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Trip Report – First time Royal cruiser, Navigator Nov 4-8, 2020


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Quick cruising background: One 7 night cruise on DCL Magic with kids in 2010, another 7 night cruise on NCL Escape with 1 kid in 2017.  And now, my first “grownup” cruise without kids on the 4 night Navigator out of Miami with stops in Nassau and Perfect Day at Coco Cay.  


Why: After looking at my remaining vacation balance in September, it occurred to me that I still had a significant amount of timing remain before the end of the year.  Our company has a use-it-or-lose-it policy so I decided to use it and not lose it!   I also had a companion airline ticket from a credit card which was unspent so far.  I texted my sister “I have vacation time and a companion ticket burning a hole in my pocket.  Do you want to do a quick cruise in the Bahamas with me?”  Being the smart person that she is, she said “Yes!”


I started shopping between NCL and Royal Caribbean, out of Miami or Port Canaveral.   Since I didn’t have the kids with me, I wasn’t overly concerned with ship amenities like water slides, etc.  I really wanted to just sit, relax, drink some rum drinks, and read my Kindle.  I did want good food though, and while I didn’t have high expectations for Nassau, I did do some comparison shopping between the private islands.  The reviews were less favorable for NCL but the cruise fare for NCL included unlimited drinks while Royal Caribbean’s did not.  This was a pretty big price differential between the two.  I ultimately decided on Royal Caribbean because the private island experience looked better. Coco Cay had a dock (no tendering) plus both the beach and resort style pool.  I also like being able to compare experiences across travel providers.  I had already been on NCL in 2017 so this was an opportunity to try out RCL.  One more selling point for the Navigator was the Caribbean theme like the Lime and Coconut.  That was exactly the vibe I was looking for.

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`Pre-Cruise-   I chose the Marriott Biscayne Bay for our pre-cruise stay.  You never know what will happen with flights and I just had a sense that if I booked a hotel in South Beach for our first night, we’d just end up arriving late and missing out, plus incurring extra cab fees.  I booked the pre-cruise package at the Marriott which included a port view room, a welcome drink, breakfast, and transportation to the port.   The welcome drink translated to a coupon for $10 off any drink in their restaurant bar and the transportation to the port meant they would call, and pay for, an Uber on our behalf.  I can say that the staff at the hotel were all pleasant and professional. 

Everything did go well with our flights and we arrived mid-afternoon.  Our room directly overlooked the marina in front of the hotel, and the port in the distance.  We enjoyed our welcome cocktails, freshened up, and then went in search of dinner.  We headed south towards the arena where there was a Miami Heat game that night, which meant there was a  festive air around the arena.  We walked past the arena where I saw what looked like an interesting place to walk through.  It turned out to be the Miamarina with lots of shops and restaurants.  We spent the evening there enjoying the live music and overall atmosphere.


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Boarding Day:

We were up early and could see that there were already two ships in port, and then others steamed in during the morning.  A quick check on marinetraffic.com confirmed that that Navigator was one of the first two already in port.  In anticipation of the unlimited food and beverages that would be available on the cruise, we rallied for a workout in the Marriott fitness center.  I have to say that this was one of the nicest fitness centers I’ve seen in a hotel.  It had cardio and circuit training equipment, as well as a good selection of weights.  All of which overlooked the marina and the port in the distance. 


After our workout, we went back up to the room to get ready for the day.  We continued to monitor the cruise port comings and goings from our room while we were getting ready.  There was the Navigator,  2 NCL ships, 2 Carnival ships, a MSC ship, and a Seabourne ship that morning.  We went down to the restaurant and enjoyed a really nice breakfast.  Our breakfast was included in the package, but we were informed that gratuity was not.  We were happy to leave a tip.  Service had been good and, just like the fitness center, the breakfast seemed to hit all the sweet spots. 


We returned to the room for some last minute packing and then headed to the lobby to check out.  In informed them about needing transportation to the port.  The person at the desk asked for my phone number for the Uber confirmation.  I received a text from Uber shortly thereafter.  My sister and I wheeled our bags out to the entrance, the Uber pulled up, and next thing you know we were on our way to the port. 


We pulled up to the Royal Caribbean terminal and off loaded our bags.  We were approached by a porter who, in a completely friendly way, informed us that this was where we took care of the gratuity for the porters.  I passed him some cash and got the distinct impression that he was either unimpressed with the tip total, or unimpressed that with the bills I gave him he couldn’t evenly split it with his colleagues.  My sister and I nervously joked that we wouldn’t see our bags until the 8pm cutoff time. 


We proceeded through the terminal and security very quickly.  My sister had been randomly (to us anyway) assigned “Expedited Boarding” prior to the cruise so we were able to board right away.   And just like that, we were on the ship! 

My sister suddenly informs me that she wants to go find the helipad and check it out.  She thinks it might the stairs on deck 4 right behind all the people ushering us onto the ship, but since there’s a line of official people there, we didn’t try to walk past.  We entered the ship and started on the stairs towards the upper decks.  We explored the upper decks for a bit and then started asking people how to get to the helipad.  Sure enough, it was the stairs we had seen when we first boarded.  When we were on our way to the helipad, there’s another area there outdoors but separated by a wall from the helipad.  My sister went to check it out but then was informed, very nicely, that that was the crew area.  Whoops! 


Our next step was to find the Windjammer for lunch.  The crew members doing the “wash your hands’ entertainment were great the entire cruise.  We headed for seating in the far back of the Windjammer and found two seats at a shared table.  This was the most crowded the buffet would be for the entire cruise and there wasn’t a seat to spare.  Everyone was in good spirits though so it wasn’t an issue. 


Afterwards we headed to our room to see if it was available and it was!  I had booked a balcony guarantee and we ended up with a Spacious Oceanview Balcony on the 8th floor, second to last in the aft section.  Being that far aft didn’t bother us since we we’re both fairly active and looking for the extra steps.  The room was very comfortable, plenty of closet space, lots of drawers and shelves, and hooks in the bathroom.


Both my sister and I had read that the first day was a good time to check out the water slides without the lines being too long.  We suited up and headed for the pool deck.  We did the forward facing slide first (for the life of me I couldn’t keep the slide names straight the whole time)  and the coaster slide second.  Both were a LOT of fun!  The coaster slide was my favorite.  It was a good length and just plain fun with several dips, plus the clear sections over the side of the ship.  It wasn’t surprising that this slide had the longest line during the cruise. 


The next event was the muster drill.  I’ll only mention it because our location was on deck 4, directly facing the setting sun.  It was brutally hot out there and it felt like we were kept waiting for an unduly long amount of time.  Not the best of times but finally it ended.  We went to refill our drinks and then headed to the helipad for sail away.


It turned out to be an extended sail away since the Navigator had docked bow facing west, so we had to steam to the turning basin to change direction before heading out to sea.  I enjoyed the drive by the mega yacht marina but then my drink was empty and it was taking a long time so we headed back up to the pool deck for the remainder of the sail away.  After we left Miami Beach in the distance, we headed back to the room to clean up for dinner.  Our luggage did indeed make it to the hallway, but in section several rooms before ours.  So I’m glad I noticed them, and it’s possible we had already walked passed them other times but didn’t notice since they weren’t immediately near our room. 


My sister, who is probably the only person in the family who does more travel research than I do, had seen a menu for the Schooner Bar that had a Grapefruit Habanero Daquiri on it.  She was determined weeks before sailing that we were going to try this drink!  And so we did.  We found the Schooner Bar and ordered accordingly.  It definitely lived up to the hype.  I am not a fan of overly sweet drinks and this was perfect in my book. 


We had a reservation in the Main Dining Room for 6:15 and we were seated when we arrived.  They put us at a shared table that night and the company was pleasant.  The food was good although I can’t remember what I ordered that evening.  I do remember the Key Lime Pie for dessert – yum!


My sister and I had each brought one bottle of wine on board in our carry on bags, as the policy said we could.  We had no problem doing this.   Even though we had the drink package, it was nice to have the bottles in the room.  Each evening we would end with a night cap on the balcony, poured from the bottles we brought with us. 

Phew – that’s it for boarding day!

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2 hours ago, CariBear said:

Great review thus far! Boara the NOS in a week for the Thanksgiving Cruise.

Ditto CariBear.  Boarding on Monday.  We were on this same ship in May.  LOVE the new Coco Cay.  Can't wait.

FCat - Nice review.  Keep it coming!  And for goodness sake, stay off the treadmill (LOL).  P.S.  We love the Marriott Biscayne Bay and it's restaurant.  Great choice!

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Looking forward to reading more.  Loved the Navigator when we sailed her in March.


Would love your opinion of the common areas of the Navigator versus the Escape when you get a chance.  How was the Royal Promenade on the Navigator versus the main “centrum” style that is on the Escape?  Also, how did the pool areas compare?



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Day 1 Nassau

One of the things that turned me on to cruising at the start, and which keeps me coming back, is the prospect of morning coffee delivered by room service and enjoyed on my balcony.  When we had returned to the room the night before, I was surprised there were no menus to hang on the door handle overnight.  We were tired so I didn’t give it too much of a thought.  When I called room service in the morning, they quoted me a one hour wait for coffee, tea, a bagel, and an English muffin.  I declined and we headed up to the buffet for “first breakfast”.  We had a quick bite and then split up.  My sister headed for the gym and I opted for laps on the walking track on the pool deck.  On the Navigator, 8 laps equal one mile.  I loved taking laps on the Navigator track.  The pool deck was not crowded at all at this hour.  The music being played was a very nice reggae soundtrack with the classics mixed in with, in my opinion, the best of the newer songs.  I just got into the zone, walking around, taking in the sun and sights, and listening to the music.  After my laps, I grabbed a mimosa and headed back to the room to enjoy it from the balcony while I waited for my sister.  We headed back to the buffet for “second breakfast”.  My sister went to the omelet station, ordered, and was handed a pager to let her know when her omelet was ready.  I thought this was an excellent arrangement, and apparently so did my sister.  She ordered the omelet every morning. 


After breakfast we headed up to the pool deck and got ready for more water slide action.  I thought it was pretty neat riding the coaster slide and seeing Atlantis in the distance through the clear section.  We headed back to the main pool deck and sat in the hot tub for a bit.  For some reason I had trouble settling into the hot tub and felt quite anxious.  And then I figured it out.  I couldn’t relax because I was afraid that any minute someone was going to suggest we stop hanging out in the hot tub and go find something else to do.  This is conditioning from years of traveling with kids!  Once I realized my sister wasn’t going anywhere, I was able to finally relax, chill, and just take it all in. 


We had lunch in the Windjammer and my sister really enjoyed the Indian food selection.  Afterwards we decided on a quick excursion into Nassau.  We might have skipped it entirely except I had run out of hot sauce picked up during my last family vacation.  Procuring Bahamian hot sauce seemed like as good a reason as any to take a quick trip into town.  We left the ship, walked through the market, and headed along the waterfront.  There was a sign for a food market so we headed down a side street and found a market that was clearly more local than tourist.   It did have a full selection of hot sauces so I picked out two and we got in the checkout line.  My sister was in line behind me and behind her was a local woman who was clearly unhappy with our queuing.  She kept telling my sister to “Move up!  What are you waiting for?  Move up!”  There was no room for my sister to move anywhere but that didn’t seem to matter.  That was it for drama though, we paid for the sauces and left and the woman behind my sister finally got her turn.  We walked back to the ship and spent more time on the pool deck and in the hot tub. My sister tried the Flow Rider and enjoyed it a lot.  


We tried to make it to the Schooner Bar in time for trivia before dinner but ended up arriving 20 minutes late.  This meant we missed all but the last two questions for the session.  The trivia sessions do cycle through rather quickly!  My sister had also read about the pianist who plays randomly in the elevators on the promenade.  On our way to the Bar, we ended up spotting the piano player!  We took a quick ride with him, enjoyed the song, and then let other guests have a turn.  It was crazy and random and fun all wrapped up in one. 


At the Schooner Bar, I enjoyed another Grapefruit Habanero Daquiri but my sister opted for the Lavender that evening.  For dinner, I had the tenderloin from the rotating menu which was really good, and perfectly cooked.  For dessert, I opted for the Royal Chocolate Cake.  I rarely eat dessert at home so this was a real treat. 


After dinner we went to the Bamboo Room and I ordered a Pina Colada and my sister had a Mojito.  Both were expertly prepared non-frozen drinks.  We were tired from our day at this point so we headed to our room for our nightly night cap on the balcony and bedtime.  This evening I called room service and arranged for our breakfast to be delivered the next morning.


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Day 2 Perfect Day at Coco Cay

I’ll be honest, I was excited for this day.  On paper, Perfect Day checked all the boxes.  Would it in real life?  Stay tuned…

Our room service that we had ordered by phone the evening before arrived about a half hour late.  But it did arrive and I enjoyed some HOT coffee and an English muffin (first breakfast) on the balcony.  I watched the logistics happening on the dock below.  There were tractors pulling trains of trailers that would bring the supplies for the day to the different venues on the island.  I loved that even the tractors were branded, i.e. colorful painting matching the theme of the island. 


My sister and I then went up to the pool deck to do our laps for the day.  I again enjoyed walking to the reggae music and checking out the island in the distance.  It looked just liked the pictures on TV!  Afterwards we went to the Windjammer for second breakfast and, for me at least, more coffee!  After breakfast, we tried to stop by the pool towel desk and they told us we couldn’t take these towels to the island, we needed to get them where we disembarked.   When we went to disembark, the line for towels was long and we had to wait.  This seemed crazy to me – no line upstairs but a long slow line downstairs.  I was about to lose my mind because the line wasn’t moving but then it did start to move.  Once it started moving, it moved quickly and we found ourselves off the ship.  The whole towel ‘incident’ probably didn’t last that long, it just felt really long while we were going through it. 


We walked down to dock to the welcome sign on the island and were greeted by carnival?  Junkanoo?  Dancers and a band playing live music.  This was a great start.  My sister and I headed across the island to find a beach spot.  We landed in two front row loungers on the beach in front of the Chill Grill.  We were there for about 20 minutes before I said “I wonder if there’s beach service”.  And about 15 minutes later, a server walks by and takes our drink order.  Perfect!  We spent our morning on the beach, swimming, reading, enjoying the pina coladas.  We then walked over to the straw market for a quick look.  It was a much nicer market than the one at the port in Nassau.  We had lunch at the Chill Grill.  I had an ok cheeseburger, or actually, the burger without the bun.  The bun was really solid and a lot more bread than I needed.  Before you congratulate me for being good though, I’ll tell you I also went back for ‘second lunch’ and enjoyed a Cuban sandwich.  If you find yourself on the fence between the burger or the Cuban sandwich – go for the Cuban! 


My sister had a list of bucket list items for this cruise but I only had one: enjoy a drink at the swim up bar on Coco Cay.  We moved our beach bags to pool chairs and headed towards the swim up bar.  They definitely had the resort pool vibe going on here with loud music and lots of places to hang out around the pool.  We made our way up to the bar and, even though it was busy, we had no problem getting service.  We took our drinks over to an area where they had the solid in-the-water loungers and we tried them out.  The only awkward part was that the pool liner was coming up in that section, which seemed weird, but with the sun, music, and drinks, it just didn’t seem to matter.   Sitting in the loungers we planned out the rest of our afternoon.  I had spotted an overwater bar off the beach near the beach rental area so we decided to go reclaim some beach chairs, check out the swim out bar, and then close out the day on the beach.  


We dropped our bags at some loungers and then made our way to the swim out bar.  It was very windy the day we were there and, being a sailor, I was aware of the wind and currents.  I planned our entry into the water so that the wind would push us into the path of the bar, and not past it.  Once we started making our way into the water though, I started laughing at myself.  Of course Royal Caribbean wouldn’t expect anyone to actually swim out to the bar. You could walk the entire way out! It was maybe between 4-5 feet deep close to the bar.  One of the bartenders even recognized us from the Bamboo room the night before.  We enjoyed our drink and then headed back to our loungers for the last bit.  One more swim and then we slowly made our way off the island.  This time on the way out, the dancers were there to say farewell.  With our room overlooking the dock, we were able to see the band that came out, playing traditional Bahamian music.  They were quite good and the farewell parade was very nice.  They kept playing as the ship pulled away from the dock. 


All in all, I have to say that our Perfect Day at Coco Cay actually lived up to the hype. 


Back on the ship, I had planned a later reservation for dinner thinking that we would not want to rush off the island in order to get ready.  This turned out to be a good call, because at no point did I feel rushed that evening.  We went to the Schooner Bar for our usual pre-dinner drink, and then MDR for dinner.  Inspired by the tenderloin the previous evening, I ordered the regular menu steak, which was underwhelming.  I consoled myself with another slice of Royal Chocolate Cake and so saved the evening – lol. 


We went back to the room for our usual night cap on the balcony and I think we were looking for something my sister misplaced when I found some hanging pamphlets on the door stop between the door to the room and the bathroom door.  Suddenly, the skies cleared, the heavens opened, angels sang, and The Dude abided.  These were the breakfast menus to hang on the door handle!!!!!  I promptly filled one out and hung it on the door handle for the next morning. 


It really was a perfect day. 

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Day 3 At Sea


Our room service, which had been ordered by hanging a menu card on the door handle, arrived right on time.  We enjoyed first breakfast on the balcony and then headed up to the pool deck for our laps.  My sister ran her laps while I walked, enjoying the sunshine and reggae music.  I took some photos of the deck area this morning.  After I walked my 8 laps, I popped down to the room to get my beach bag to leave on some loungers.  Since it was a sea day, I knew the pool deck would be packed during the day.  I grabbed two loungers on the upper deck overlooking the main pool.  To be fully transparent, I was hoping for a good viewing area for the International Belly Flop competition at 1:00.  It’s ok, you can laugh at me.


And for the first time in three cruises, I was able to spend an entire day in a lounger by the pool.  I read in the loungers while my sister cleaned up from her run and then we went to the Windjammer for second breakfast.  We went back to the loungers and did some more reading, hanging out, and beveraging.  The Lion King was on the big pool monitor for the morning.  We made another run for the slides after they opened and enjoyed them both again.  Back to the loungers.  The movie had ended and the live music was starting up.  And then, the pool deck really started to fill in as the time for the Belly Flop competition approached.  The crew wheeled in the special Belly Flop stairs/diving platform and put them at the end of the pool.  And then it was time.  The contestants lined up, hammed it up, and flopped away.  It was silly, but also a lot of fun.  We spent the rest of the afternoon still in the loungers, listening to the music.  We did take a quick dip in the pool, just to say we did, and then back to the loungers. 


Eventually we parted ways with our loungers and went back to the room to get ready for dinner.  Our next event was 80’s trivia in the Schooner Bar before dinner.  We did respectably well with the trivia and then went to the MDR for dinner.  I had the chicken which, while being just ok, was still actually what I wanted at that point, since none of the other entrees appealed to me that night.  The Royal Chocolate Cake was still a winner though.  Yum.  Afterwards we went back to the room for a last nightcap on our balcony.

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Day 4 Miami Beach


I don’t have much to report about the last day as leaving the ship was fairly straightforward.  We did go to the Windjammer when it opened, in order to get at least coffee.  For some reason we both thought they would offer a reduced version of breakfast on the last day.  However it looked like they had the full regular offering.  We went back to the room, did a final look around, and said goodbye to our balcony. We walked off the ship and then through customs where there was no line.  We didn’t even need to show ID as it was all done by facial recognition.  Felt convenient and scary all at the same time.


For our post cruise day, I chose the Cadillac Hotel and Beach Club.  When I had first stayed there back in 2010, it was a Marriott Courtyard.  They’ve spiffed it up quite a bit and now it is a Marriott Autograph Collection hotel.  Not only did they let us check into our room before 9:00am that morning, they also had given me an upgrade to an ocean view room.  My last two photos are our lounge chairs from the pool and then the view from the balcony.  If you look closely in the balcony photo, you will see the Navigator heading out on her next cruise.

Cadillac Beach Club.jpg

Cadillac Balcony.jpg

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Final Post – Random Observations and Comparison to NCL Escape


Overall Impression

I left with a very good impression of Royal Caribbean.  Having perfect weather and travelling in low season certainly contributed to our having a good time.  However, it’s the accumulation of small details that really pull an experience together.  The lounge chairs have arm rests and an inch or two of space in between them.  The décor in the Schooner Bar was well thought out, detailed, and high quality.  The Main Dining Room had perfect lighting and a good atmosphere, in spite of the amount of people and servers in there at any given time.  The Navigator Dunes mini golf was fantastic with great features, nice fake grass, and nicely matching graphics around it.  The tables in the Windjammer were always cleared promptly.  Our stateroom had plenty of room.  Perfect Day at Coco Day was, dare I say it, on par with a Disney-type experience.  Yeah, I used the D-Word.  It was that “Perfect”.   My sister and both loved the Caribbean them on the deck, and the different seating areas with hammocks, day beds, wicker chairs, etc.  All the staff were friendly and professional.  At no time did I feel overwhelmed by crowds.  


Which leads me to my NCL comparison….

My son had picked the Escape for the water slides, ropes course, Eastern Caribbean itinerary, and because it was one of the newer ships.  The ship looked nice to me, with lots of activities for my son, many dining options, and so I agreed and booked a mini-suite.   In my limited experience, there are two differences I found between NCL and RCL.  On NCL, people are packed in closely and smoking like chimneys.  Space was at a premium.  The deck chairs have absolutely zero space in between them and they were crammed into every nook and cranny.  Smoking was allowed at the outdoor bars which then drifted all over, and you were inundated with smoke if going to order a drink.  There was smoking in the Atrium on the Escape too, and in the casino which was open to the Atrium, so the whole Atrium smelled like smoke.  I’m ok if smokers want to smoke, but I’d rather not smoke along with them via their second hand smoke.  Compared to the Escape, the Navigator had a less crowded and more relaxed pool deck, smoking contained to a specific area on the pool deck, and, in general, a lot more breathing space – literally and figuratively.  The pool decks on NCL are not for the faint of vacation heart.  One final comparison, the mini golf on the Escape was pretty basic and blah compared to the effort RCL put into Navigator Dunes – in case that’s how you choose your ship. 


Thanks for following along!


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Did you meet Super Mario while on the cruise? Mario Salcedo is the #1 cruiser in the world and as of May of this year has been sailing on Navigator nonstop. One of the tables at the end of the pool deck is even reserved for him as "his office!" If anyone is headed on the Navigator soon I highly recommend looking for Super Mario on the pool deck and saying hi to him during the day or if you see him out. He is a genuinely nice guy. Here is a link below about him:



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