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Navigating to Mexico -- May 27


Babsy47
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I'm an avid reader of these live cruise blogs.  I thought about attempting a live blog during a recent cruise on Symphony (Western Caribbean itinerary), but knew it would be too hectic given family dynamics and work demands.  We had a 2BRATS and a nearby balcony cabin for extra family.  I got the UDP for extra family, and the whole Star class experience worked out tremendously well even with the mix of Star and non-Star cabins.  If anyone has questions on how this worked out, I would be happy to answer.

We have an upcoming mini-trip on May 27 (Friday - Monday) from LA (near our home).  Because I try very hard not to work on weekends and holidays (and Monday, May 30 is Memorial Day), I am planning on not using my computer for work-related purposes on this upcoming trip.  Thus, I plan to use my computer for the much more entertaining purpose of blogging the trip.

We see many blogs of trips from Florida, but very few of trips from LA.  Thus, I thought I might be able to offer some insight into the post-COVID Navigator experience along with the LA to Ensenada trip.  Hopefully, I can answer any questions folks might have.  As I live not too far from the port, we will drive directly there after school on the 27th (it is early out because of the long weekend).  I do know the area around the port relatively well, if folks have pre-cruise questions.

We have a big group spread out over four cabins!  Me, husband, son (16), and nephew (13) will share a two bedroom suite.  Another son will share a balcony cabin with DIL and granddaughter (20 months).  Our third son and second DIL are in a connecting balcony cabin.  And, finally, GD's nanny and nanny's friend have a fourth nearby cabin.   

We have the UDP, so I am hoping that I can make reservations through the concierge before the cruise starts.  Reservations for 8 may be a challenge . . . we will see.

I reserved a ATV/Zip-line combo tour (not through RC).  On a previous trip with just my (much younger) some and me, we did the kayak tour at Bufadora and enjoyed it.  I am not, however, a fan of RC-sponsored tours.  I feel like they involve far more waiting than doing, which tends to make me a bit crazy (my problem, I know).

 

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On 4/29/2022 at 5:56 PM, Babsy47 said:

I'm an avid reader of these live cruise blogs.  I thought about attempting a live blog during a recent cruise on Symphony (Western Caribbean itinerary), but knew it would be too hectic given family dynamics and work demands.  We had a 2BRATS and a nearby balcony cabin for extra family.  I got the UDP for extra family, and the whole Star class experience worked out tremendously well even with the mix of Star and non-Star cabins.  If anyone has questions on how this worked out, I would be happy to answer.

We have an upcoming mini-trip on May 27 (Friday - Monday) from LA (near our home).  Because I try very hard not to work on weekends and holidays (and Monday, May 30 is Memorial Day), I am planning on not using my computer for work-related purposes on this upcoming trip.  Thus, I plan to use my computer for the much more entertaining purpose of blogging the trip.

We see many blogs of trips from Florida, but very few of trips from LA.  Thus, I thought I might be able to offer some insight into the post-COVID Navigator experience along with the LA to Ensenada trip.  Hopefully, I can answer any questions folks might have.  As I live not too far from the port, we will drive directly there after school on the 27th (it is early out because of the long weekend).  I do know the area around the port relatively well, if folks have pre-cruise questions.

We have a big group spread out over four cabins!  Me, husband, son (16), and nephew (13) will share a two bedroom suite.  Another son will share a balcony cabin with DIL and granddaughter (20 months).  Our third son and second DIL are in a connecting balcony cabin.  And, finally, GD's nanny and nanny's friend have a fourth nearby cabin.   

We have the UDP, so I am hoping that I can make reservations through the concierge before the cruise starts.  Reservations for 8 may be a challenge . . . we will see.

I reserved a ATV/Zip-line combo tour (not through RC).  On a previous trip with just my (much younger) some and me, we did the kayak tour at Bufadora and enjoyed it.  I am not, however, a fan of RC-sponsored tours.  I feel like they involve far more waiting than doing, which tends to make me a bit crazy (my problem, I know).

 

Thank you so very much for blogging this cruise.  We are sailing on September 23rd on the 7 day in a Grand Suite after using fcc's we figured let's just splurge a little more on this one.  We are excited to go back to this Honeymoon cruise that was almost 39 years ago!  (Well I just aged us)  Well age is just a number, right?  We absolutely love the Navigator after sailing on her right after the massive renovation for 9 nights in March of 2019 and had upgraded to the Owner's suite then!  We truly are 90% balcony and now ultimate dining package people so this was a treat!  We loved all the great new restaurants, etc.  We definitely wanted the ultimate dining package on this cruise instead of our normal 3 night.  I was hooked on Hooked!  That is a must to try for a sea food lover.  

Your whole family will love this ship!  If you could post either cruise compasses or give a short overview of the shows and music, it would be much appreciated!  I'm getting a little more excited now for this cruise.  I didn't mean to blab on but getting ready to go on the Symphony on the 14th with my daughter and new son in law (who has never cruised) so getting just really excited!  We are native Californians that Royal brought Navigator to CA which was the icing on the cake for us!

P.S.  We all 4 have the ultimate dining package!  Hooked here I come! (after testing)

Michelle

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1 hour ago, Cruising to Retirement! said:

Thank you so very much for blogging this cruise.  We are sailing on September 23rd on the 7 day in a Grand Suite after using fcc's we figured let's just splurge a little more on this one.  We are excited to go back to this Honeymoon cruise that was almost 39 years ago!  (Well I just aged us)  Well age is just a number, right?  We absolutely love the Navigator after sailing on her right after the massive renovation for 9 nights in March of 2019 and had upgraded to the Owner's suite then!  We truly are 90% balcony and now ultimate dining package people so this was a treat!  We loved all the great new restaurants, etc.  We definitely wanted the ultimate dining package on this cruise instead of our normal 3 night.  I was hooked on Hooked!  That is a must to try for a sea food lover.  

Your whole family will love this ship!  If you could post either cruise compasses or give a short overview of the shows and music, it would be much appreciated!  I'm getting a little more excited now for this cruise.  I didn't mean to blab on but getting ready to go on the Symphony on the 14th with my daughter and new son in law (who has never cruised) so getting just really excited!  We are native Californians that Royal brought Navigator to CA which was the icing on the cake for us!

P.S.  We all 4 have the ultimate dining package!  Hooked here I come! (after testing)

Michelle

Oh we are now living in Atlanta, Ga and we can't drive to the cruise port unfortunately.  That's a huge perk for you!  We have a great straight through flight on Delta to Calif two days early.  At least we can easily drive to Orlando or Tampa.  We are a tad nervous about some flights going or not or delayed.  Especially this year with having a cruise at the end of 4th of JUly week and a cruise over Thanksgiving.  These 2 cruises are at the peaks of airline traffic.  Not going to roll the dice on those times because we are not lucky people at all.  Now one of our daughters is the luckiest person I've met!   Besides peak travel weeks of the year we would probably fly.

 

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Our 16 year old tested positive for COVID this morning.  His friends tested positive earlier in the week, so I guess it was inevitable.  He is worried about finals next week.  I’m worried about positive tests before our cruise.  I’m hoping there is enough time to recover if I (or my husband) gets sick.  None of us has has COVID (as far as I know), so I’m keeping my fingers crossed!!

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  • 3 weeks later...

Well, this turned into more of a recap.  We had a terrific weekend!

Arrival:  We arrived at around 11:30, and parking was abundant.  This was “Fleet Week,” and others could better speak to what that might be.  For us, it meant port traffic!  As a tip, follow the signs to the Catalina Express into the parking lot, and then the World Cruise Terminal.  Parking was $20 per day.

After parking, you need to drop your bags.  It is not at the terminal entrance, but at the huge brown bubble-looking entry building.  After dropping your bag, you get in your timed line (e.g. 11:30-12:00).  We had a Suite, and that line was nonexistent to enter the terminal building.  They checked passport,  boarding pass, negative test, and vaccine docs.  Then we joined the everyone line for security screening, where we again showed all four docs.  The line took about 15 minutes.  Next, we checked in, which was very quick.  We again showed all four docs.  Finally, we boarded onto Deck 4.  We met our son and DIL when we boarded, so the Suite process took about the same time as everyone.  They directed us immediately to our muster station to check in. After checking in, we went directly to Jaime’s for lunch where our other son, DIL, and GD had ordered for us.  We arrived at the port at about 11:30, and we were sitting at Jamie’s (deck 11 on this ship) at about 12:20.

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Backing up a bit . . . about five days before we left, we received an email from the Concierge.  We had one Suite and two balcony rooms and the UDP for all of the adults.  I responded to the email by requesting dinner and lunch reservations, which were all made before we got on the ship!  The Concierge could not make Escape Room reservations, and by the time I figured out the app on board, they were all gone.  But, I have now figured out the app, so hopefully next time!

This is, I hope, a picture of the line in the terminal for security, our room, and the view from our balcony (which looked out the back of the ship).

 

Balcony View.jpg

room3.jpg

Room1.jpg

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Port Entrance.jpg

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mThrough the Concierge, we had reserved lunch at Jamie's for the first day.  It was good . . . not spectacular, but good.  We had a whole assortment given that we had seven.  Our granddaughter simply loved the two guitar players at the entrance to the Windjammer complex (where Jaime's is located) singing "wash your hand" songs.  Whenever we came in, they would change to a version of "Baby Shark" which got her laughing hysterically every single time.  Just thinking about it makes me laugh.

After lunch, I took my GD to the little splash pad.  The area for babies in diapers is pretty small.  It turns out, however, that kids in diapers are similarly small, and all of the little ones seemed to have a terrific time.  My GD had a great time!

The others took advantage of the slides and flowrider before we all converged at trivia (we did not win) before going to dinner at Chops.

Chops served a great dinner with terrific service.  We enjoyed one of the best Chops dinners of any ship.

Since I started my day working at about 5:30 am, by the time dinner finished, I needed sleep.  The others, however, enjoyed some of the night time activities (or at least they let me know they had a great time).

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Early Saturday morning we docked in Ensenada with a view to the most enormous flag I have seen in my entire life (of Mexico of course).  My husband commented, "well, it is impossible to miss that we arrived in Mexico!"

One oddity about this ship/cruise is the absence of Cruise Compasses.  We were on the Symphony in March and had a Cruise Compass in our room every day.  They were not in existence on this cruise.  Thus, all passengers needed to use the RC app to know what was going on.  While fine for many, we cruised with friends who had never cruised before and who are more comfortable with Spanish than English.  The absence of a Cruise Compass (in any language) was a huge problem for them -- in fact, I would say the absence of a Compass reduced their enjoyment of the cruise quite significantly as they could never quite figure out what was going on, and we disembarked just as they started to figure things out.  Cruise Compasses in various languages (particularly Spanish) need to return!  Also, when sailing out of Florida, announcements are made in both English and Spanish.  On this ship, announcements came only in English . . . another oddity.

We reserved the flowrider at 7:30 am, which was so much fun.  Five took turns learning/improving their stand-up surfing skills!  By the end,three of the five achieved their "advanced" rating, enabling them to return during the advanced time slots without needing to "try out" again.  The weather started the morning relatively nicely (high 60s).  It probably reached a high of about 70 around 11:00, but then turned colder.  Thus, morning was the best time to be out in the pools/flowrider.

We had an off-ship excursion booked for 9:30 am, and made it to breakfast at Windjammer by about 9:00.  I had gone earlier with GD, and so Ihad a "second breakfast" with the crew after dropping GD in the nursery.  WJ provided an excellent breakfast.  It could just be my perception, but I believe the Navigator has more seating and more food stations than Symphony.  Even if I am wrong, I far preferred the breakfast on the Navigator -- it was the best WJ selection and quality I have had on any RC ship, and my entire family thought the same.  In addition, we never had any problem finding a table large enough for all 8 of us, which we can never achieve on one of the Oasis class ships.   I had the same impression of the theater venues.  We did not need show reservations, and while the theaters had a good crowd, we never had a problem finding seats even when arriving just a few minutes before the show start time.

The nursery allowed six hours of reserved time, but it did not seem that a reservation was actually needed.  We never saw more than three little ones at a time in the nursery with two adults.

 

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We got off the ship at about 9:20 am Saturday morning and headed to the "black bridge" to meet our tour guide at about 9:30.  Emilio from ATVEnsenada was there waiting for us to embark on an ATV Mountain and Zipline tour.  We all had a fantastic time on the tour!   Emilo quickly wisked us off to their ship in downtown Ensenada where we obtained helmets and ATVs.  We then set off through the city (a bit harrowing) up onto dirt tracks above Ensenada.  The boys all commented that they had more fun on the ATVs than they had experience in quite a while!  Tje views of Ensenada from up on top of the mountains were spectacular.  The temperature was in the mid 60s.  I can imagine the dust and dirt being not quite as much fun if it had been hot.    

 

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Ensenada.jpg

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We rode the ATVs for a couple of hours and then switched to a van and headed to the zipline park.  For folks who enjoy things like ATVs or jetskis, a mountain ATV tour is a great choice in Ensenada.  As I indicated, the views were just amazing and kept coming.  You could really get an appreciation for how big Ensenada really is!  

And, like any big city, we sat in traffic going to the zipline park.  Once we arrived, however, the park was quite a find.  Called Las Canadas, the park offers camping for families, water slides, a kids water park, lakes, etc.  It looked like a fun place to camp with a family.  Our guide took us directly to the start of the canopy tour.  The tour included five long ziplines and five adventure bridges.  They ran a very efficient operation, and we did not wait at all.  We have done several of these types of tours, and this was the best run operation we have experienced.  They had two lines at each station and a person to clip in the zippers; they moved through people quickly and efficiently.  Each bridge had a person at the beginning and end to make sure you were properly clipped in and safely across.  

The experience took about 90 minutes with no waiting (all active).  We then purchased (non-alcohollic) pinapple drinks and headed back toward Ensenada.  Once back in Ensenada (much less traffic on the return), our guide took us to a taco place for a late lunch.   Given we had not eaten since breakfast and it was about 2:30 in the afternoon by that point, we relished the best tacos ever!  I have no idea where we were or the name of the place, so I cannot provide details.  It was clean and had a great outdoor seating area.  We enjoyed talking with the other families enjoying a late lunch on the patio with us.  We then returned to the ship and got back on at about 3:30 or so. On the walk back, we all marveled again at the enormous flag blowing in the wind.  Pictures cannot provide the massive scale of this flag, so I will not even try.

All and all, we took this cruise for the family experience.  We did not expect much out of Ensenada as a port stop.  We all ended up unexpectedly having a really fun day, and were excited, not tired, when we got back on the ship.

 

zip.jpg

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The ATVs left us dusty and quite dirty.  After cleaning up, my husband and I headed to trivia and then to the waterslides.  We had promised the kids that we would try both slides, so try we did.  By the time we reached the slides, it was cold!  We froze waiting (only about 5 minutes).  The water was warm (in the pools, in the slides, in the flowriders, etc.), but once out of the water, we shivered excessively.  In any event, we did both slides.  From my perspective, the mat option is best and a shorter wait.  We watched the kids on the flowrider for a bit, and then changed and headed to dinner at Izumi.

We all love sushi, so Izumi tends to be our favorite restaurant on any of the RC ships.  Dinner on the Navigator's Izumi did not disappoint!  One great thing about the Navigator is that all of the speciality restaurants have fabulous ocean views.  Izumi is on one of the top decks, and we sat next to the windows.  We were on the wrong side of the ship for sunset, but still had great views out of the cold and wind (by evening, it was in the high 50s/low 60s -- cold for us California folks).  

We attended the headliner show (El Gacho).  It was not the best show, but the house band was so good that it made the entire show fun.  The RC talent on this cruise was just outstanding.  The musicians and vocalists in all of the venues were several steps above what I generally expect from a cruise.  We experienced a fabulous house band on the Symphony in March, but the house band on the Navigator was just plain awesome.

After the headliner show, I headed to the skating show in Studio B.  I got there a couple of minutes before the show started, and I had no problem finding a good seat.  Without giving too much away, the beginning of the show does not involve skaters, but got gasps, oohs, and aahs from the crowd.  The skaters did a great job (on a rocking ship), and I left with a smile on my face.  

Another thought -- we do not drink, but we enjoy the lounges, trivia, live music, etc.  Since together my husband, son, and I have 12 drink vouchers a day (Diamond), it would sure be nice if the bars put together a nice mocktail menu like they do a cocktail menu . . . 

That wrapped up a very, very full Saturday!

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Sunday was just as packed as Saturday, but entirely on the ship.

We started with WJ breakfast, which appears to be the only option other than the main dining room.  We then did exercise-type things to work-up an apetite for lunch at Hooked.  We participated in the group exercise class on the Sports Court, which was relatively fun, did some games/trivia, and hit the slides again.  We also visited the gym, which was good for weights (the treadmills were mostly in use).

We liked Hooked for lunch much better than Jaime's.  I think that among the seven of us, we had the entire lunch menu (other than desserts)!

During the afternoon, we wandered the ship, played ping-pong and shuffle board.  We had a few mean games of cards in our stateroom, and played some trivia.  It was cold out, and the kids took on the flowrider.  They braved the cold, and ended ended up having the flowrider mostly to themselves for almost two hours.  My husband and I tried braving the cold and wind, but ended up surviving only a few minutes.

Back inside, we went back to Hooked for dinner.  We had a different dinner menu and different experience.  My husband and I both had lobster with vegetables.  Others enjoyed shrimp cocktails, oysters (they were good!), mussels, and the surf & turf.  The meals were enjoyed by all.   We experience high-quality service and good food at all of the restaurants; no complaints at all!

We then headed to Showgirls.  The script is fine; the singers and dancers were great!  All four lead vocalists were among the best I have seen on a ship.  One of my sons is a theater expert, and he remarked on the high quality of the performers.  The vocalists seemed there to out-vocal one another; they were all very strong.  The male dancers were fantastic as well.  The female dancers primarily wore intricate costumes that hindered their dancing a bit.  Great performances all around!

We then headed back to pack.  A very short trip, but a great weekend for all three generations of our family!

 

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Getting off the ship was a bit of a headache.  They started letting people off with hand-carried luggage at about 7:20 am.  From 7:20 - 7:50 people who who carried off their luggage themselves (like us) could debark.  I ran up to give a tip envelope to the Suite Concierge while everyone else got off.  That five minute delay was a mistake!  When I got to the line to check passports, I ended up waiting about 30 minutes.  They only had four border agents for the entire ship!  The rest of my family got off at about 7:30 am and had a much shorter wait.

One tip -- use the porters!  Even if you are carrying off your bags, detour to the porter line.  You need to tip the porters, but they had two border agents to themselves and groups using porters did not wait to get out of the terminal at all.  Our mistake.  Next time, we will use the porters with our carryons.

After getting to our car, getting out of the parking lot took awhile.  We paid on our way out, rather than the way in.  They had people at each machine helping with credit cards to get things moving faster, but it was still very slow.  The woman at the ticket machine told me they were short an entire exit (several exit lanes) because of Fleet Week.  She explained that usually there is not much of a delay, but that Fleet Week is causing havoc for the parking lot.

One interesting note, when I got up in the morning, the Queen Elizabeth (Cunard) was arriving in LA.  She passed between the Navigator and an enormous cargo ship and then made a sharp turn to dock.  I watched the entire maneuver; it was quite a sight to behold!  Most of the balcony cabins on the Queen Elizabeth had folks out watching their arrival into LA and waiving.  It was a fun way to spend 30 minutes early in the morning before our final breakfast.

Well, that is about the end of the short trip.  I would be happy to answer an questions regarding Ensenada, logistics, etc.

I'm looking forward to our next trip -- Greek islands from Rome in July on the Odyssey of the Seas!

 

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@Babsy47 thank you for an awesome review.  I also love the washy-washy guitar players at the entrance of the WJ.  If you go out on Navigator again, the suite entrance is a roped off area to the left of the main entrance.  Once you show your docs they raise the ropes, scoop you in and w/in about 5 minutes you are on the ship.  I love the idea to use the porters on the way out as well.

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