The Suite Life of a NAVIGATOR – Sea Daze

Two sea days well be combined into one blog.

Things that go bump in the night. Something was up with the seas in the very early hours of morning around 3. The ship was rocking much more than it had before the previous nights. At one point there was even a loud bang, followed by a shuddering. It caused soap to fall in one of the bathrooms. It woke everyone up, before we all fell back asleep.

We had been planning on making port this day in Labadee, Haiti, but with the mostly unforeseen events that happened, Royal Caribbean or the captain had decided to avoid the potential problems and stay at sea. Not a bad idea, but dang, only two ports in 6 days. I can enjoy sea days though, even if I’m not big on them.

We woke up a little later and dragged our butts to Chops for breakfast. Dining here in the morning was much like the main dining room without the hustle and with a better view. The menus were the same. We noticed that either we were later getting there or that not many others had decided to have breakfast there. It was nice being able to take our time though with the sea as a backdrop.

There wasn’t much extra stuff going this day since it was impromptu. There were a couple things I was looking forward to. Having lunch at Izumi and Dinner at Sabor. Dining had been excellent this cruise and I intended to cover as many bases as possible.

After breakfast, I took mom to the Diamond lounge where the Crown and Anchor Society sign up staff was. There were a few people in there enjoying mimosas and bloody marys. Mom signed up for Crown and Anchor so that she could get member benefits in case she decided to cruise with Royal Caribbean again.

After dinner I walked the decks some. Brian and Kristin had taken their residence poolside on the concierge reserved loungers. I wasn’t really feeling some time in the pool and opted to spend some time in the arcade. Arcades are often (and unfortunately) underutilized. The casino for kids on this ship offered much of the same things I’d seen on other ships with the exception of F355 Challenge, an older Ferrari racing game. I played that game for a while, a few rounds of ski-ball, and a couple first person shooters. After the games, I decided to try my luck with the prize-grabbers. The games where you’d try to have the hooks grab the watches or iPads, whatever. The one on this ship had Casio G-Shock watches. Hmmm. I’m usually pretty good with positioning the grabber, but can never get the watch. I’ll give it a few tries though, I told myself. There was a red watch that looked a little easier to grab than the others. I’d give it 5 tries for the hell of it. 1 – nothing, 2 – nothing, 3 – uhhh… it’s holding, it’s holding, IT HASN’T FALLEN OUT, :clunks into prize door: IT’S MIIIIIINNNNEEEE!!! WHOOHOO!! In 9 cruises I had finally won something from one of these stupid machines! a Casio G-Shock watch! A kid who was watching me was just as surprised as I was. Riding that high, I tried two times unsuccessfully to get another one, but it was still so cool that I got it!

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After my win, it was time for Lunch. I had made a reservation at Izumi over the phone for 12:30. I love sushi! I was excited to have some good rolls. They took me in and sat me next to the windows above the running track. It was cool to watch what was happening on the decks while waiting. Then began the disappointments. When I was presented with the menus, I was happy to see a few different Japanese beers available to compliment my sushi. I’m not big on sake, so this would be the next best thing. Problem was, EVERY SINGLE BEER except for Kingfisher was not available. An Indian beer with Japanese food… Sure, screw it, why not! Thankfully, Kingfisher wasn’t that bad. I was provided edamame beans to have while I waited. I had placed an order for two rolls. Surf and Turf and the Izumi Spider Roll. Both looked really promising! Service was a little slow for some reason, although I didn’t mind that much with it being a sea day. When it did arrive, it looked really good. Once I started digging in though, it was just, okay. The surf and turf roll being a real disappointment. The spider roll not being as good as I’ve had in many other places. By comparison, rolls I had at Bonsai Sushi on Carnival Breeze were amazing. I couldn’t wrap my head around why it was so “meh.” The staff asked me if I’d like desert in which I declined. It was okay, but just OK.

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After a somewhat disappointing lunch, I hung out with Brian and Kristin poolside for a while. We had a couple drinks while talking with others nearby. We met a pretty cool lady from New England while sitting in the concierge area. I was walking the deck and one of the photographers snapped a photo of me in my usual cruise mindset. This is what I would look like on a ship…

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After hanging with Brian and Kristin for a while, I checked in with Mom who was in the suite. The seas were still a little rocky even though we were going very slowly. She mentioned that she may not make dinner that night in Sabor. It would really stink not to have her there, but I wouldn’t hold her to it, if she wasn’t feeling good. You can’t force Mexican food on somebody.

I walked around and checked the ship photos on deck 3. I walked the interior promenade on deck 5 too looking at the sales. After a while it was back to the suite for a nap before dinner.

I booked Sabor for 4 of us at 6:30. When I woke from my nap, I checked in on Mom who was still not feeling great. She said she would probably skip on dinner at that night, and just stay in the suite instead. I couldn’t blame her and I didn’t want to push her into doing something she would regret.

Brian, Kristin, and I kept our reservation for Sabor. Before dinner, we enjoyed some drinks in the concierge lounge with Amit and Li before heading to deck 4 fwd. Sabor was in the place of where the upper section of the old nightclub used to be, before Navigator’s latest dry dock.

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Sabor was amazing. This dinner completely made up for the so-so lunch I had earlier at Izumi. EVERY. SINGLE. THING. was delicious at Sabor. The Guacamole being absolutely phenomenal! THAT GUACAMOLE! As a matter of fact, when I got home, I had to find the recipe, I didn’t care how many millions of people I had to ask. I passed up the opportunity to buy an avocado tool with the recipe for $5 in Sabor and kicked myself for it. I literally could have had nothing but that for dinner. Ultimately, I had the snapper which was awesome but I couldn’t finish. I can’t for the life of me remember what Brian or Kristin had, but I high-fived some lady on the table next to us. When the dessert came it was too much though. Our battleships were sunk. Our guts were over it. Getting back to the cabin, we found Mom felling a little better. She called our concierge and asked him if they could send up some chicken noodle soup. He wound up sending two bowls! Good on him, but she was fine with one.

That night was rough again. Too much food with rocky seas took a toll on some of us.
It wasn’t as bad as before, but with the alcohol, massive amount of food, and now rocking, it became rather uncomfortable. I myself gave into the food coma.

The next morning was not a good one.

I wasn’t hungover, I wasn’t starved of sleep. It was an email I opened that morning. Winter storm Jonas was going to make its way through the mid-atlantic, specifically hitting the DC metro area hard. Hard enough for JetBlue to cancel our returning flights that Saturday… Ugh X eleventeen! Now my morning would be consumed with calling JetBlue to secure a new flight home. I didn’t have a plan on my cell phone, so it would have to be the ship’s phone. I know that using the ship’s phone is particularly expensive but where the hell was the paper that stated the rate to use it? Surely it couldn’t be more than $1.99 a minute like Carnival.

I was on hold for over 20 minutes with JetBlue before finally being able to work out a new flight home. Originally we were to fly home into DC National on Saturday. Sunday, Nope! Monday, Nope! Tuesday and Wednesday, Nope, Nope! The earliest flight direct into DC that was available at the time was on Thursday… Sheeeeet. While going through flight options, I was on my iPad with my travel agent trying to find a short cruise out of Ft. Lauderdale or Miami to kill time before finally being able to get back home. A cruise was really the most cost effective way to kill time before getting back. Unfortunately, the shortest cruise was 5 days on Carnival Victory. Majesty of the Seas and Carnival Ecstasy were not options at the time. Ultimately we wound up with a flight into Richmond, VA on Tuesday which was the closest they could get us, the soonest, direct from Ft. Lauderdale. We’d need to spend 3 days in Florida. THANK GOD I purchased travel insurance. Mom was up and made a reservation at the Hilton Ft. Lauderdale Marina (one of my favorite hotels) for us in the meantime. It was going to be pricey, but there were few other decent options. We would NOT be staying at the Rodeway Inn again for 3 days.

After sorting out the way home for Mom and I, we had breakfast again in Chops. We discussed options and how it was going to stink, but at the same time be nicer than being home amongst all the snow. A mixed blessing and a mixed curse.

After breakfast, I headed down to catch the Behind the Scenes Tour while Brian and Kristen headed back the suite to call JetBlue for their flight back home (since they booked separately).

The Behind the Scenes Tour is very much the same type of tour that is available on Carnival but is called Behind the Fun on that line. We met at Boleros on deck 4 aft. At first when I showed up, it was just guys. As I sat there it became apparent that our tour would be just guys. No big deal really, just interesting. After we all signed the waivers, we were told that we were able to take photos but not recored video. Cool. Carnival had not allowed even photos which I felt was a little odd, but Royal was game so long as you didn’t take photos of deck plans (or so they said specifically).

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Our first stop was a bit of a surprise to me. The ship’s bridge. Walking down hallway corridor of deck 10, we passed passenger cabins before coming to a door at the end of the hallway, beyond it was more cabins, but they were different colors. These were the officer’s cabins. Past these at the end of the hall, we were gone over by security before being allowed into the bridge. A pass of a metal wand and pat down, we’d be good to go after.

The bridge on this ship was the biggest I had seen, Carnival’s Dream-Class ship, Breeze, being the biggest before it. The main controls were laid out in an interesting manner, like an airplanes cockpit. The captain and first officer sitting next to one another. One of the officers gave us a run down of the controls on the starboard bridge wing. Controls ranged from direction and speed of the azipods to tracking weather and ship routes. There were even some buttons to kill the engines. Neat! One thing I want to know is, who gets to sit in those couches in the bridge. I’ve seen these chairs and couches and can only imagine those who own the companies have sat there. Moving along through the bridge, the officer told us about how Terminal 29 in Port Everglades was the worst one for several reasons, particularly positioning the ship. I couldn’t blame his thoughts either as us being the last ones to leave was not impressive, but a requirement as those ships in front of us would need to leave first. Navigator would need to be the first to make port the next morning. Before leaving the bridge, I couldn’t help but notice someone with a good sense of humor had taped a skull and cross-bones flag onto the aft mast of a ship model. Corny and funny.

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Other parts of our tour took us to the ships very, very, busy “I-95”, along which we toured the storage rooms for food an equipment. One particular place was the waste management area of the ship. At the entrance was a collection of mostly clothing items to be donated at Labadee to Haitians. Royal Caribbean not only leases the property, but they do make contributions each time a ship arrives. In the room, everything was meticulously separated. Green glass, “white” glass, plastics of certain types, paper of certain types. I swore I saw the crushed bottle of Moet that I had pre-ordered to our suite at the beginning of the cruise.

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Another important stop along the I-95 was the engine control room. We spent more time here than any other place on the ship. Here they explained to us what each computer does. How the ship can be controlled from this room and how the bridge can be cut off. I was standing behind one particular screen that would display error/malfunction messages from different systems across the ship. Pretty neat. Being a person who looks at error codes on a daily basis it wasn’t too hard to figure out what some of them meant. One particular message was about the efficiency of the aft air conditioner. That would explain why our cabin didn’t seem to get a cool as desired.

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After the works of the ship under the passenger decks came the galley. David, one of the head chefs gave us a fairly brief tour of deck 5 of the galley (the galley on this class ship spans 3 decks and has 3 dedicated elevators). We learned which foods were prepared where and how much of a certain dish was ready ahead of time. Cool! It wasn’t the busiest of places at that time, but the kitchens below were said to be the ones running the show at that time.

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The tour ended with after we toured Studio B, the ice rink. There we found out that some cast members would perform on the main stage and some others wouldn’t. We also found out that on this particular ship, the ice rink was indeed real ice, and not the coated plastic sheets like newer ships. There was a small dressing room behind the stage where we had Q & A with entertainment staff before wrapping our tour. In the end we got to keep our lanyards and tags.

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After this, I found mom making travel arrangements in Royal Online. The computers and internet were busy and there were plenty waiting for their turns. When she finished we decided to have an easy lunch.

Lunch for us today would be a simple stop in Windjammer. After the tour I was a little drained for some reason so I just wanted something nice and simple. With lunch out of the way, I found Brian and Kristin chilling poolside and hung out there while a few contests were underway. We enjoyed some drinks for a while with the sun coming and going. It stunk to know that this was the last day of the cruise and that we had only made two ports. It felt like we had hardly had the cruise at all. A calypso band was playing.

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After packing, before dinner, it was time for the final cocktail party in the Concierge Club. I made sure to bring extra tip in the WOW envelope for Li. I also brought additional tip for Amit too. He was very helpful and would wind up being a life-saver. With our glasses topped and belly’s ready for dinner. We headed down to the Sapphire Dining Room for our last dinner on Navigator. Konstyntyn and his fellow staff provided yet more good dining room service that night. We left him yet another envelope of cash. There was singing and dancing of the wait & kitchen staff that night that left us a little sad.

After dinner, Kristin, Brian, and myself headed to the Schooner bar for one more go at trivia. Tonight it was general trivia. We did good, but no more lanyards for us. It was time to wrap it up and pack all of our crap up to leave the ship the next day.

Back in the suite, I decided to pack some. Mom, feeling better, had already packed all of her stuff together and organized it, knowing though that we’d be having an extended stay in Florida. When I entered the room, she told me something that sent a shiver down my spine. Our phone calls to JetBlue had cost over $700. SEVEN HUNDRED DOLLARS! It turned out that the rate for cabin to shore calls was not the $1.99 a minute I assumed it was. Instead to my shock, it was $7.95 a minute! What the F! I searched every single piece of paper that had been provided to us on the ship for the printed phone rate. I only found it in ONE place. A small mentioning on the backside of the paper you were handed upon checking in for the cruise. It was complete BS that a phone rate was not posted next to the phone or in another place where you’d be more able to see it. Upsetting at that, but very ridiculous when it’s a hefty $7.95 a minute. Royal Caribbean International, if you’re reading this, that is a shame and these very high phone rates need to be posted more PROMINENTLY. This was upsetting to say the least.

Everyone was upset. After it set in, my mindset was “F* it.” At this point the vacation was over. If Amit could do anything to help, it would wind up being after midnight and I would not know until our final statements were posted the next morning. I had to walk off my attitude before settling into bed that night.

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After my last walk around the ship, I was ready for bed and ready to leave Navigator of the Seas with a bittersweet taste in my mouth.

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