Royal Caribbean Cruise Taught Me (aka RCC Taught Me): Navigator of the Seas Review

View from the ship on the last night.
The sun has set on summer. Yesterday was the first day of school. Boo. I now have some time to reflect on my experience on Navigator of the Seas. Not that cruising needs much reflecting. It's pretty straight forward: eat, swim, relax, play, sleep, repeat. But here's fives things that surprised me:
1. CULTURE: The social vibe of the cruise depends on where it sails out. I didn't realize this until I sailed out of Texas on the Navigator of the Seas. I would estimate that around 60% of the people I met on board where Texans. So friendly and chatty! And the barbecue ribs I ate on the pool deck on the 5th day? Amazing. The head chef knows Texans take their BBQs seriously and didn't disappoint. I liked experiencing a little flavor of Texas onboard.

2. ACCOMMODATIONS: We stayed in an interior room #6465. No windows, no balcony! I wouldn't recommend this room when traveling with children. I learned quickly that my kids need 3 hrs more sleep than me: 1.5 hours in the morning and 1.5 hours at night. What did I do with my time in a pitch dark 150 sq ft room? Luckily Royal Caribbean gave me unlimited wifi so I could chat with Rob and go online, but those 3 hrs each day were rough. I understand the lure of booking an interior room because of the price, but I would have given anything for a balcony to sit out on while my kids slept. So grateful my parents spoiled us with a balcony room on their retirement cruise! It was heaven.

3. PREPARE: Get your legs waxed! Unless you're a gymnast, shaving your legs on board is nearly impossible. It was comical how wet I got the bathroom each day. Royal Caribbean has a spa on board with waxing services if you forget. Do it! My biggest regret!

4. CREW MEMBERS: Salt of the earth. Best service I've ever had in my entire life. They go out of their way to make your stay on board amazing. My room was cleaned twice a day, my kids were adored at the child watch programs, and the waiters gave it their all. I don't know how they have so much energy to keep going day in and day out. It was incredible to watch and exsperience.

5. OFFSHORE ADVENTURES: Book your excursions a week ahead of cruising. I waited until I got on board and the line was huge! I wish I booked it online the week before my cruise. I'm so glad, however, that I booked the simplest excursions. While in Mexico, I booked an excursion to a water park called Playa Mia. It was easy, the kids loved it, and it was all inclusive. Since the ports are less than a day long, I gave up trying to explore the countries in depth. If I wanted to do that I would stay for a week, not a few hours. We swam with stingrays in Grand Cayman, zip lined in Jamaica, and flew down the water slides in Mexico. We did just enough to exhaust ourselves!

Overall, I'm sad it's all over. I would relive summer of 2014 again in a heart beat. Here's some pictures of our adventures on Navigator of the Seas. The ship has everything!
Owen about to go under. It should be noted the pools onboard are filled with salt water. I liked it, but my kids eyes burned if they didn't wear goggles. 
Oscar's outfit cracks me up.  I still can't believe cruises have massive rock climbing walls on board. 
Some good jams on the speakers next to the mini golf course. Ella couldn't help but dance in the middle of her game 
Even match!
Continuing reading to see my favorite pic of the summer and a video of Ella playing at the coolest place on board . . .


3 Ways to Escape the Crowds On A Fully Booked Cruise: Featuring Royal Caribbean's Navigator of the Seas

I know everyone doesn't share my love for cruises. Perhaps boarding a giant boat with 5,000 guests and employees sounds unappealing. Especially to someone trying to get away from it all. Totally reasonable. But I like to thank NYC for teaching me how to find peace and quiet in densely populated areas. And what are cruise ships? Small cities on sea! Last week, I used those skills to fool the kids into thinking we had Royal Caribbean's Navigator of the Seas all to ourselves. With little effort, I think I convinced them it was our own personal yacht. Here's how I did it . . .   

1. Night Swimming. I don't know what everyone else is doing at 11pm, but they aren't swimming. We had the pools and hot tubs practically all to ourselves. There was relaxing music playing on the speakers, the moon was bright, and the warm sea air felt perfect. There was even mesmerizing images of the night sky playing on the movie screen above the pool. We played until 1:30am. Best part? No breaks for sunscreen application. The kids and I kept this schedule up by taking long afternoon naps. 

2. Speciality Dining. While Royal Caribbean offers complimentary dining options, the speciality restaurants are more intimate, the service is unreal, and the food is unique from everything else on board. It's a small price to pay for what you get. For example, I took the kids to Giovanni's Table for lunch. For only $15 each we got a three course meal. One night I went to Izumi Japanese Cuisine and only paid $18 for a plate of sashimi. It was Texas size portions with NY restaurant quality standards. While Navigator of the Seas has four speciality dining options, ships like Quantum of the Seas have even more choices, including one with celebrity chef Jamie Oliver. This is definitely the place to be if you want a break from the buffet crowd.
3. The Quiet(er) Deck. The only thing keeping me on the crowded afternoon pool deck was an amazing reggae pop band. I don't even like reggae music! I was shocked how good they were. As soon as they broke down their instruments, I needed a break from the crazy pool deck. I wanted something quiet, outdoors, and with an oceanview. We strolled around the ship until we found the perfect spot on Deck 4 next to the shuffle boards. There's less foot traffic, no speakers playing music, and views of the ocean. I pulled a chair to the edge, put on my head phones and read travel magazines. My kids played shuffle board. It was the slower pace we were craving. I wish the Navigator of the Seas had an actual quiet/relaxation outdoor area on the ship. I would be all over it.  

But that's is just me. Many people go on cruises for the social aspect of it all. They meet family and friends at the pools, the bars, and their dining table. That's fine for a while, but it's good to know there's ways to escape. You can get it all with a little planning and effort. 

We're wrapping up our summer of cruises. The first Royal Caribbean cruise was sponsored by my parents for their retirement party. Congratulations Fran and Dad! The second one was sponsored by Royal Caribbean themselves. They must have found out about my love for cruises. This is the first of two posts I'll be writing in exchange for my stay on Navigator of the Seas. Tomorrow I'll be writing about our favorite (and not so favorite) parts of the trip. 
A serene yet dramatic session of golf during the magic hour.
Night Swimming deserves a (semi) quiet night
Deck 4: Our so-called quiet deck.
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