Navigator of the Seas Live Blog

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!

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

In:
10Feb2014

Today is a sea day but we actually started the day docked in Galveston.  That's right, we never left Galveston last night due to fog. 

We woke up at 7am for no particular reason and noticed we were still docked.  By the time we started getting ready for breakfast, you could feel the ship's engines start up and minutes before 8am we left Galveston (finally).

The Captain made an announcement shorthly after telling us that we should be in Roatan (our first port stop) by 10am despite the fog delays.  Even after leaving Galveston, there was heavy fog and the ship was blowing its horn every few minutes.  By about 11am or so the fog dissipated and the day got progressively better as time went on.

We started our morning with breakfast at the Windjammer.  The upholstery, furnishings and pretty much everything in the Windjammer looked new. Like much of the ship, everything looked bright and new and it really makes Navigator of the Seas seem like a new ship.

After breakfast we dropped my duaghter off at Adventure Ocean.  Since we had pre-registered her last night, it was a quick process and she was more than happy to get going.

I had also discovered Navigator of the Seas has two new unlimited internet plans available. One unlimited plan is for two logins at once, whereas the other unlimited internet plan is for one login at once.  I opted for the single user unlimited plan but the two-user unlimited plan is good for families or uber-connected groups. The two-login unlimited internet plan is $229.95 and the one-person unlimited internet plan is $189.95. Both plans can have Crown & Anchor discounts applied to them.

I was also informed by someone that the Royal Replinish beverage plan does include Starbucks drinks, which makes the deal quite easy to "break even" if you ask me.

After dropping her off, my wife and I decided to explore Navigator of the Seas some more.  We started by walking around the pool deck and walked backwards to the sports deck where a lot of changes were made.  It was still cold and very windy so not many people were out doing anything here, but we saw the FlowRider as well as the re-positioned mini-golf course.  It's really amazing how much work they put into the ship!

We also took this kid-free opportunity to walk the Royal Promenade and see what wares were available.  The shops had a lot of the same things we were accustomed to seeing on Royal Caribbean ships like logo merchandise, designer clothing and of course jewelry. 

The fun thing about a sea day is there's something going on everywhere and it's up to you what to do.  Due to the cold weather, it wasn't yet practical to be outside so we walked the decks some more.  Enjoying the ambiance of a ship for me and my wife is a fun way to spend the day.  We wandered in and out of venues to see what, if anything, was different.

In the weeks leading up to the cruise, a few blog readers mentioned they would be on the same cruise as me so I set up a blog meet up in front of Ben & Jerry's at 10:30, and it was a lot of fun meeting other Royal Caribbean fans who I could "talk shop" with!  

After the meet, I made my way up to the Viking Crown Lounge for the CruiseCritic meet-n-mingle.  For those unaware, the meet-n-mingle's are semi-organized meets for members of CruiseCritic sanctioned by Royal Caribbean.  It's basically an opportunity to meet others you may have been talking with prior to the cruise.

This meet there were a lot of people at this meet, more than I've ever seen. Probably 40 or so, if not more.  There was also free champagne or alcohol fruit punch and a few snacks along with some Royal Caribbean giveaways.  I was lucky enough to win a Royal Caribbean branded laptop bag!

After the meet, we picked up my daughter from Adventure Ocean and went to our lunch reservation at Giovanni's Table.

Giovanni's Table is a specialty restaurant that is new to Navigator of the Seas, although I had the chance to try it on Oasis of the Seas a few years ago.  They are open for lunch and dinner, so I decided to try it for lunch.

When we arrived at about 12:15, the place was literally empty.  Even when we left, there was maybe one or two other tables occupied so draw your own conclusions.

I'll save the entire experience at Giovanni's Table for an upcoming review on the blog but I can say we enjoyed our time here.  The food is served family style, although most of it was small enough for just one person to eat.

The food was cooked fresh and I enjoyed the various sauces.  And you could tell the food was not previously frozen, which definitely added to the taste. Giovanni's isn't the kind of restaurant to turn what you know about Italian food on its head, rather, it's a celebration of classic Italian food.

I should also point out how good the staff was here.  My daughter was less than exemplary in her behavior but the staff really went out of their way to cheer her up.  Our waiter in particular did a lot to entertain her, which was wonderful for us.  Royal Caribbean restaurant staff are always quite good but the efforts of the Giovanni staff were better than I ever remember.  Bravo!

In all, I liked Giovanni's Table and for lunch, the cost is less than dinner ($15 per person at lunch) and I felt on a sea day a good choice for something different.

After lunch, my daughter needed a nap in a really bad way so we went back to the room for a nap.  My wife and daughter napped while I decided I wasn't tired enough for a nap so I would go to the pool deck to people watch. Well, within about 10 minutes on a lounge chair and I was fast asleep.  

When I woke up, I went back downstairs to the stateroom and we lounged around the room some and then got my daughter a snack.  She felt special when we went up to the pool deck to get her cranberry juice from the bar and she got to sit at the bar "like a big girl".

Tongiht was also formal night so it was back to the stateroom to get ready for dinner.  Our plan was to get me and my wife dressed, then take my daughter to the Windjammer for her to eat and then drop her off at Adventure Ocean while we enjoyed dinner in the main dining room.

We went ahead with the plan and had her fed, potty'd and in Adventure Ocean a few minutes after 7pm. With my daughter take care of, we went down to R-Bar for a pre-dinner drink and I've become a fan of R-Bar.  Great vibe and the furniture is so odd and retro it's fun to be there.  Plus the drinks offered here are great too!  I think R-Bar is an instant Royal Caribbean classic.

We took a few formal photos too although I doubt we will buy them but the lines were short.  All over the Royal Promenade there was something going on.  Free champagne for the Captain's Reception and a brass band playing really set a fun tone across the ship.

Dinner we were back in the main dining room although it was the first time meeting our wait staff since last night's dinner was such a mess with the fog delay and was open seating.  Tonight we were at our table, which was a 6-top although me and my wife were the only people there.  Not sure if our tablemates skipped dinner tonight due to formal night or are just not main dining room people.  

Nonetheless we had a great time because our wait staff of Daniel and Gabriel were hillarious. Daniel has a dry humor and was very entertaining.  Tonight was also coffee ice cream night, which is my all time favorite ice cream and he brought me the biggest helping of ice cream I've ever seen.  Best dinner ever?

After dinner we took a post-dinner walk around Deck 4, a vested family tradition, and then picked up my daughter from Adventure Ocean.  She had an absolute blast and was sad to have to leave.  It's only 1 day in but she loves Adventure Ocean and tomorrow night they have a program of paying extra to keep the kids there as late as 2am! The gears in my mind are turning...

Tomorrow we have another sea day and we have some small plans, like perhaps trying to go for a swim now that the weather is improving.  Otherwise we will play things by ear and I'm hoping for another pool-side nap.

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

In:
09Feb2014

Sometimes unexpected things happen on your vacation and most of the time they are out of your control and today was one of those days.

We woke up early this morning with excitement, around 7:00am, and everyone was ready for the cruise to begin.  That was until we checked online and discovered Navigator of the Seas was not letting guests off the ship. In fact, the ship wasn't even in port.

Due to heavy fog, Navigator of the Seas was sitting off the coast of Galveston because the port was closed due to heavy fog.  During this time of the year, fog is common and delays due to fog happen because of lower visibility.

I had read tweets, emails and other online messages from passengers onboard Navigator of the Seas indicating they were not docked yet.  By 9:00am I had recieved the first automated phone call of the day from Royal Caribbean telling us our departure was delayed and there would be an update at 11:00am.

So we did the best we could and had another breakfast at Miller's Seawall Grill, which was as uninspired as dinner.  So we sat around the hotel waiting for something to happen.  Thankfully our hotel, the Galveston Beach Hotel, was beyond accomodating.  They allowed all the cruise guests to stay in their rooms as long as they needed without any additional cost.  It was really quite refreshing because it allowed our daughter to nap and us avoiding hours upon hours in the lobby.

The 11am call told us the earliest we could arrive would be 4pm so we took a walk along Seawall Drive and found a Mexican restaurant called Gorditas Mexico that advertised itself as authentic Mexican and it was pretty darn good.  It ended up being about $30 for all of us so it sounded good to me.

By 2:00 I started seeing a flurry of messages saying things were looking better and Navigator was starting to move. At 2:20 Royal Caribbean told us to arrive no earlier than 6:30 for a 7:00 boarding.

There's no question that having your vacation delayed is frustrating but when the delay is a result of something out of your hands, there's really not much you can do.  The key is to "go with the flow" and just deal with it.  If we had a rental car, I would have driven around Galveston and done more.  

I think Royal Caribbean's automated responses were adequate and I hear we are getting $20 per person in onboard credit (although I have no first hand confirmation) to cover lunch, which is certainly a nice gesture.  So for anyone cruising from Galveston in winter, keep this in mind as a possibility just like a hurricane impacting Florida ports in the fall.

At any rate we left the hotel at about 5:30 and arrived to the terminal to find a really big line. I guess most people ignored the 6:30 time or had no where else to go.  The line was massive but it's what I expected.  Luckily the lines did move, which is better than long lines that do not move. I think we made it through all the lines and onboard in about 45 minutes.

Once onboard, it was an odd embarkation day because everything was out of whack.  The main dining room was open for everyone and it was just open seating instead of assigned times.  The Windjammer was open too as per usual.  I overheard a crew member at Chops announcing a 30% off just for tonight deal.

Some of the bars were open, although an announcement indicated due to Texas law they could only open a few bars while in port.

All staterooms were ready so we went up to our family ocean view stateroom.  We're in room 6500 and it's all the way forward and massive! It's meant for 5-6 people but we were able to book it for just the three of us.  My daughter even gets her own room with a curtain door.  

We went to Adventure Ocean to register our daughter.  This is the kids club on Royal Caribbean and it looked great.  No Adventure Ocean activities today but it will all get going tomorrow.  My daughter loved it in there and was upset when we had to leave.  She'd prefer to spend the whole week there right now!

Walking around the ship, you can tell it's been refurbished and this will be a continuing theme of our posts this week.  The carpets smell and feel new.  Everything looks bright and fresh.  It's really quite nice and exceeded what I was expecting going on this ship.

We walked around the decks a bit to see a little bit more but decided to head to dinner to eat before our 10pm muster drill.  At the main dining room, it was open seating because of the delay in boarding but the menu was otherwise normal.  In fact, they had escargot on the menu, which was the first time it was actually available since 2012 for me.

Tomorrow is a sea day, although it may be Galveston day two at the rate this fog is going.  Honestly, I don't really care although the advantage of a sea day is we will go south and it could be warm enough to go swimming (it's too cool out to really go swimming).

All in all, Royal Caribbean did the best they could with the situation they had.  I think they handled the situation well and the automated calls were informative and timely enough to keep us in the know.  It was frustrating and I cannot imagine what people disembarking did if they had flights but I'm happy to be onboard now and enjoying the cruise, even if we haven't moved a foot yet.

We have lunch planned at Giovanni's Table but otherwise the day is open. Hoping our daughter will love her time in Adventure Ocean so me and my wife can go explore the ship more and really start to relax.  

I'll also have more photos of what's new and different on the ship.  Post your requests in the comments!

LIVE photos from Navigator of the Seas

In:
09Feb2014

All day today, we're onboard the newly refurbished Navigator of the Seas and will be sharing our photos as we explore what's new and different onboard this beautiful cruise ship.  

This post will be updated regularly throughout the day with new photos, so check back often to see what else is new.  Of course, you can also see photos posted to our Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts too.

Navigator of the Seas Live Blog - Galveston Day

In:
08Feb2014

Today our Navigator of the Seas finally begins and we couldn't have been more excited to get it started.  We weren't going to be boarding Navigator of the Seas today but our vacation can really begin as we flew down to Galveston, Texas to be ready for the cruise fun tomorrow.

Like every cruiser that looks forward to their next cruise, I went to bed too late last night and woke up too early all because of excitement.  I mean, I can sleep later right?  We got up around 6:00am to get the last things ready and be ready for our 7:30am car service to pick us up to bring us to LaGuardia Airport.  

 So up and at 'em we went, getting the last things packed, waking up the daughter and waiting for our town car service from Legends Limousine at 7:30am.  A quick ride to the aiport and we were on our way.

About two weeks ago I decided to surprise my wife with something to make this vacation a little more fun.  I found on eBay people selling day passes to United's airport lounge.  Usually these passes for for $50 from the airline but I was able to get two passes for about $30!  So I kept the whole thing a secret until this morning when we were in the car to the airport.  

LaGaurdia was quite empty and no lines to deal with.  Unfortunately, there was no United Club in the Terminal we were flying out of, so I guess I will save the passes for our flight home.

The flight to Houston was mostly fine.  I hate flying so I'm not exactly unbiased but there were a few bumpy moments but a majority of the time the flight was smooth and I managed to find an empty row in the back of the plane to lie down and take a nap.  

We landed in Houston early and our friend Paul picked us up.  We took the highway from IAH to Galveston, with a stop along the way at Whataburger because I've never been to one before and I had heard its a decent burger.  Considering we were starving from barely eating at 8:00am and no food on the plane, it was a welcome pit stop.

We checked into the Galveston Beach Hotel, which is located right on Seawall Drive.  It's a former Holiday Inn Sunspree and is perfect for what we need: a clean, well furnished hotel room for one night.  

Our room was available and we also booked a shuttle to bring us to the cruise terminal tomorrow.  The shuttle costs $20 per family and originally they said it would leave at 11:00am.  I want to leave for the terminal by 10:00am and so the staff called the shuttle guy and arranged for us to leave at 10! 

After dropping our stuff off, Paul drove us to Wal-Mart to get some supplies that we didn't want to pack like shampoo and what not.  I also took this opportunity to purchase two bottles of wine to bring aboard the cruise ship, which Royal Caribbean permits.  Wal-Mart's wine selection isn't exactly top shelf, but it'll do for what I need.

By now the early start and lack of sleep was starting to catch up with my daughter and even us so we decided to head back to the hotel and order something to the room while relaxing and hopefully getting some shut eye early.

Seawall Drive, the road our hotel is on, is a real tourist mecca with plenty of restaurants, shops and attractions along the way. It reminds me of A1A in Florida. Being early February, it's off-season here so there isn't a whole lot happening but it's a very nice area.  Paul was telling me in the summer the water front of Galveston is filled with cars and people so it's quite a different vibe right now.  Still, it's a nice area to walk and explore.

As for the Galveston Beach Hotel, as I said earlier it's clean, quiet and a good choice for someone who needs a place to stay for a night before their cruise.  There's a restaurant in front of the restaurant that shares a pool between the hotel and the restaurant with a swim up bar attached.  It's too cold for swim up bars now but could be a really fun place for adults to enjoy.

For dinner we tried out the nearby Miller's Seawall Grill. It's an American seafood restaurant that has a little of everything.  We ordered a couple of sandwiches and they were just okay. Nothing special but since Paul had left, we had no car and delivery options were limited.  It wasn't great but I can't say I'd order from them again.  

After dinner we were ready to relax and take it easy for the evening. I would have loved to go walk around a little more to see Galveston's night life. Alas, no need to push myself too much and tomorrow is day one of our Navigator of the Seas cruise so I certainly want to have enough energy for that.

Definitely a great first day and we are all even more excited to get onboard the ship and let the real adventure begin.  Our plan is to have breakfast at 9am and then be ready to go to the cruise terminal by 10:00am.  

I also wanted to thank everyone who sent me such great comments and suggestions via email, Twitter and Facebook.  I appreciate the support and hope this will be as fun for you to read as it is for me to write.

We will have a lot of updates in our live blog here but also on Royal Caribbean Blog Twitter and Instagram.  I'm also planning on live streaming sailaway with a web cam so look for the stream right here on the log. Follow along and then get the whole summary here tomorrow.  

Live Blogging from Navigator of the Seas - Preamble

In:
03Feb2014

Hi everyone, I'm really excited to announce our next live-blog experience as we get ready for a cruise aboard Navigator of the Seas for a 7-night Western Caribbean adventure.

It is my hope to provide to our readers a daily look at what this cruise will be like and share our experiences with you.  This means I will try to post photos every day along with a written report of how things are going (internet permitting).

If you're new to our live blogs, check out the live blogs we did for Freedom of the Seas and Jewel of the Seas last year for an idea of what's in store for you. I'm hoping to give our readers a daily look into what we did that day, what was good/not good and what we have planned for the next day.  

For this cruise, we're flying from New York to Houston, Texas on Saturday, February 8 to start our adventure. We're flying in a day early because we want to be good little cruisers and make sure we get to our port in plenty of time and be able to enjoy some time in Galveston (the port our ship leaves from).  Luckily a friend of a friend (hi Paul!) is giving us a ride to and from the airport, which is making things very easy on us.

Our flight leaves New York at 10:00am, so we will be arriving in Houston with enough time to get to Galveston and explore a little. We ended up booking the Galveston Beach Hotel through Name Your Own price option on Priceline, which got us a really good rate compared to anything else we found online.  The next day, we will board Navigator of the Seas as early as humanly possible and start the real fun on February 9th!

This is our first time on Navigator of the Seas and what drew me to this cruise is it is her first 7-night cruise since her month long drydock, where she received a number of upgrades. Many of these upgrades are really quite interesting and unique to Navigator of the Seas and I'm really excited to see them in person.  Also, my daughter is old enough for Adventure Ocean this cruise so I know she is excited to try it and I'm excited to have time with my wife enjoying the new ship just the two of us.

In addition to the exciting changes coming to Navigator of the Seas, the itinerary really appealed to us.  We've never been to Belize City or Roatan previously and have always enjoyed our time in Cozumel.  I've blogged about our plans for CozumelBelize City and Roatan, so you can see what we're thinking for those stops.

Who is going

Matt (me), Marissa (wife) & Gabriella (3 year old daughter).

Our itinerary

DayPortArriveDepartActivity
09-FebGalveston, Texas  4:30 PM
10-FebCruising   
11-FebCruising   
12-FebRoatan, Honduras 8:00 AM 5:00 PMDocked
13-FebBelize City, Belize 8:00 AM 5:00 PMTendered
14-FebCozumel, Mexico 7:00 AM 5:00 PMDocked
15-FebCruising   
16-FebGalveston, Texas 7:00 AM 

Next update should be on our Galveston day, Saturday, February 8.  Stay tuned for all of our live blog updates right here.

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