We're in our 40's and have cruised 11 times previously, five with RCCI. We always fly into the port city a day ahead just in case flight arrangements do not go as planned. Miami was our destination this cruise. We booked a room through priceline for only $27 and received the Hyatt downtown Miami. Not too shabby since the going rate for this hotel on Expedia, among others, was over $200. It's a very nice hotel only about a $20 cab ride from Miami airport and only minutes to Bayside and the pier.
My sister and brother in law had planned this cruise for many months and a few weeks ago we decided to join them as a surprise. It wasn't easy keeping that to ourselves. On the Tuesday before the Saturday departure, I also convinced my mother to join us too. I acquired a great single rate that was not much over the regular double rate for the balcony that she wanted. It wasn't hard to get her to go after getting that rate. The surprise was on! We made ourselves known at the hotel bar (we all had the same hotel through Priceline) and the look on my sister's face will never be forgotten. (Priceless)
Cab fare is about $5 to Bayside and about $8 to the pier. Ask before you get in the cab though. We took 3 different cabs for our group to the pier and were charged $6, $8, and $10 for the same ride. Seems in Miami, some cabbies obviously don't necessarily go the shortest route.
We arrived at the pier as early as we dared, about 10:40am. There was only a slight delay finding a porter to take our luggage and then we walked into the terminal. Looked like we were the first ones there. We waited for about 5 minutes and then security let us go upstairs to an air-conditioned seating area where the security scanners are located. After another short wait we were allowed to the check in counter where we quickly checked in. Before you get to the pier, be sure that you complete the embarkation forms online at the RCCI website at least 4 days ahead of sailing and print them out to bring. If you don't, you will have more papers to fill out at the pier. As you walk into the check in area, the pier coordinator's desk is on the far left. See them ASAP if you would like to check into upgrading. After checking in you either get in line to go on the ship, or as we are Platinum Members, went to the other end of the waiting area to the private departure lounge. Here you sit comfortably waiting for the rope to drop and you are the first onboard. In fact, except for a couple wheelchairs, we were thee first onboard at about noon. We went straight to our inside Cat N cabin (can't have a balcony every time) on deck 8 and checked it out. Not bad at all. Very functional for the 2 of us. Dark too! We really did miss the balcony that we usually book, but we just cruised in September and may go again this September, so this had to be a less expensive cruise.
On to lunch in the Windjammer, deck 11 towards the rear of the ship. As always RCCI has great food here. Lots to choose from too. My wife went straight to the Oriental food (Jade) on this day and several after that too. I always like to check out what the meat carver has for the day and often chose that option. Always available too are pizza, hot dogs, and burgers along with all the amenities and fixings for a great lunch.
After lunch it's straight to the hot tub for us. They are never crowded on embarkation day and you usually have them all to yourself. A great reason for early boarding. A short nap, then on to the muster drill, and then dinner. Dinner is always great, and we have never missed one in 12 cruises. RCCI puts out quality food, but if it's just not to your particular liking, you always can try something else. No need to ever go hungry on a cruise. After dinner we did some exploring on this beautiful ship and then to the Welcome Aboard Show in the Metropolis Theater. The cruise director Jeffrey Arpin, is definitely one of the best cruise directors that we've ever had. A real funny man!
If you have a particular waiter that you favor, make sure that you order from them. I was always under the impression that all the bar staff pooled tips. Not true! They get the tip for what they sell.
We went to Paradise Island a couple years ago and absolutely loved it. We just couldn't wait to get back to that beach. A small fee for the taxi and off we went. Just as nice as we remembered. After a few hours, we thought we'd cooked enough so we headed back to the ship for lunch. Then some quick shopping before the ship leaves at 2PM. Back on the ship and to the hot tub. OK, you've probably guessed that we like it there. Tonight is formal night and the first of the two main shows. Called now and Forever, the Royal Caribbean Singers and Dancers were on the money and offered an excellent show. The late night Adult comedy with Jeff Jena was very good. He had a few "moments" with some rowdy college students, but after asking them if it would be ok if he talked to the "big people" now, they settled down and enjoyed too. There were a lot of college kids on this cruise making the average age quite young, but they were all extremely well behaved. They were also among the best dressed on formal nights.
Day at Sea
We like our days at sea, as we do most of the ports. On to the hot tub again! We don't do bingo or trivia, so we usually just relax on these sea days. Shops are all open on the ship as well as the casino. Didn't buy much, but I did go in the casino most every day. Did fairly well. If you don't lose, you do fairly well. I like to play blackjack and it's sometimes pretty tough to find a $5 table open. RCCI's casino operators seem to believe that most people want to play $10 tables rather than $5 tables. That must be why there are 2 $10 tables and only 1 $5 table open much of the day even though the $10 tables are much less crowded.
The headliner tonight was James Stephens 111. What a funny guy. He told funny stories and played the piano. A very talented entertainer.
Definitely high on our favorite islands list, we always look forward to coming here. We went to immigration on board. All you have to do is walk by with your passport etc. Not much wasted time. Off the ship by around 8:30 and off to Megans Bay. We'd been there a couple times years ago and it rained on us both times, so we decided to give it another try. Perfect weather this time. We always try to go to the beach in the morning if the weather's nice. We've been showered on too many times in the afternoon. We walked about 5 minutes to the far left of the beach and stayed a good 3 hours. Could have stayed longer if we didn't care about shopping. Go to St Thomas and not shop? No Way! Back to the ship around noon for lunch and then to shopping in Havensight Mall right off the pier. All the big stores are there, so we saw no need to go into town. Saves a lot of time. After shopping, back to the ship and on to a great dinner as always.
Tonight there is no main headliner show, so we saw the ice skating show. After that, the Love and Marriage Game Show was scheduled. Jeff Arpin really shows how talented a cruise director he is cracking jokes and asking the usual suggestive questions of the contestants. Dancing under the stars on deck was after the show, but we just couldn't make it tonight. It was a long day and we retired.
We've been here too many times and for us, there just isn't any point in getting off the ship. We called today "a day at sea" in San Juan. If it's your first visit though, it's different. There are several excursions from RCCI that you can take and may enjoy. We've been on the rain forest tour and enjoyed that quite a lot. We've also been on a tour that took us to the Bacardi Rum Factory and the fort. There is a city tour available too. As for shopping, the same big name jewelry stores are in St Thomas and are less expensive. You should always try to shop there rather than San Juan. When you are in any port, the hot tubs can be had for the most part to yourself, as they were today. Today is the second formal night. The Drifters provided tonight's entertainment. They sang many of their famous hits of yesteryear and the audience loved them.
This is RCCI's private beach destination that is really very nice. There have been many improvements in recent years. There is a new dock for the tenders, a few new buildings and some shade huts at the beaches. Also a new play land at one of the beaches with water activities. We were here a couple years ago and have seen much improvement in the lunch provided from the ship. We reserved the wave runner tour from RCCI. Never rode one before, but will again. Lots of fun for about an hour. We then hit the beach and our reserved lounges were waiting for us under one of those nice shade huts. Not just anyone can reserve lounges at this beach though. You have to have your mother, sister, and brother in law with you to do this. After a couple hours, back to the ship and to the hot tub.
Tonight was the second of the two main production shows. This one called "Going Through The Decades" was even better than the first a few evenings ago. After that we headed to Studio B for "Chuck Roast and the Mashed Potatoes", a 50's, 60's, and 70's show put on by the cruise staff and one of the bands. Lots of folks dancing and fun. Tonight was the Gala Buffet. We skipped it this time as we've attended many on other ships through the years.
Day at Sea
Our last day, a little depressing that a wonderful vacation will soon end. Got to the hot tub in the solarium early and of course most of the lounges were full of towels, hats, and books, but no people. Really burns me up when they do this and then they don't show up for 2 hours. RCCI has a policy that if a lounge is vacant for 30 minutes, the towel will be removed. I never saw that happen. I thought I might volunteer to help, but I didn't. A very relaxing day anyway.
Today was RCCI's Platinum and Diamond members get together at noon in the Viking Crown Lounge. The invitation said semi formal dress. You're kidding. Day at sea and we are supposed to get dressed up for an hour lunch. We did! Not everyone else did though. There were a lot of shorts. They had an open bar for the hour with some hot buffet food. I'm willing to put pants on for a few free drinks. Lots of candies and chocolate covered strawberries too. The ships captain (Johnny Faevelen) came and talked with a few of the passengers. He is probably the best that RCCI has. He was very visible throughout the week (as was our cruise director), and is also an excellent speaker. We've sailed with him 3 times now (not on purpose), and found out later that he gets many of the newer ships. After the open bar closed, we got comfortable again and spent the day relaxing.
I visited the casino again in the afternoon and also picked up a gold heart necklace in one of the onboard jewelry stores. My wife had her eye on it all week and was surprised when I gave it to her at dinner.
At 9pm, the usual farewell show where the cruise director tells some jokes about cruises and the week's video available for purchase was shown. There was another act at this show and then the night was almost over. Suitcases had to be out in the hall by midnight, so we got that done. I cashed out in the casino and by now it's past midnight. A really nice cruise vacation is almost over!
My mother had a 10:55am flight to Tampa and we had noon flights to the Northeast, so we had previously asked for early debarkation luggage tags. We were called at 7:30am and soon were in line for immigration and customs. I'd guess that took about half an hour, then to the baggage carousels. We arrived at the airport by 9am and my mother was moved to an earlier flight at 9:55am. When everything goes smooth, an early flight is no problem, but if something fouls up the process of debarkation you may not make a morning flight.
My complaints are very few and certainly didn't affect our cruise in any way. I'd like to see more $5 blackjack tables open when it's busy. I'd suggest that RCCI drop the semi formal dress request at the platinum and diamond member get together when held at noon on an at sea day.
A great cruise to say the least. Definitely in the top 2 or 3 that we've been on. Service, entertainment, and food were all excellent. The Navigator is magnificent and very elegant. All of the Voyager class ships are designed very well and are easy to get around. Even with up to 3800 passengers, there are few times where you feel crowded.
Any questions, please feel free to email me at Joslinm1@hotmail.com
MorningStar Beach, St Thomas
Much less crowded and closer to the ship than Megans Bay
Trunk Bay, St John
A ferry ride from St Thomas, you can go on your own or on a ship sponsered excursion. One of the best in the Caribbean for snorkeling
Click on pictures for larger viewing
St Thomas Harbor
El Moro Fort, San Juan
View of Labadee as we sail away. Great beach day!!!
My wife looking for shells.
The best view in the Windjammer. In the background is floor to ceiling glass offering a view that is awesome.