Then three weeks later I went on the same cruise, again for a wedding. On this cruise I noticed that the food quality had dramatically declined and they kept closing the pool but wouldn't explain why. But the entertainment was decent and, again, great people on the cruise. But I still was not impressed with cruising and didn't quite get the appeal.
About a year later we went on two more cruises (again, for weddings) on Carnival Paradise. This time instead of being visually assaulted by orange, it was yellow. The entertainment was so-so and the food was back to being great on both of those trips. But, again, I left those cruises thinking I'd never choose to go on a cruise unless it was for a wedding. Cruising just wasn't my thing.
Which makes you wonder why we chose to have our wedding during a cruise. I really can't explain that other than my husband and I went back and forth on when and where we wanted to have our wedding and the cruise was the only thing we were able to agree on. My Mom had always wanted to go on a cruise and I insisted on a Caribbean cruise so we'd at least have a decent port to go to (Ensenada... yeah, not the greatest!). So then if the ship sucks at least we'd get nice ports to enjoy. I was also told to get the "real" cruising experience you need to go on a longer cruise, on a bigger ship, and that the Royal Caribbean brand would be more up my ally than the Carnival brand. And so we booked a 6-night Western Caribbean Cruise on Royal Caribbean's Navigator of the Seas.
We initially booked an oceanview cabin on Deck 2 but then prices dropped dramatically and we were able to upgrade to a Deck 6 Aft Balcony for only $50 per person so we jumped on that opportunity. I heard so many mixed reviews about the Deck 6 Aft Balconies since it had an obstructed view, but I decided to go into it with an open mind and low expectations.
And so on February 26th we boarded the ship with my low expectations. Maybe it was because I wasn't expecting much, but from the moment we stepped foot on the ship I was blown away! The Navigator is subtly and beautifully decorated. I didn't feel like I was being assaulted by crazy decor by any means. It makes me wonder why Carnival felt the need to go balls out crazy with the decor of their ships. The subtle decor felt elegant without being to uppity. I feel that RCCL did a great job with this ship!
Then we had an issue with our table assignments (my girls were seated at a different table at a different dining time than everyone else) so we went to speak with the Matre'D right away. Not knowing where anything was on the ship we decided to just wander without looking at a map and see if we could find it. Several kind crew members greeted us when they saw us and asked if they could help us. It made us feel very welcomed. This was generally something I only got from the stewards on my previous Carnival sailings (and on one we didn't even get that as we didn't see our steward the whole cruise!). We found the Main Dining Room and got the table situation worked out quickly. It was a great way to start the cruise knowing that they would take care of us if we needed something.
What followed was 6 days of memories and fun. My friend David actually lives in Miami and was on the fence about going on the cruise, saying he didn't think that cruising would be something he'd enjoy. I guilted him into it (I think I told him he was a bad friend if he didn't come to my wedding even though he lived 20 miles from the port!). Well, on the third day David found out that the Navigator was about to be repositioned over to Europe and began planning his trip there. He did end up booking that cruise (15 days!) and then proceeded to book the Navigator's first two Europe sailings. He's actually in Europe as we speak waiting for a Royal Caribbean ship to reposition back to the US. Yes, the man is now addicted to cruising! Apparently, it's exactly for him! And that was the reaction the rest of us had with this cruise.
I am now a cruising fan. I love Royal Caribbean and this class of ship. It has so much to do on it that we didn't get around to doing half of it. The ports - Grand Cayman; Ocho Rios, Jamaica; Labadee, Haiti - were all great! David actually didn't even want to get off the ship in Haiti since he was worried he wouldn't feel safe but I told him that I'd done a lot of research and heard that Labadee was very safe and a lot of fun. He decided to get off just so he could add Haiti to the list of countries he's visited and ended up spending the whole day on the beach with us! And we all agree that Labadee was our favorite port and I can't wait to go back someday! My Dad and I did the Dragon's Breath Zip line which is beyond thrilling! Here's my totally dorked out video:
Labadee was our last port, but we still had a "Day At Sea" to enjoy. We spent it just being lazy around the ship, enjoying the Adults Only area, playing card games with our friends and family, and enjoying the fabulous food. On the last day we stayed in our cabin until the absolute last minute possible, just so we could enjoy every minute of this cruise. None of us wanted to leave!
All in all, everything from the food to the crew to the cabin to the ports was amazing! It far exceeded my previous experiences and expectations. Just the little things made it so special- like when I went to get a small cake for our wedding cake at Guest Services they bought it for us as a wedding gift! Or how the crew all knew we were there for our wedding and would tell us good luck the day before and congratulations the day of. And the way that not only our steward took the time to get to know who we were, but all of the stewards we would pass in the hallway on a daily basis. I don't think I've ever been smiled at so much! And the food was INCREDIBLE! I don't think there was anything that I ordered that I didn't like. It was all cooked to perfection and didn't have that mass-cooked feel to it. I think only the sushi let me down, but I'm a sushi brat and really picky about it so I'm not surprised by that!
Oh, and that balcony that I got mixed review about? I loved it! I can see how it wouldn't be for everyone, but I enjoyed the fact that past my balcony was a roof and not a drop down. I could lean against the railing without having my fear of heights kick in and I even hung my wedding dress out there to dry off after rinsing it off in the shower without worrying it would fly off into the ocean. The view was a little obstructed, but not badly. You can still see the ocean, you can still hear the ocean, and the balcony felt very private. I'd stay on a Deck 6 Aft Balcony room again in a heartbeat! And the oversized balcony was a great bonus during sail away when we had 6 people out there and when we were playing card games when we had 7, all fitting comfortably!
In the future, I will sail with Royal Caribbean again. I would love to be on the Navigator or one of her sister ships again for sure! I'm not sure I'd ever want to go much larger, like the Oasis, but we'll see what the future brings. :)
When comparing it to Carnival, there is no comparison. Royal wins in every category hands down! I especially appreciate their customer service and how if I had a problem I was treated with respect. One thing that's really been bothering me lately is that I follow Carnivals "spokesperson" on Facebook and he's always posting emails that he or the company received from clients commenting or complaining about something. While I understand that some of these complaints are ridiculous, I feel it is very poor, tasteless customer service to post these emails with the person's name on it for people to ridicule and insult. But I guess that's just Carnival's spokesperson reflecting the decor of the ships I've been on! Over the top and assaulting. For many reasons I will probably never sail Carnival again (unless it's for a wedding) and will instead dedicate my vacation funds to Royal Caribbean, where their customers are treated like kings with lots of respect! Or maybe Disney Cruise Lines once we have little ones to come along with us as I hear Disney is fantastic! But, yeah, never again Carnival.
Now if Royal Caribbean would just come back to the West Coast so we can sail with them without having to fly to the port. *hint* *hint*, RCCL!
Alright, enough blabbering, onto the pictures!
My maid of honor, Em, and I getting excited as we waited for our ride to the port.
Arriving at the port! Terminal 29 was WAY in the back!
First peak of the ship!
The loooong line to get on the ship. It wasn't that bad except I had to go the bathroom SO BAD the whole time and there are no bathrooms until after you get through security.
Good company in line. :) My two best ladies, Susan and Em.
On the ship I was greeted with this, how the cruise line is trying to be environmentally friendly!
It's a seriously beautiful ship.
Cabin 6690, 6th Deck After Balcony. It was nice!
Our giant balcony!
My Dad and I are Tebowing nerds. We went up to the Helipad for a little Tebowing action.
Everyone on our balcony watching sail-away.
Dinner the first night.
The Welcome Aboard Show. Interesting facts!
OK, because it angers Blogger when you make posts too long I will stop here, with Day 1 and continue on another post with the rest of the cruise pics!