.  We love good Mexican food and over the years we have come to really enjoy Cozumel's authentic Mexican food.  

Our driver dropped us off somewhere we'd never been, well into town.  There was a detour on the main road but I told him in my terrible spanish "Center mercado", which may have contributed to it.  Regardless, we were dropped off right in front of an amazing open air restaurant and instantly regretted having a full breakfast onboard. I vowed to my wife next time in Cozumel we would skip eating breakfast onboard.

We walked through town, turning down various streets to see what they have to sell.  We didn't have anything in mind to buy, we just like window shopping.  

My advice for anyone shopping in Cozumel is get off the main street and do your shopping on the side streets two to three blocks from the main street.  It's far less crowded and the prices are better in my experience.  

We did stop when we came across my favorite bakery in Cozumel.  We had been here a few times before after also stumbling upon it.  They sell fresh baked breads, croissants and rolls of all kinds for pennies. You just grab a large metal saucer and tongs and then place what you want on the saucer, give it to the person behind the counter and wait for them to tell you how much.  I think we paid $3 for two rolls and a bottle of water. So worth it!

It was time for our first food, which was a stop at the Chocolateria Isla Bella.  It's a chocolatier I found on TripAdvisor that was insanely high rated.  After a bit of searching, we found it and walked into a small store and greeted by two American ex-pats.  These women live in Cozumel, one living in Mexico for almost 25 years.

They had a wide assortment of chocolates to choose from such as guava, white chooclate, nutella, peanut butter, coffee and more. The owner offered us a few samples as well and we picked up a half dozen chocolates for $8.  Taking them outside would risk it melting, so we had "no choice" but to eat them there.

You could tell quickly why Chocolateria Isla Bella was so highly rated.  Once again, freshness made a difference because I watched the other woman pounding cocoa into chocolate and there wasn't anything we bought that wasn't very good.

Back to shopping we wandered some more and something caught my eye, which was a Mexican/Spanish style dish that I thought looked nice. My wife and I looked over the wares and decided on a nice looking spoon rest and split dish.  

We haggled with the owners, like any good shopper in Cozumel should, and got them down from their asking price.  I don't think I got the rock-bottom price that perhaps I could but I thought it was a fair deal and bought it.

We came across an internet cafe next and jumped in to use their wifi.  Two devices on their wifi for about an hour, plus a bottle of water cost us $3. I love Mexico!

By now it was time to eat lunch and I had planned earlier to go to Diego's, but realized it was very far from town and decided let's stick with our absolute favorite Mexican restaurant Comida Caseras Tonita. 

We had eaten at Tonita back in 2011, loved it and dreamed about going back so despite my yearning to always want to try new things, I was happy to go back.  The place looked exactly as I remembered and we sat down to look at the menu.

Without even thinking about it, we knew we wanted guacamole, salsa, chips and two cokes.  Did I mention fresh food makes a difference?  Right away the women in the kitchen started making all of it from scratch (minus the cokes, those came in sweet glass bottles).  Even the chips were made fresh for us. Amazing!

We looked over the menu and decided for entrees to get grilled chicken for my wife and Mexican style fish for me.  The staff does not speak English at all but with enough broken Spanish we managed to order.

The guac and salsa did not disappoint and were so fresh. I'm pretty sure they had to wait to make the salsa because another woman brought a bag of groceries including tomatoes and our salsa came out right after that.

Another table ordered a whole fish and the woman actually brought over a platter of fresh uncooked fish for the men to choose from.  That is something to see.

Our entrees came out and once again very good all around.  My fish was a white fish of some kind and was delicate and juicy. I really can't convey how good the food was in this post so it's just somewhere I cannot more highly recommend for lunch if you are in Cozumel.

After lunch we picked up a necklace for my daughter from a shop owner and grabbed a taxi back to the pier.

Back onboard, we went to pick up my daughter from Adventure Ocean. I wasn't sure what to expect because it was about 2pm and she hadn't napped so she might be out of her mind exhausted and crying.  When we arrived she saw us, made a sad face, dipped her head down and covered her face with her hands.  

I asked her if she wanted to stay longer, to which she instantly sprang up with a resounding "yes" and we said okay, we will be back later. My wife and I decided to go to the pool alone and get some time there together.

We changed quickly back in the stateroom and went to the Solarium to have a round of drinks and opted for the hot tub instead of the very cold pool.

After we picked up our daughter from Adventure Ocean, this time she had to leave because she needed to nap (although she refused to admit it) and of course cried until we told her we bought her a present.  Then she was all too eager to leave.

Back in the cabin, she got her present (which she was disappointed with because it was not a toy) and took a nap while we showered and relaxed.

At 4:30, Navigator left Cozumel and we began our slow trip back to Galveston.  Where did this week go?!

Right at 5:30 I raced up to deck 12 to get the best sunset photos I could finally get. Each time this week sunset has been blocked by clouds or land but today we had no clouds and an endless horizon. Success!

Like every other night, we took our daughter up to the Windjammer for dinner and then dropped her off at Adventure Ocean.  I have to say that Adventure Ocean has been wonderful and she's really enjoyed her time there.

Tonight was the top tier Crown and Anchor Society event where all Crown and Anchor Society members Platinum level and above get another hour of free drinks.  That's really what it amounts to because otherwise you have an officer or two talking about booing more cruises.  It's nice and I appreciate it but I won't make it into something bigger than it is.

It is Valentine's Day and so we had booked Chops Grille a while back to celebate.  

Chops is not new to Navigator of the Seas but it does have an all-new menu that is only on Navigator of the Seas.  Among other changes, it offers now dry-aged steaks. If the new menu proves popular enough, it will be rolled out to other Chops Grille's across the fleet.

When we arrived at Chops, it was packed and you could tell they were running at capacity. Luckily they had a table open for us and we got right in.

Food-wise, the new menu isn't a huge departure from the old menu, with many old favorites back again.  The big difference is the dry-aged steaks have been added and they have an additional fee. $18 for the dry-rub NY Strip Steak and $19 for the dry-aged portherhouse.

As per usual with these live blogs, I will save the full review for a different blog post in the coming few days but I can say the food was great and service good despite the crowds.  I will be the first to admit I am not an expert at gauging how good or bad a steak is.  For me, there's a certain point in the "how good a steak is" scale and once I pass it, I can't tell the difference between a $20 steak and a $50 steak.

I think the big thing is the dry-aged steak additions and the fact the additional cost nearly doubles the cost of eating at Chops.  At $35 per person to start with and then add another $18-19 for the dry-aged steaks, you are running into an expensive meal.

I'll save the debate for another day but is an interesting change.  Also, for those keeping score at home, the red velvet cake is still on the dessert menu.

After dinner we went to the casino and once again won a little bit of money on roulette and then promptly lost it all when trying to double it. Best 4 minutes of the night.

Afterwards we wandered between bars to find something to do.  Probably the best option was the Cosmipalitan Club on Deck 14 that was playing nothing but love songs to dance to in honor of Valentine's Day.

Tomorrow is our last day on the cruise and it's a sea day.  The last day is always bitersweet but I keep reminding myself it's one more day I'm not at work!

Navigator of the Seas Live Blog - Day 5 - Belize City

In:
13Feb2014

We were up bright and early today, 6am to be exact, to be ready for our day in Belize City.  

We ordered room service for the room for 6:30am but at about 6:08am room service called to tell us the food was on its way. I didn't need to sleep those extra 20 minutes anyway, right?

We ordered the usual assortment of room service breakfast and it wasn't anything I'd write home about.  Mass-produced eggs never turn out well and this was more of the same.  The hasbrowns and toast were fine but we needed something to eat to get us going and quick so it worked.  

You may be asking why we got up so very early and the reason is Belize is a tender port, which means we have to take ferries from Navigator of the Seas to the port.  Complicating things is the port is about a 20 minute ride away, which is long for a tender.  

I had also read horror stories about the lines for tenders in the morning and we were concerned about making our excursion on time.  So by 7:30, we were walking down to deck 2 to get in line.  When we got there (about an hour before first tender was estimated to leave), there was just one couple ahead of us. The line started to build slowly but surely and by about 8:00, the line started snaking back up to deck 3 and beyond.  

Despite the fact we did not have a Royal Caribbean excursion, we were not forced to let others with Royal Caribbean excursions go through.  A little before 8:30 we were on the first tender with no problem.  The takeaway for Belize is either be like us and show up an hour early or wait for the lines to die down and roll in after 10am to avoid the lines.

When we got on the tender, I can tell you the sea was angry that day because the ship was bobbing up and down and I was getting nervous this would not be a pleasant trip.  Luckily once we started moving the boat stopped swaying as much and there was no issue with being sea-sick.

We had booked a private beach experience on Goff's Caye, a small island accessible by boat about 30-minutes from port.  It had lots of good reviews online and seemed like a good choice.

We got to Belize City's port area and found our excursion at the dock.  We were escorted to a desk to make the final payment, get our wristband and instructions.  It turned out the boat to Goff's Caye would leave at 10am, leaving us with an hour to spend in the port. We walked around the shops and part of me wishes I had left the port area to at least see the real Belize City but my wife wanted to take it easy and just wait in port.

By 10am, we were on our boat and on our way to Goff's Caye.  We were on more of a speedboat, so the wave factor was less pronounced and we made it to Goff's Caye quickly.

The island is basically a reef with sand on it.  It's very small, perhaps a quarter to half an acre in size with a restroom and kitchen area. There are chairs for rent for $5 each (no umbrellas).  

Most of the people on the excursion took part in a snorkeling trip around the island.  We did not because of our 3 year old, so we just hung out at the beach all day.  Once again, your fearless blogger managed to fall asleep after a few beers and much of the afternoon disappeared.

Another valuable lesson I learned on Goff's Caye: Before you take a nap on the beach, remember to apply sunscreen. I will be remembering Goff's Caye for a few days quite painfully.

They do have fruit punch and water included in the price of your excursion with the option to buy drinks and food for additional cost.  The lunch is a bbq and had the choice of chicken kabobs, hot dogs or lobster tail.  All come with rice and corn.  For 2 kabobs and a hot dog, it was $19.  Two beers were $5.  The food was basic but did the job.  It won't amaze you but if you're hungry, it's the only choice.

The island is beautiful and it was cloudy when we got there, but as the day wore on the sun came out and it was a lot of fun.  Everyone in our group really had a good time relaxing, having some drinks and taking it all in.  

At 2pm we boarded our boat back to Belize City and then we turned around and took the tender back to Navigator of the Seas (with a pit stop when we got onboard at Cafe Promenade because why not).

Looking back, I thought the tender process in Belize wasn't as bad as many made it out to be.  The key is to arrive very early or take your time and go later in the morning.  

Back to Navigator of the Seas and it was time again for showering and changing for dinner.

I took a stroll around the Royal Promenade and snapped up these two photos that may be of interest. Cafe Promenade has a very smal Cupcake Cupboard available.  In addition, here are the current Ben & Jerry's prices.

I also went out to the bow of the ship to catch the sunset but I was thwarted by clouds.  Still pretty to see but was hoping for that perfect shot.  Some day!

We went to see the show for the evening, which was "Now and forever" a musical tribute to Broadway.  My wife is a Broadway fanatic so this was all for her.  

The show features songs from a wide selection of Broadway shows over the years and while it isn't as good as full-fledged Broadway shows that can be found on other Royal Caribbean ships, it has enough to hold your attention, especially if you are a Broadway fan.

After the show we took our daughter to dinner in the Windjammer and then dropped her off at Adventure Ocean.  Tonight, we had the opportunity to check out the brand new Sabor Modern Mexican restaurant, arguably the one new addition not named virtual balcony that people are talking about the most.

I will save the full review of Sabor for a seperate post but I can safely tell you it blew away my expectations.  In short, Sabor served up some of the tastiest food I've had in a while.

Everything about the experience eating here was centered around authenticity and freshness.  You can tell Royal Caribbean has put their best foot forward with Sabor because it's one of the best specialty restaurants I've ever eaten at.

From when you are seated and the guacamole is made in front of you to the hand-made salsa and chips to the margarita cart where you see your drinks made, Sabor amazes because of its simple yet elegant presentation.

From what I understand, Sabor is a test on Navigator of the Seas and if she is well received, the changes could make their way to other ships in the fleet (coughQuantum of the Seascough).

Food-wise, the appetizers and entrees are all included in the price of your cover charge ($25 per person).  We tried a lot of food and despite the groans of trying to walk around after the meal, it was all worth it because everything we ate was anywhere from very good to excellent.

When we were there the restaurant was nearly full and speaking with the manager and the wait staff, the place has been slammed since it opened, which is a good sign.  I flat out asked the waiter how did their predominately Texas population, who are used to great Mexican all the time, respond to the food.  He simply said, "they keep rebooking for more reservations."

I'll have much more in my full review of Sabor next week but if you have Navigator of the Seas booked currently, do yourelf a favor and book it now.

After dinner, we walked around and had another drink or two around the ship.  We stopped in at the Two Poets British Pub to take in live music and then went up to deck 12 for some fresh air and to watch the "Dance it if you know it" song trivia.

Tomorrow is our last port stop, and that's in Cozumel, Mexico.  It's also Valentine's Day so happy Valentine's Day to all you love birds.  I'm taking my wife on a date to Chops Grille to try their brand new menu out, so we will have details to share tomorrow (about the menu, not our sappy chit chat).

Navigator of the Seas Live Blog - Day 4 - Roatan

In:
12Feb2014

If you were wondering why yesterday's post was later than usual, it wasn't because I was partying it up and passed out somewhere (unfortunately).  Rather, the internet was essentially out from about 8pm last night until I left the ship this morning.  It appears to be back now so let's cross our fingers it doesn't happen again.

Today we woke up still at sea on our way to Roatan in Honduras.  The Captain gave us an update that we should be in port at about 10:30, which is behind the posted schedule but it's all because of our fog delays back on the first day that were still wreaking havoc.

I knew beforehand we wouldn't dock until 10am at the earliest so we slept in a little bit (8:30am!) and then got ready for the beach and headed up to the Windjammer for breakfast.  As we ate, the ship was pulling in alongside Roatan until we reached the port.  There was a Costa ship tendering between us and the dock so the Captain said it would take a few more minutes to navigate around her.

Disembarkation was a mess because everyone and their mother wanted to leave.  The problem with late dockings (late = after 9am) is everyone is up and everyone wants to leave.  The Captain asked everyone to not wait in the hallways or staircases but when the all clear was given, we found the staircases starting at deck 4 jammed up.  

Honestly, the bigger problem was the elevators because the stairs were backed up and then elevators would come in and drop people off that would create an even bigger bottleneck. So the lesson here is you either don't listen and line up in the staircases or you take an elevator down.

Once off the ship, we took a short walk through the Roatan port area which was small and unremarkable.  I don't think there's much worth seeing here unless you need a Diamonds International fix. Gangway to exit is probably five minutes at the most if you don't stop along the way.

We had arranged beforehand to hire a driver named Herman to take us around the island and be our guide.  He was recommended to me by a blog reader here and I had arranged via email to have him drive us around for the day for $85.  

We met Herman who escorted us through the port area and to the taxis.  He then informed us his brother, Ernesto, would be our driver.  Fine, it was still a private driver and his brother's English was quite good.  I will admit the only problem we had was Herman brought the car around while we waited with Ernesto, and that took around 15-20 minutes for the car to arrive due to traffic. Not their fault because they can't control traffic but I would have preferred to have the car closer so we didn't have to wait in the heat.

Once we got in the car, we were off to Parrot Tree beach.  Herman had recommended it earlier and said it would be good for the family and vastly less crowded than the west end of the island.

Parrot Tree is basically a resort that allows day guests. Ernesto drove us there (about 40 minutes with traffic, 20 without) and escorted us to a palapa that included 3 beach chairs and an ocean couch.  The cost was $15 per adult ($30 total).

I have to say the beach was quite beautiful and we had great weather.  In addition to the beach, there was waiter service to your palapa that offered food and drink at moderate prices.  For 3 entrees and probably 4-5 drinks, our bill came out to $66 before tip.  Not terrible.

The beach was fun and my daughter had a blast because the cove you are in has no waves and you can wade in pretty far before it becomes deep. I was content with having a few drinks and then falling asleep for the rest of the time there.  I can only assume the rest of my family had a good time too because when I woke up they were also asleep.

At 3pm we decided to get going back to the ship.  I was concerned about traffic getting back and we wanted to have time to shower and change before our evening activities.

Overall, I really liked Roatan and think it lived up to the hype regarding how pretty it is.  Sure the taxi drivers are aggressive salesmen in the morning and the town doesn't have a whole lot near port to see if you want to walk around, but taking a taxi or bus around the island to a spot or two is the way to go.

Again, we picked Parrot Tree on the east end to avoid the big crowds on the west end.  Even Ernesto admitted the beaches are better on the west end but I'd rather not feel like a sardine on the beach with the crowds and Parrot Tree fit the bill.  For kids, the unintimidating waves really did make for a perfect outing.

Luckily getting back was easy and there wasn't any traffic.  We got back onboard and showered and changed.

Back onboard and showered and changed, I went up to deck 12 to hopefully catch the sunset.  Good news, I did. Bad news, Roatan was in the way.

Next up was the ice show, which my wife absolutely loves. I always have the same situation: I roll my eyes at going and then really enjoy it. Sure enough, same situation here.  The performers are really good and I particularly enjoyed their interpretation of the song "Roxanne" by the Police.

After the ice show I quickly made my way across deck 3 to make it for the Crown & Anchor Society welcome back party. I seem to recall these events being far more interesting from a "what's next" perspective.  The loyalty ambassador did mention Allure of the Seas booking options for her European itineraries but otherwise nothing new.  

The real reason why most people go to the welcome back party is to get the free booze, which was plentiful.

Royal Caribbean did recognize two Pinnacle members, one who had over 1000 points and another Pete, who just got to Platinum and gave away his free cruise to the Make A Wish Foundation! Way to go Pete!

Dinner was next and we were in the main dining room.  The highlight for me was the moussaka, which was one of the best I've ever had.  Once again our waiter Daniel was quite funny. We told him we wouldn't be in the main dining room the next couple of nights because we are going to specialty restaurants and he took out his wallet and offered to give us a photo of himself so we could remember him.

Dinner was a little light and I was kind of craving a burger so I suggested to my wife we make a Johnny Rockets run and she agreed so we raced up to deck 12 to try it out.

If you've read this blog long enough, you may know my recent reviews of Johnny Rockets has not been favorable but I am happy to say Johnny Rockets on Navigator of the Seas bucks that trend! The food was fresh and did not taste like it was under heat lamps.

We ordered a grilled cheese, double burger and grilled chicken sandwich.  Everything was piping hot when we got it and it just tasted better than our previous experiences.  The "icing on the cake" was the fact there was no wait and walked right in and sat down in a booth.

As I write this I realize I did not go to R-Bar today, which is a travesty. I must make up for it tomorrow.

Tomorrow we are going to Belize City in Belize.  I'm mentally preparing for tendermageddon with long delays but hoping our day ends up being fun.  Weather may be iffy with rain but only one way to find out!

 

Navigator of the Seas Live Blog - Day 3 - Sea Day

In:
11Feb2014

Today was our second sea day and it was even better than yesterday.  I guess it helps when it begins not docked in Galveston!

I couldn't help myself and once again woke up early, at 7am.  I took the liberty of waking my wife and daughter up so we could get going.  Pro tip for all the husbands out there, don't wake your sleeping wife up because you really want to go to the Windjammer.

After getting ready we had breakfast at the Windjammer, which featured the usual selection of breakfast foods.  I, of course, opted for the omelette station and we enjoyed a gorgeous view of the ocean with our meal.

We dropped my daughter off at Adventure Ocean and this time were given a beeper just in case there were any issues.  We hadn't gotten one before so not sure why now but didn't end up needing it.

My wife and I spent some time walking around the ship some more, including checking out the Peek-a-boo bridge.  The peek-a-boo bridge is a window where guests can look in and spy on the ship's bridge.  It's up on deck 11 and offers a great view of the bridge's operations.

We also booked my wife a massage package for later today (making up for waking her up early I suppose).  She went with the special of the day, which is a five service spa pack that includes back massage, facial, ankle & foot massage, exfoliation and some other relaxing things for $139.  

At 10am we had a tour of the galley that Royal Caribbean invited us to partake in.  Full disclosure: Royal Caribbean provided this galley tour for free to members of the media.  Everything else, including the cost of the cruise, airfare, spa treatments and restaurants have been paid by me.

We met with the head chef for Navigator of the Seas and he took us through the galley on deck 4 to see how food is prepared. It's an impressive operation and very refined.  For cruise geeks like me, it provided some cool insight.

After the tour my wife and I headed back up to pool deck for drinks and sun.  Interesting side note, we first got a drink at the Sky Bar and got Margaritas for $10 each.  We then went down to the Solarium to get another round of drinks and they were $1 cheaper.  The tidbit to takeaway isn't that I was drinking at 10:45am but the discrepency in price.  I guess it does pay to shop around!

At 11:30am I had another media tour of Navigator of the Seas' bridge.  As cool as the galley tour was, the bridge tour was even cooler because we got to see how a ship like Navigator of the Seas works and meet the Captain!  

Lunch today was at Izumi, the sushi restaurant on Deck 14 that is new to Navigator of the Seas as part of her revitialization. Izumi used to have a cover charge but now has no cover charge, and just charges food a la carte.

I'll save the full review of Izumi for a different blog post but I will note that there is a different menu for lunch and dinner.  The lunch menu has just sushi, whereas the dinner menu has an expanded sushi menu and non-sushi items as well.  Moreover, there are no sushi specials during lunch.

I liked my lunch at Izumi, and being a sushi lover, I found their sushi to be of good quality overall.  The tuna roll pieces I recieved were small in size but the signature rolls I ordered definitely measured up.  And unlike Giovanni's Table yesterday, Izumi was busy! 

Next up I had an opportunity to see a functional virtual balcony!  Like many of you, I was excited to see one "in the flesh" and this was another Royal Caribbean tour for the media.  We saw the two possible views the virtual balconies have and had some time to talk with the outside firm, Control Group, that designed them.  

I have to say these virtual balconies are going to be really popular because they are pretty darn cool and the visual aspect is stunning. 

While my wife went to get her massage, I took my daughter swimming.  The air temperature was definitely warm enough for swimming, however the water temperature did not exactly match.  It was fine once you got used to it but my daughter does not believe in slow adjustments, so I had to jump in.

We had a great time swimming and she loved splashing around in there.  The pool wasn't terribly crowded either so it was a fun time for us both, although we did quickly towel off and run back inside the ship to warm up.

By now my wife was back and after I showered I took some time to take some dusk photos from the pool deck.  I'm not a great photographer by any means but I thought I got a few decent shots.  Plus I just love how Royal Caribbean ships look at night!

Prior to dinner I had the opportunity to talk to Tim, the lead developer for the virtual balcony project and spent the better part of an hour picking his brain about the virtual balconies.  My discussion with him will appear in a detailed blog post in the days following my cruise but I have to say my takeaway is the virtual balconies are undeniably cool and let's just say what we see today isn't the end of virtual balcony development.  Also big shout out to Royal Caribbean Blog reader Ronnie!

Some of you asked for photos of the R-Bar, which is my new favorite bar to hang out in.  Their bartenders are fantastic, to the point you tell them what kind of alcohol and/or juices you like and they will whip something up just for you.  Amazing!

Dinner was once again in the main dining room and it was Italian night.  Food was great overall and once again my wait staff was fantastic. Our waiter, Daniel, is really quite funny and the guy is a pleasure to talk to, especially because you aren't sure what joke he has lined up next.

Tomorrow we are back on land and it's our first stop of Roatan in Honduras. My first time there and we have a taxi driver hired to take us around the island.  It's a dock port and we are due in at 10.  I will have a lot to report from our adventure there!

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