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Cruise Ship Review

Navigator of the Seas - Ship Review provided by Cruise Critic

This is the fourth of five in Royal Caribbean's Voyager Class, among the biggest vessels in the world. With so much to see and do onboard, you may soon wish you had booked back-to-back cruises. Like her sisters, Voyager of the Seas, Explorer of the Seas, Adventure of the Seas and Mariner of the Seas, Navigator of the Seas sports some of the industry's most amazing features: a rock-climbing wall, ice-skating rink, mall-like indoor promenade, basketball court and in-line skating track.

Although Navigator of the Seas is definitely a member of the Voyager family, she has her own look and amenities (many of which were repeated on Mariner of the Seas, the last of the five sister ships). This ship has more exterior glass (in balcony cabins) than her predecessors, and such features as a wine bar for appreciation and entertainment, expanded youth facilities, a Plaza area with a variety of dining options (both no-fee and fee), the first Latin jazz bar at sea (mojitos, anyone?) and the first sea-going Ben & Jerry's ice cream parlor (Royal Caribbean has since spread these various concepts across its fleet).

Dining

The three-story main dining room -- with each of its three levels named after famous ballets: Swan Lake, Coppelia and The Nutcracker -- is exquisite, with a warm and welcoming color scheme in burgundy and gold, a grand staircase and a bronze sculpture of a dancer. There aren't too many tables for two in the dining room, but those who wish to dine a deux have a variety of options in the alternative dining venues.

Royal Caribbean is in the process of rolling out its flexible dining program, called My Time dining. But, Navigator of the Seas currently maintains the traditional assigned-seating dining. At dinner, there are two seatings (at 6:30 and 8:30 p.m.), and your tablemates are pre-determined. Cuisine is generally well-prepared, if not innovative. (Royal Caribbean doesn't pretend to be a gourmet-dining cruise line.) Each menu includes healthy fare options, vegetarian dishes (at least one, like vegetarian chili, but sometimes there's an Indian vegetarian dish in addition) and a standard in-case-nothing-else-appeals selection of entrees (rigatoni with marinara sauce, Atlantic cod, chicken breast and black angus top sirloin). Breakfast and lunch are open-seating, though you shouldn't take that to mean that you can always snare a quiet little table for two. The ship's best-kept secret may be that lunch in the dining room is one of the better meals onboard. The salad bar is staffed by chefs, who create salads according to your instructions; the ingredients (fresh vegetables, meats and cheeses) are fresher and more varied than in the Windjammer, and the heaping plate of veggies can easily stand alone as a full meal, especially for vegetarians. Plus, the Brasserie30 option, which allows you to choose two menu items and finish your meal within 30 minutes, is a terrific choice for those who want to get back to the pool or other onboard activities. Two restaurants with fees are Chops Grille ($25 per person) on Deck 11 in the Plaza area, serving traditional steakhouse fare including steaks and chops, salmon, family-style mashed potatoes, and sinful desserts. Portofino ($20 per person), also in the Plaza area, is the other specialty restaurant. It is a romantic, oceanview venue, serving Northern Italian cuisine -- from an antipasto appetizer pasta first course, meat second course and dessert (we never tire of the tiramisu).

Johnny Rockets, a Voyager-class staple at this point, is on Deck 12, and features juicy burgers, fries, filling chili and thick shakes (my mouth is watering just remembering a late afternoon snack there). There's a $4.95 per person charge to eat at Johnny Rockets -- whether you eat in the restaurant or order for take-out. Beverages (such as the fabulous milkshakes) are available for an extra charge -- and you can even get a draught beer.

The Windjammer Cafe on Deck 11 in the Plaza area, serves buffet-style breakfast, lunch, afternoon snacks and dinner. Several stations including salad/sandwich/soup, meat carvery, entrees, burgers, breads, thirst quenchers and frozen yogurts make it easy to get your choices for a meal expeditiously. As part of RCI's Golden Anchor Standard of service, waiters come around the Windjammer offering coffee, iced tea and lemonade to diners -- a nice touch, so you don't have to be getting up or juggling drinks with your food.

Jade is the ship's no-fee, Asian-influenced buffet area. It's located adjacent to the Windjammer and features selections representing Chinese, Indian and Japanese cuisines (sometimes an eclectic mix of all three). Such dishes as shredded vegetables in lemon sauce, Japanese sushi and Chinese wontons made for a quick, exotic and delicious lunch. As well, passengers can enjoy a pre-dinner sake, tea or traditional cocktail at the Plaza Bar, with its backdrop of cascading water, at the entrance to the Plaza area.

The Cafe Promenade is a good spot for a quick breakfast, lunch or snack. This no-fee sidewalk cafe is great for people-watching (it's located on the Royal Promenade) -- and serves fruits, rolls, sandwiches, pizza, cookies and other goodies as well as espressos made with Seattle's Best Coffee (which is priced a la carte). Steps away, also on the Royal Promenade, is Ben & Jerry's ice cream shop, with 16 of the company's famous flavors. The cost of a small cup of ice cream is $2.50; medium cup, $3.25; large cup, $4. Add $1 for a waffle cone. If you are watching your expenses, next door to Ben & Jerry's is Sprinkles, a free frozen yogurt station.

Royal Caribbean's room service options are available around the clock via 24-hour menus that offer a range of snacks and sandwiches. At breakfast, continental dishes, along with a handful of egg entrees, are available both in cabins and suites. Items off the main dining room menu can be ordered at dinner. There is no charge for room service between 5 a.m. and midnight (though a buck or two gratuity is recommended); late-night orders incur a $3.95 fee.

Public Rooms

An $8.5 million art collection graces the ship -- with a mind boggling 2,213 art pieces in the public spaces. The Royal Promenade, in essence a seabound mall, is the heart of the ship. It's four decks tall, longer than a football field and anchored at each end by atriums. Anchored by shops, bars and casual eateries, on special nights, the Royal Promenade comes alive with street entertainment such as jugglers, magicians and mimes and at 12:30 a.m. -- at least once on every voyage -- it sets the scene for a fun Mardi Gras parade with music from various parts of the world. Monumental sculptures adorn each atrium, including our favorite work of art onboard, Aquaria, by American sculptor Larry Kirkland.

This spectacular sculpture that spans the 11 levels of the Centrum atrium, has 6,000 shimmering, hand-gilded spheres inspired by the bubbles produced by scuba divers. An assortment of lounges range from intimate enclaves like the Champagne Bar to Vintages (a wine bar in association with Robert Mondavi and Beringer Blass Wine Estates with wine appreciation programs for both novices and aficionados), and the Two Poets Pub.

Other public spaces include an ocean-view, intimate wedding chapel for 60 guests on Deck 15, the Vegas-style Casino Royale (with a New Orleans theme here) featuring nearly 300 slots, eight blackjack tables, three Caribbean Stud Poker tables, three roulette wheels and a craps table. There's also a library, a cyber lounge with 19 computer stations: royalcaribbeanonline -charge is 50 cents per minute (and a flat surcharge of $4.95 per transmission to send a video postcard). Like on all Royal Caribbean ships, there is no self-service launderette, so pack accordingly.

Cabins

Navigator of the Seas continues the Voyager-class tradition by offering a large number of reasonably priced balcony staterooms (707 of 1,557 fall into this category). Otherwise, there are four other stateroom categories -- suites, outsides, insides and the unusual atrium-view (looking onto the Promenade).

Standard cabins are tastefully decorated in pleasing tones with fine, lightwoods -ours was done in restful greens and beige-with art on the walls. All staterooms come with convertible, queen-to-twin beds; televisions, offering interactive services like room service ordering (though we found it easier just to pick up the phone); pay-per-view flicks and numerous channels. (RCTV does an outstanding job, featuring everything from news and sports channels to a Promenade-cam, which shows the action inside the ship, and the "Retro TV" channel, which features classic sitcoms).

Cabins have mini-fridges that are minimally stocked with soft drinks and juices; the charge for mini-fridge items is the same as in the bars (e.g., $1.95 for soda or bottled water). We found there was plenty of room to stash our own sodas and such (or you ask the room steward to remove the contents). Other features include desk/vanity areas and seating areas with loveseats or full-length couches (some fold out). Cabins with balconies are each equipped with two basic chairs and a small table. The balconies have glass panels.

Bathrooms are basic and only suites have tubs. The showers, however, have those wonderful, half-round sliding doors, a fabulous improvement over icky, clingy shower curtains. Soap and shampoo are provided (suites get mini-bottles of Royal Caribbean's Vitality shampoo, conditioner and lotion). Hair dryers are located in the vanities, rather than in the bathrooms.

Navigator of the Seas offers accessible staterooms in a variety of categories. Features include wider doors, closet racks that can be pulled down to lower heights and accessible showers and toilets. These cabins are set aside for cruise travelers who can prove they need the accessible amenities; the cabins only enter the regular inventory close to the sail date, if they haven't sold out by then.

Suites come in a variety of configurations. The 1,325-square-ft. Royal Suite is the ship's prime suite, featuring an elaborately furnished living room -- wet bar, dining table, entertainment center and even a piano -- and a separate bedroom with king bed and its own balcony. The bathroom is spacious and ultra-luxe and includes a whirlpool tub, separate shower and bidet. The suite's 248-square-ft. balcony is furnished with wicker lounge chairs and a dining table.

The 618-square-ft. Owner's Suites are also quite luxurious, with queen beds and living and dining area. However, these suites are more open, with the sleeping areas separated from the rest of the living quarters by large, rotating, flat-screen TV's (rather than actual walls). The balconies are big enough for a lounge chair.

The 390-square-ft. Grand Suite offers a bedroom, sitting area, bar area and bathroom with tub, in addition to an 89-square-ft. balcony. The 299-square-ft. Junior Suite is basically an expanded version of a standard verandah stateroom, featuring a sitting area with chair and couch, a walk-in closet and a bathroom with a tub.

The 512-square-ft. Royal Family Suite, which can sleep up to eight people, has two bedrooms (a master bedroom and a smaller, inside bedroom with two regular beds and another two that pull down from the ceiling) and two bathrooms (one with a tub, one with a shower). The suite also offers a living area with a pullout couch and a 208-square-ft. balcony with a dining table. A smaller, 328-square-ft. Family Oceanview Stateroom looks a lot like a regular outside cabin but also has a small second bedroom with bunk beds.

All suiteholders are entitled to use the Concierge Lounge on Deck 9. This windowless room features continental breakfast and a cocktail hour. Upon request, the concierge on duty handles special requests for reservations -- alternative restaurants, spa, etc.

Entertainment

There are options galore: Broadway-style productions, like Now & Forever featuring the 14 Royal Caribbean Singers and Dancers performing music from such shows as Dreamgirls, The Producers, Mamma Mia and Fosse, as well as variety shows are presented in the 1,350-seat, Art Deco-style Metropolis Theater. This show lounge is elegant with such Art Deco touches as stylized, elongated female figures on the curtain, typical wall sconces and skyscrapers in a sunburst pattern on the ceiling.

One of the most unique features at sea -- and found on all the Voyager class ships -- is the ice rink in Studio B; typically there's at least one performance if not more on every cruise. It received a standing ovation during our sailing.

There is piano music in the signature, nautical themed Schooner Bar, and Latin jazz with a side of "mojitos" and other popular Latin drinks beckon in Boleros. The Ixtapa Lounge has karaoke and themed night parties. Smokers will enjoy the Connoisseur Club, a cigar lounge housed within the Ixtapa Lounge. You can sample a pint or two at Two Poets Pub within sight of portraits of such luminaries as Dickens and Thackeray. Or sip bubbly at the Champagne Bar. There is smooth live jazz at the Cosmopolitan Club in the Viking Crown Lounge on Deck 14. Sports fans can head for 19th hole, the sports bar. Not tired yet? Well, a popular late nightspot is The Dungeon, the two-story disco with a decor evocative of Medieval Europe.

Fitness and Recreation

One of our favorite areas on board was the Solarium, a pleasant, adults-only enclave themed to Tuscany. It features a pool, fountain, two Jacuzzis, bar and lots of chaise lounges facing the sea, along with greenery, bronze horses, and murals inspired in the Tuscan countryside of Italy. The ship's main pool area features two adjacent pools, four whirlpools and stadium lounge seating. One interesting note: One of the pools and a whirlpool have hydraulic lifts for the disabled.

The fitness center on Deck 11 sports a mirrored, oceanview aerobics area with spinning bikes and free weights (some classes, like spinning and yoga, charge a $10 fee); oceanview gym with 20 Lifefitness treadmills, 14 Lifefitness elliptical cross trainers, six recumbent bicycles, four stationary bicycles, Lifefitness weight machines and steppers, and additional free weights; and a round thalassotherapy pool. A stereo system and television monitors provide entertainment while you work out. The facility features men's and women's locker rooms with a steam room and a sauna.

The ShipShape Spa, one deck above, is a serene oasis with an oceanview beauty salon, 14 massage rooms, one dry floatation room, and a relaxation area with sea views. The spa and beauty salon, operated by the ubiquitous Steiner Leisure, Ltd., offered an excellent range of treatments (massages, facials, Ionithermie Algae Detox). There's even a Rasul room, a private steam and shower room, which couples can book to spend an hour slathering each other in exfoliating lotion, mud masks and moisturizers, while steaming their pores open. Service in the spa was outstanding -- and the quality of the treatments themselves was very high.

A couple of caveats: The prices for treatments have risen to breathtaking levels, with a basic 50-minute massage now costing $120 or more. (The industry average is $99.) A manicure is $45; a pedicure is $65. The spa did offer "discounts" on port-of-call days (and as the cruise wound down), but that just brought the prices down to industry-normal levels. In addition, treatment employees will engage, way too aggressively, in the much-loathed "Steiner Product Pitch" at the end of your appointment. The products are also over-priced. Just say no.

Other fitness and recreational facilities include a jogging track (five times around equals one mile); an outdoor sports deck complete with mini-golf and golf simulator; a full-length sports court for basketball, paddle ball or volleyball; a curvy in-line skating track; and of course, the awesome Rock-Climbing wall -- 200 feet above the sea. Are you game? If not, it's fun just to watch! The ship also offers a handful of ice-skating opportunities on sea days at Studio B.

Family

RCI's youth programs are second to none, but in Navigator of the Seas they have really outdone themselves, as the Adventure Ocean facilities on Deck 12 have been expanded on this vessel to a whopping 22,000 sq. ft. -that's 6,000 sq. ft. more than on any other Royal Caribbean ship.

Areas include a section for three to five year olds with seven computer stations, a new art studio area and an ocean liner-themed play area; a room for six to eight year olds, that has been quadrupled in size from previous Voyager-class ships, featuring seven computer stations, themed evenings, Adventure Science, including an exploding volcano, and Adventure Art by Crayola projects including making masks from a variety of regions of the world; and a section for nine to 11 year olds, with seven computer stations, five flat-screen televisions and such activities as Survivor Night, conducted by the year-round counselor staff of 14 (which is beefed up with two more for school holiday periods).

Teens have three special areas to hang out in and their program has been divided (sensibly) into two age groups: 12-14 and 15-17. Navigator has a Back Deck, an outdoor area for teen parties with music and buffets. Fuel is the teen disco, complete with dance floor, Internet Cafe with eight stations, four flat-screen televisions and bar for nonalcoholic drinks (a Coke Card for unlimited drinks is $20 for the whole cruise; an Ocean Potion Card is $24.95 for 12 non-alcoholic specialty drinks).

Beyond this, teens also have The Living Room, a place to hang out during the day with games, books, flat-screen television, futuristic furniture and Internet Cafe with seven stations. This last place is so cool the counselors have to politely chase many an adult away! A large video arcade is nearby and so is Johnny Rockets to satisfy the teen appetite with burgers, fries, shakes and other goodies.

Generally, activities at Adventure Ocean cease during lunch and dinner times, but there is the occasional organized meal outing (to Johnny Rocket's, for instance). On sea days, you can leave your kids (ages 3 to 11) at Adventure Ocean for a noon to 2 p.m. lunch-and-play for a cost of $7.95. Plus, new My Family Time Dining (rolling out, fleetwide, by July 2009) offers an option that lets kids finish dinner in the main dining room in 45 minutes, then get escorted by Adventure Ocean counselors back to the kids' club to play (letting Mom and Dad enjoy a more leisurely meal).

Late-night group babysitting in the kids' areas (for ages 3 to 11) is available from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. for $5 per hour, per child. Children must be at least three years old and fully toilet trained (no diapers or pull-ups). In-room babysitting for kids over the age of 1 costs $10 to $15 per hour and requires a 24-hour advance reservation.

Fellow Passengers

While most passengers hail from the U.S., the ship does attract folks from other countries (and publishes the daily "Cruise Compass" in a variety of languages). Mariner of the Seas appeals to a wide variety of ages and a good mix of couples, singles and many families. (With so many kids onboard, the average age is typically younger than 40.) Regardless of age, passengers tend to be very active in spirit.

Dress Code

Casual is the key word during the day. There are two formal nights when dark suits and cocktail dresses predominate. Other evenings, most guests don country club casual attire.

Gratuity

Royal Caribbean recommends $3.50 per person, per day to the dining room waiter; $3.50 per person, per day to the cabin steward (or $5.75 if you're in a suite); and $2 per person, per day to the assistant waiter. Royal Caribbean also recommends $0.75 per person, per day to the headwaiter, but we don't necessarily tip him or her unless the service was special. Gratuities can be pre-paid in advance, added to your onboard bill or paid in cash at the end of the cruise. A 15 percent gratuity is automatically added to bar tabs.

Dining

The three-story main dining room -- with each of its three levels named after famous ballets: Swan Lake, Coppelia and The Nutcracker -- is exquisite, with a warm and welcoming color scheme in burgundy and gold, a grand staircase and a bronze sculpture of a dancer. There aren't too many tables for two in the dining room, but those who wish to dine a deux have a variety of options in the alternative dining venues.

For dinner, passengers can choose between assigned early (6 p.m.) or late (8:30 p.m.) dining, or opt for RCI's My Time Dining, in which you pick a preferred mealtime (anytime between 6 and 9:30 p.m.), but can change your reservations on a daily basis or simply walk in when you're hungry. (Note: Those opting for My Time Dining will need to pre-pay gratuities.) The restaurant is open seating for everyone at breakfast and lunch every day.

Cuisine is generally well-prepared, if not innovative. (Royal Caribbean doesn't pretend to be a gourmet-dining cruise line.) Each menu includes healthy fare options, vegetarian dishes (at least one, like vegetarian chili, but sometimes there's an Indian vegetarian dish in addition) and a standard in-case-nothing-else-appeals selection of entrees (rigatoni with marinara sauce, Atlantic cod, chicken breast and black angus top sirloin).

Breakfast and lunch are open-seating, though you shouldn't take that to mean that you can always snare a quiet little table for two. The ship's best-kept secret may be that lunch in the dining room is one of the better meals onboard. The salad bar is staffed by chefs, who create salads according to your instructions; the ingredients (fresh vegetables, meats and cheeses) are fresher and more varied than in the Windjammer, and the heaping plate of veggies can easily stand alone as a full meal, especially for vegetarians. Plus, the Brasserie30 option, which allows you to choose two menu items and finish your meal within 30 minutes, is a terrific choice for those who want to get back to the pool or other onboard activities.

Two restaurants with fees are Chops Grille ($25 per person) on Deck 11 in the Plaza area, serving traditional steakhouse fare including steaks and chops, salmon, family-style mashed potatoes, and sinful desserts. Portofino ($20 per person), also in the Plaza area, is the other specialty restaurant. It is a romantic, oceanview venue, serving Northern Italian cuisine -- from an antipasto appetizer pasta first course, meat second course and dessert (we never tire of the tiramisu).

Johnny Rockets, a Voyager-class staple at this point, is on Deck 12, and features juicy burgers, fries, filling chili and thick shakes (my mouth is watering just remembering a late afternoon snack there). There's a $4.95 per person charge to eat at Johnny Rockets -- whether you eat in the restaurant or order for take-out. Beverages (such as the fabulous milkshakes) are available for an extra charge -- and you can even get a draught beer.

The Windjammer Cafe on Deck 11 in the Plaza area, serves buffet-style breakfast, lunch, afternoon snacks and dinner. Several stations including salad/sandwich/soup, meat carvery, entrees, burgers, breads, thirst quenchers and frozen yogurts make it easy to get your choices for a meal expeditiously. As part of RCI's Golden Anchor Standard of service, waiters come around the Windjammer offering coffee, iced tea and lemonade to diners -- a nice touch, so you don't have to be getting up or juggling drinks with your food.

Jade is the ship's no-fee, Asian-influenced buffet area. It's located adjacent to the Windjammer and features selections representing Chinese, Indian and Japanese cuisines (sometimes an eclectic mix of all three). Such dishes as shredded vegetables in lemon sauce, Japanese sushi and Chinese wontons made for a quick, exotic and delicious lunch. As well, passengers can enjoy a pre-dinner sake, tea or traditional cocktail at the Plaza Bar, with its backdrop of cascading water, at the entrance to the Plaza area.

The Cafe Promenade is a good spot for a quick breakfast, lunch or snack. This no-fee sidewalk cafe is great for people-watching (it's located on the Royal Promenade) -- and serves fruits, rolls, sandwiches, pizza, cookies and other goodies as well as espressos made with Seattle's Best Coffee (which is priced a la carte). Steps away, also on the Royal Promenade, is Ben & Jerry's ice cream shop, with 16 of the company's famous flavors. The cost of a small cup of ice cream is $2.50; medium cup, $3.25; large cup, $4. Add $1 for a waffle cone. If you are watching your expenses, next door to Ben & Jerry's is Sprinkles, a free frozen yogurt station.

Royal Caribbean's room service options are available around the clock via 24-hour menus that offer a range of snacks and sandwiches. At breakfast, continental dishes, along with a handful of egg entrees, are available both in cabins and suites. Items off the main dining room menu can be ordered at dinner. There is no charge for room service between 5 a.m. and midnight (though a buck or two gratuity is recommended); late-night orders incur a $3.95 fee.

Gratuity

Royal Caribbean recommends $3.50 per person, per day to the dining room waiter; $3.50 per person, per day to the cabin steward; $2 per person, per day to the assistant waiter. Royal Caribbean also recommends $.75 per person, per day to the headwaiter, but we don't necessarily give this unless the service is special. Gratuities can be pre-paid in advance (and must be if you opt for flexible dining), added to your onboard bill or paid in cash at the end of the cruise. A 15 percent gratuity is automatically added to bar tabs.

Dining

The three-story main dining room -- with each of its three levels named after famous ballets: Swan Lake, Coppelia and The Nutcracker -- is exquisite, with a warm and welcoming color scheme in burgundy and gold, a grand staircase and a bronze sculpture of a dancer. There aren't too many tables for two in the dining room, but those who wish to dine a deux have a variety of options in the alternative dining venues.

Royal Caribbean is in the process of rolling out its flexible dining program, called My Time dining. But, Navigator of the Seas currently maintains the traditional assigned-seating dining. At dinner, there are two seatings (at 6:30 and 8:30 p.m.), and your tablemates are pre-determined. Cuisine is generally well-prepared, if not innovative. (Royal Caribbean doesn't pretend to be a gourmet-dining cruise line.) Each menu includes healthy fare options, vegetarian dishes (at least one, like vegetarian chili, but sometimes there's an Indian vegetarian dish in addition) and a standard in-case-nothing-else-appeals selection of entrees (rigatoni with marinara sauce, Atlantic cod, chicken breast and black angus top sirloin). Breakfast and lunch are open-seating, though you shouldn't take that to mean that you can always snare a quiet little table for two. The ship's best-kept secret may be that lunch in the dining room is one of the better meals onboard. The salad bar is staffed by chefs, who create salads according to your instructions; the ingredients (fresh vegetables, meats and cheeses) are fresher and more varied than in the Windjammer, and the heaping plate of veggies can easily stand alone as a full meal, especially for vegetarians. Plus, the Brasserie30 option, which allows you to choose two menu items and finish your meal within 30 minutes, is a terrific choice for those who want to get back to the pool or other onboard activities. Two restaurants with fees are Chops Grille ($25 per person) on Deck 11 in the Plaza area, serving traditional steakhouse fare including steaks and chops, salmon, family-style mashed potatoes, and sinful desserts. Portofino ($20 per person), also in the Plaza area, is the other specialty restaurant. It is a romantic, oceanview venue, serving Northern Italian cuisine -- from an antipasto appetizer pasta first course, meat second course and dessert (we never tire of the tiramisu).

Johnny Rockets, a Voyager-class staple at this point, is on Deck 12, and features juicy burgers, fries, filling chili and thick shakes (my mouth is watering just remembering a late afternoon snack there). There's a $4.95 per person charge to eat at Johnny Rockets -- whether you eat in the restaurant or order for take-out. Beverages (such as the fabulous milkshakes) are available for an extra charge -- and you can even get a draught beer.

The Windjammer Cafe on Deck 11 in the Plaza area, serves buffet-style breakfast, lunch, afternoon snacks and dinner. Several stations including salad/sandwich/soup, meat carvery, entrees, burgers, breads, thirst quenchers and frozen yogurts make it easy to get your choices for a meal expeditiously. As part of RCI's Golden Anchor Standard of service, waiters come around the Windjammer offering coffee, iced tea and lemonade to diners -- a nice touch, so you don't have to be getting up or juggling drinks with your food.

Jade is the ship's no-fee, Asian-influenced buffet area. It's located adjacent to the Windjammer and features selections representing Chinese, Indian and Japanese cuisines (sometimes an eclectic mix of all three). Such dishes as shredded vegetables in lemon sauce, Japanese sushi and Chinese wontons made for a quick, exotic and delicious lunch. As well, passengers can enjoy a pre-dinner sake, tea or traditional cocktail at the Plaza Bar, with its backdrop of cascading water, at the entrance to the Plaza area.

The Cafe Promenade is a good spot for a quick breakfast, lunch or snack. This no-fee sidewalk cafe is great for people-watching (it's located on the Royal Promenade) -- and serves fruits, rolls, sandwiches, pizza, cookies and other goodies as well as espressos made with Seattle's Best Coffee (which is priced a la carte). Steps away, also on the Royal Promenade, is Ben & Jerry's ice cream shop, with 16 of the company's famous flavors. The cost of a small cup of ice cream is $2.50; medium cup, $3.25; large cup, $4. Add $1 for a waffle cone. If you are watching your expenses, next door to Ben & Jerry's is Sprinkles, a free frozen yogurt station.

Royal Caribbean's room service options are available around the clock via 24-hour menus that offer a range of snacks and sandwiches. At breakfast, continental dishes, along with a handful of egg entrees, are available both in cabins and suites. Items off the main dining room menu can be ordered at dinner. There is no charge for room service between 5 a.m. and midnight (though a buck or two gratuity is recommended); late-night orders incur a $3.95 fee.

Gratuity

Royal Caribbean recommends $3.50 per person, per day to the dining room waiter; $3.50 per person, per day to the cabin steward (or $5.75 if you're in a suite); and $2 per person, per day to the assistant waiter. Royal Caribbean also recommends $0.75 per person, per day to the headwaiter, but we don't necessarily tip him or her unless the service was special. Gratuities can be pre-paid in advance, added to your onboard bill or paid in cash at the end of the cruise. A 15 percent gratuity is automatically added to bar tabs.This is the fourth of five in Royal Caribbean's Voyager Class, among the biggest vessels in the world. With so much to see and do onboard, you may soon wish you had booked back-to-back cruises. Like her sisters, Voyager of the Seas, Explorer of the Seas, Adventure of the Seas and Mariner of the Seas, Navigator of the Seas sports some of the industry's most amazing features: a rock-climbing wall, ice-skating rink, mall-like indoor promenade, basketball court and in-line skating track.

Although Navigator of the Seas is definitely a member of the Voyager family, she has her own look and amenities (many of which were repeated on Mariner of the Seas, the last of the five sister ships). This ship has more exterior glass (in balcony cabins) than her predecessors, and such features as a wine bar for appreciation and entertainment, expanded youth facilities, a Plaza area with a variety of dining options (both no-fee and fee), the first Latin jazz bar at sea (mojitos, anyone?) and the first sea-going Ben & Jerry's ice cream parlor (Royal Caribbean has since spread these various concepts across its fleet).

Dining

The three-story main dining room -- with each of its three levels named after famous ballets: Swan Lake, Coppelia and The Nutcracker -- is exquisite, with a warm and welcoming color scheme in burgundy and gold, a grand staircase and a bronze sculpture of a dancer. There aren't too many tables for two in the dining room, but those who wish to dine a deux have a variety of options in the alternative dining venues.

For dinner, passengers can choose between assigned early (6 p.m.) or late (8:30 p.m.) dining, or opt for RCI's My Time Dining, in which you pick a preferred mealtime (anytime between 6 and 9:30 p.m.), but can change your reservations on a daily basis or simply walk in when you're hungry. (Note: Those opting for My Time Dining will need to pre-pay gratuities.) The restaurant is open seating for everyone at breakfast and lunch every day.

Cuisine is generally well-prepared, if not innovative. (Royal Caribbean doesn't pretend to be a gourmet-dining cruise line.) Each menu includes healthy fare options, vegetarian dishes (at least one, like vegetarian chili, but sometimes there's an Indian vegetarian dish in addition) and a standard in-case-nothing-else-appeals selection of entrees (rigatoni with marinara sauce, Atlantic cod, chicken breast and black angus top sirloin).

Breakfast and lunch are open-seating, though you shouldn't take that to mean that you can always snare a quiet little table for two. The ship's best-kept secret may be that lunch in the dining room is one of the better meals onboard. The salad bar is staffed by chefs, who create salads according to your instructions; the ingredients (fresh vegetables, meats and cheeses) are fresher and more varied than in the Windjammer, and the heaping plate of veggies can easily stand alone as a full meal, especially for vegetarians. Plus, the Brasserie30 option, which allows you to choose two menu items and finish your meal within 30 minutes, is a terrific choice for those who want to get back to the pool or other onboard activities.

Two restaurants with fees are Chops Grille ($30 per person) on Deck 11 in the Plaza area, serving traditional steakhouse fare including steaks and chops, salmon, family-style mashed potatoes, and sinful desserts. Portofino ($20 per person), also in the Plaza area, is the other specialty restaurant. It is a romantic, oceanview venue, serving Northern Italian cuisine -- from an antipasto appetizer pasta first course, meat second course and dessert (we never tire of the tiramisu).

Johnny Rockets, a Voyager-class staple at this point, is on Deck 12, and features juicy burgers, fries, filling chili and thick shakes (my mouth is watering just remembering a late afternoon snack there). There's a $4.95 per person charge to eat at Johnny Rockets -- whether you eat in the restaurant or order for take-out. Beverages (such as the fabulous milkshakes) are available for an extra charge -- and you can even get a draught beer.

The Windjammer Cafe on Deck 11 in the Plaza area, serves buffet-style breakfast, lunch, afternoon snacks and dinner. Several stations including salad/sandwich/soup, meat carvery, entrees, burgers, breads, thirst quenchers and frozen yogurts make it easy to get your choices for a meal expeditiously. As part of RCI's Golden Anchor Standard of service, waiters come around the Windjammer offering coffee, iced tea and lemonade to diners -- a nice touch, so you don't have to be getting up or juggling drinks with your food.

Jade is the ship's no-fee, Asian-influenced buffet area. It's located adjacent to the Windjammer and features selections representing Chinese, Indian and Japanese cuisines (sometimes an eclectic mix of all three). Such dishes as shredded vegetables in lemon sauce, Japanese sushi and Chinese wontons made for a quick, exotic and delicious lunch. As well, passengers can enjoy a pre-dinner sake, tea or traditional cocktail at the Plaza Bar, with its backdrop of cascading water, at the entrance to the Plaza area.

The Cafe Promenade is a good spot for a quick breakfast, lunch or snack. This no-fee sidewalk cafe is great for people-watching (it's located on the Royal Promenade) -- and serves fruits, rolls, sandwiches, pizza, cookies and other goodies as well as espressos made with Seattle's Best Coffee (which is priced a la carte). Steps away, also on the Royal Promenade, is Ben & Jerry's ice cream shop, with 16 of the company's famous flavors. The cost of a small cup of ice cream is $2.50; medium cup, $3.25; large cup, $4. Add $1 for a waffle cone. If you are watching your expenses, next door to Ben & Jerry's is Sprinkles, a free frozen yogurt station.

Royal Caribbean's room service options are available around the clock via 24-hour menus that offer a range of snacks and sandwiches. At breakfast, continental dishes, along with a handful of egg entrees, are available both in cabins and suites. Items off the main dining room menu can be ordered at dinner. There is no charge for room service between 5 a.m. and midnight (though a buck or two gratuity is recommended); late-night orders incur a $3.95 fee.

Gratuity

Royal Caribbean recommends $3.75 per person, per day to the dining room waiter; $5 per person, per day to the cabin steward (or $7.25 if you're in a suite); $0.75 per person, per day to the headwaiter; and $2.15 per person, per day to the assistant waiter. This totals $11.65 for those in standard cabins and $13.90 for those in suites. Gratuities can be pre-paid in advance (and must be if you opt for flexible dining), added to your onboard bill or paid in cash at the end of the cruise. A 15 percent gratuity is automatically added to bar tabs.

Gratuity

Royal Caribbean recommends $3.75 per person, per day to the dining room waiter; $5 per person, per day to the cabin steward (or $7.25 if you're in a suite); $0.75 per person, per day to the headwaiter; and $2.15 per person, per day to the assistant waiter. This totals $11.65 for those in standard cabins and $13.90 for those in suites. Gratuities can be pre-paid in advance (and must be if you opt for flexible dining), added to your onboard bill or paid in cash at the end of the cruise. A 15 percent gratuity is automatically added to bar tabs.

Effective March 1, Royal Caribbean passengers are charged $12 per person, per day ($14.25 for suite guests). Gratuities can be pre-paid in advance or will be added on a daily basis to passengers' SeaPass accounts during the cruise. A 15 percent gratuity is automatically added to bar tabs.

Gratuity

Royal Caribbean passengers are charged $12 per person, per day ($14.25 for suite guests). Gratuities can be prepaid or will be added on a daily basis to passengers' SeaPass accounts during the cruise. Passengers can modify or remove gratuities by visiting the guest services desk while onboard. A 15 percent gratuity is automatically added to bar tabs.The fourth ship in Royal Caribbean's Voyager Class underwent a huge refurbishment in January 2014. The "revitalization" of Navigator of the Seas added cabins, specialty restaurants and the challenging FlowRider surf simulator to a vessel that was launched in 2002.

Navigator is large but easy to, well, navigate. The refurbishment repurposed old venues and spaces to make way for these new eateries, activities and cabins. So, nothing new was crammed into the redesign, and the ship still maintains its open and roomy feel throughout. The new carpeting and other soft furnishings simply give Navigator a fresh and clean look without changing its overall feel.

Navigator is the first Royal Caribbean ship to offer the "Virtual Balcony." Dozens of the ship's existing standard interior cabins now have floor-to-ceiling HD screens that allow passengers to get a view of the ocean without splurging for a true balcony. The high-tech system also brings in the sounds of the ocean waves to create a soothing at-sea ambience -- and provide some white noise to block out less desirable ship sounds.

Like food? Of course you do. The ship's enhancement included the additions of a fantastic Italian eatery, Giovanni's Table; a sushi and Asian fusion spot, Izumi Japanese Cuisine; and a modern Mexican restaurant, Sabor. The menu at Chops Grille also was overhauled and includes the addition of two premium (additional fee) steak selections.

The hub of the activity has always been the Royal Promenade, an open area on Deck 5 that serves as the ship's "Main Street." This is a distinctly Royal Caribbean touch and is featured on all of the ships in this class -- Voyager, Explorer, Adventure and Mariner -- and all of the newer classes. You'll find yourself gravitating to this buzzing mall-like area to stroll into the shops, bars and cafe, which serves coffee, ice cream, pastries and pizza. The Promenade also is where the captain hosts the welcome-aboard reception, and a full range of other activities, such as music, parades and parties, take place here.

There is so much to do on Navigator, you will never be bored. Try the FlowRider surf-simulator (you can boogie board or surf), climb the rock wall, strap on skates and hit the ice for an open-skate session in the ship's rink, soak in one of the six hot tubs, dance the night away at Cosmopolitan, attend an art auction, play bingo, head to the main theater for a production show or lounge poolside to view a flick on Navigator's new giant movie screen. We especially loved the production ice show in Studio B, Circus Parade on the Royal Promenade and nightly live music in Boleros.

The ship has a friendly vibe. Many passengers hail from Texas and emanate their unique brand of warm hospitality, meaning you'll be greeted with plenty of smiles and eager-to-chat tablemates for dinner. Country music predominates on the sound systems, and many of the onboard musical entertainers also specialize in country offerings. The bars and dance club were bustling, but not too crowded, on most nights during our sailing. The ship was built for fun, and it delivers.

Dining

Eating options were expanded and improved with Navigator's 2014 ship refurbishment. The line added a Mexican restaurant, Sabor, and an Asian-fusion and sushi eatery, Izumi Japanese Cuisine. Italian restaurant Portofino was replaced with a great family-style option, Giovanni's Table. Longtime Royal Caribbean steakhouse favorite Chops Grille has a revamped menu that includes premium dry-aged steak options, and the three-level main dining room was redesigned and consolidated under one name, Sapphire.

Reservations for specialty restaurants are recommended. Passengers can make reservations either online (up to four days prior to sailing) for parties of up to six or once onboard at special reservation tables set up outside the Windjammer buffet area, at the restaurants themselves or by calling guest services.

Sapphire is the main fee-free dining room, and is decorated in whites and golds, with white linens, dark carpeting, a grand staircase and a dramatic chandelier as the showpiece above. It typically serves breakfast from 8 to 10 a.m. and lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. The schedule is subject to change. For breakfast, you can order items off the menu -- such as omelets, French toast and fresh fruit -- or choose among the fruit, yogurt and cereal selections available at the buffet area in the dining room. For lunch, a salad bar is available, and you can order menu items such as grilled chicken, wraps and burgers among other entrees. Both breakfast and lunch is open seating.

For dinner, passengers can choose My Time Dining and be seated whenever they want between 5:30 p.m. and 9 p.m. in Sapphire. Otherwise, there are two scheduled dining times: main seating at 5:30 p.m. and second seating at 8 p.m.

In general, food in the main dining room was bland, especially in comparison with the fare available at the specialty restaurants. Some menu items were hits, such as the lobster, escargot, baked Alaska dessert and occasional soups. Service also was much less personable on average when stacked against the alternative venues. Menus offer vegetarian and everyday options, such as grilled chicken, steak and pasta dishes, in case the day's specials don't appeal to you.

The Windjammer Cafe on Deck 11 serves buffet-style breakfast (6 to 11 a.m. on port days; 7 to 11:15 a.m. on sea days), lunch (11:45 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on port days; noon to 3 p.m. on sea days), afternoon snacks (various hours) and dinner (6 to 9 p.m.). Several stations including salad/sandwich/soup, meat carvery, entrees, burgers, breads, drinks and frozen yogurt make it easy to fill your plate expeditiously. The traffic flow around the buffet is efficient, with rarely any crowding or long lines. Waiters come around the Windjammer offering coffee, iced tea and lemonade to diners -- a nice touch, so you don't have to juggle drinks with your food.

Jade is the ship's no-fee, Asian-influenced buffet area. It's located adjacent to the Windjammer, is open at the same times, and features selections representing Chinese, Indian and Japanese cuisines, and sometimes an eclectic mix of all three. Dishes such as shredded vegetables in lemon sauce, Japanese sushi and Chinese wontons make for a quick, exotic and delicious lunch. Passengers can enjoy a pre-dinner sake, tea or traditional cocktail at the Plaza Bar, with its backdrop of cascading water, at the entrance to the Windjammer.

The Cafe Promenade (open 24 hours a day) is a good spot for a quick breakfast, lunch or snack. Located on the Royal Promenade on Deck 5, this no-fee sidewalk cafe is also ideal for people-watching. It serves fruits, rolls, sandwiches, pizza, cookies and other goodies; espressos and other coffee drinks made with Seattle's Best Coffee are priced a la carte. Steps away, also on the Royal Promenade, is Ben & Jerry's ice cream shop (open 7:30 a.m. to 1:30 a.m.), with several famous flavors. The cost of a small cup of ice cream is $3; medium cup, $3.75; large cup, $5.50. Add $1 for a waffle cone.

Chops Grille ($35 fee) on Deck 11 is the line's steak house, open for dinner each night from 6 to 9:30 p.m. We enjoyed a spectacular meal complete with a great variety of appetizers. (Go with a group so you can share and sample everything.) Of note were the truffle-oil French fries, tasty gruyere cheese tater tots and giant slab of tender, seasoned bacon. Chops features the typical great cuts of steak that you expect at a steakhouse. The revamped menu adds items such as veal chop parmesan, dry-aged steak burger, braised short rib of beef and premium cuts of dry-aged steak. The premium steaks -- a 16-ounce dry-aged New York strip and 20-ounce dry-aged porterhouse -- come at a premium, too. If you choose to spoil yourself with one of these menu items, you'll pay an extra $18 or $19, respectively. We had a sampling of each, and they taste fantastic: perfectly seasoned and incredibly tender. But you'll have to decide for yourself whether your taste buds deserve dipping into your wallet for the added upcharge. We would have been more than satisfied with the primary menu. The dry-aged steak burger, topped with bacon and gruyere cheese, probably ranks as the best burger we've ever had.

Izumi Japanese Cuisine, on Deck 14 by the Viking Crown Lounge, offers sushi rolls and Asian-fusion fare priced a la carte. A large roll, for example, is priced about $10. The restaurant received rave reviews from all members of our party, who found it to be an outstanding meal at those prices. Kudos especially went to the signature roll offerings, like spicy crispy shrimp and tuna seared tataki. Chefs will do a nice tableside preparation presentation, using hot rocks for some items. Izumi is open for lunch on sea days only from noon to 1:30 p.m. and every evening for dinner from 6 to 9:30 p.m.

Deck 4's Sabor ($25 fee) is the line's Mexican eatery. You'll find all the standard items: chicken flautas, chicken quesadillas, tacos, empanadas and burritos. We especially enjoyed the fresh-made guacamole, tequila flights and margaritas that are crafted tableside. You won't walk away hungry from this meal loaded with cheesy, crispy goodness. If you prefer your Mexican meals really spicy, you might be disappointed, as food leaned toward a milder palate. Hot sauce, of course, is available to crank up the heat. The chocolate-filled dessert empanadas are a real treat. Sabor is open for dinner each night from 6 to 9:30 p.m.

Perhaps the best bargain on Navigator of the Seas is Italian eatery Giovanni's Table ($20 dinner, $15 lunch), which occupies the space that used to be Portofino -- on Deck 11 outside the Windjammer buffet area and opposite Chops Grille. The options there were as delicious and plentiful as at the other for-fee restaurants but at a fraction of the cost. Giovanni's Table offers family-style appetizers and a wide range of delicious mains. Tuck into marinated artichokes, salmon carpaccio, creamy pastas, gnocchi, risotto, crab-stuffed ravioli, ossobuco, beef tenderloin, sea bass and more. For dessert, be tempted by tiramisu, canolis, chocolate mousse and flourless chocolate cake, among others. Giovanni's Table is open for lunch on sea days only, from noon to 1:30 p.m., and every evening for dinner from 6 to 9:30.

Johnny Rockets is on Deck 12, and features juicy burgers, fries, filling chili and thick shakes. There's a $4.95 per person charge for Johnny Rockets, whether you eat in the restaurant or get your food to go. Beverages, including that fabulous milkshake and beer, incur an extra charge. Hours vary for the restaurant, depending on whether the ship is at sea or in port, but generally it is open from 11:30 a.m. to midnight.

Royal Caribbean's room service options are available around the clock via 24-hour menus that offer a range of snacks and sandwiches. Note: The line's popular honey-stung chicken that used to be a staple on the buffet can still be ordered via room service. At breakfast, continental dishes, along with a handful of egg entrees, are available both in cabins and suites. Items off the main dining room menu can be ordered at dinner. There is no charge for room service between 5 a.m. and midnight (though a buck or two cash gratuity is recommended); late-night orders incur a $3.95 fee.

Public Rooms

An $8.5 million art collection graces the ship -- with a mind boggling 2,213 art pieces in the public spaces. Voyager's decor includes framed posters and art representing famous movies that line the hallways to passenger cabins. It's cool to stroll around and see all that's there. They also help you remember where to go at the end of your day: "I just have to remember, my room is across from Han Solo on the Star Wars poster."

The Royal Promenade, in essence a sea-bound mall, is the heart of the ship. It's four decks tall, longer than a football field and anchored at each end by atriums. The area offers shops, bars and casual eateries. We found that the wide-open Promenade helps keep foot traffic flow on the ship very smooth, from one end to the other. This was a nice change from some frustratingly tight confines we've encountered on other vessels that worsen when main theater and other popular events let out. Monumental sculptures adorn each atrium, including our favorite work of art onboard, Aquaria, by American sculptor Larry Kirkland. This awesome sculpture, which spans the 11 levels of the Centrum atrium, has 6,000 shimmering, hand-gilded spheres inspired by the bubbles produced by scuba divers.

Passengers will find the shore excursion and guest services desks in the same area on Deck 5 before the entrance to the Promenade, which is home to duty-free shopping outlets for jewelry, apparel and liquor as well as sundry convenience items. You can book a future cruise while onboard at the sales desk on Deck 6.

A cyber lounge on Deck 8 offers multiple computer stations with Internet access. You also can use your smartphones or tablet devices to access the ship's Wi-Fi plans. Prices are $10 for a 30-minute plan (minutes cannot be saved); $29.95 for an hour (time is used only when you are logged on); $59.90 for a full day of continuous service; and $140.95 for three days. Or, buy a plan good for the entire cruise ($190 for one device or $229 for two devices). The ship offers bow-to-stern Wi-Fi service, which was spotty at times but worked pretty well overall during our sailing. The library on Deck 7 also features computer terminals.

Other public spaces include an intimate wedding chapel for 60 guests with ocean views on Deck 15. There's also a conference center on Deck 2. Passengers can use the "wayfinder" interactive screens near the elevator banks to get directions around the ship or access a digital "Cruise Compass" that outlines the day's activities onboard. There is no self-service launderette, so pack accordingly.

Cabins

Overall, Navigator has 1,643 staterooms, including 86 added during the 2014 revitalization, and 767 of them feature balconies. Renovations also included the cruise industry's first "Virtual Balcony" cabins. On Decks 9 and 10, 81 standard interior cabins received floor-to-ceiling HD display screens that give occupants real-time views of the sights outside (provided by cameras mounted on the ship's exterior). You get to control the volume on the display, allowing you to pipe in the natural sounds associated with the views, great for light sleepers who prefer some white noise while dozing. (Just be warned that the pleasing sounds of ocean waves might give way to the din of dockworkers when the ship arrives in port.) The view you get in your cabin depends on which wall the 80-inch HD screen is affixed. If you face the front of the ship to see your "balcony," you are getting the view from the high-quality digital camera mounted on the bridge. Facing back, you get the view of the ship's wake from the camera mounted on the rear of the ship. Curtains can be drawn to conceal the HD screen. The balcony view includes a virtual railing, too.

Standard cabins are tastefully decorated, featuring light woods, and offer two twin beds that convert to a king. One of the best outcomes from the refurbishment was the installation of slick flat-screen TVs in all the rooms, replacing the antiquated tube models. The TVs are anchored above the safe cabinet in the vanity and can be adjusted so you can view the screens no matter where you are in the cabin. You get two ESPN channels, CNN and channels featuring classic movies and TV shows as well as the standard RCTV ("what happened during your cruise") programming.

Cabins contain minifridges that are minimally stocked with soft drinks and juices; the charge for minifridge items is the same as in the bars (e.g., $2.29 for soda or bottled water). There was plenty of room to stash our own sodas and such, or you can ask the room steward to remove the contents. Other features include desk/vanity areas and seating areas with loveseats or full-length couches; some fold out.

Bathrooms are basic, and only suites have tubs. The showers, though, have those wonderful, half-round sliding doors, a fabulous improvement over icky, clingy shower curtains. Soap and shampoo are provided via dispensers; suites get mini-bottles of Royal Caribbean's Vitality shampoo, conditioner and lotion. Hair dryers are located in the vanities rather than in the bathrooms.

Navigator of the Seas offers 27 accessible staterooms in a variety of categories. Features include wider doors, closet racks that can be pulled down to lower heights and accessible showers and toilets. These cabins are set aside for cruise travelers who can prove they need the accessible amenities; the cabins only enter the regular inventory close to the sail date, if they haven't sold out by then.

Standard interior cabins measure 150 square feet, including those with virtual balconies. The space comes with a sitting area and vanity. The ship's 138 interior promenade cabins come with bowed windows that overlook the mall-like Royal Promenade. These rooms have 160 square feet of space. All accessible interior cabins measure 256 square feet.

The ship's outside, or Ocean View, staterooms, feature large windows for views of the ocean as you cruise. The Ocean View cabins offer a sitting area with a sofa in 160 square feet of space. Accessible Ocean View cabins are 276 square feet. A Large Ocean View category gives a bit more space: 175 square feet. If you're traveling with a family, you can book the 293-square-foot Family Ocean View, which contains bunk beds in a separate area, along with a sofa bed, and can sleep up to six people.

Navigator's revitalization added a new circular structure to the ship, wrapping around the upper spa area on Deck 12 forward. This section contains 38 new cabins, including 24 Panoramic Ocean View cabins that peek out above the bridge area. These cabins offer fantastic views through floor-to-ceiling wraparound windows. A standard Panoramic Ocean View measures 191 to 215 square feet, and a larger category offers 283 square feet of living space. Two 406-square-feet Family Panoramic Ocean View cabins sleep six. They offer two twin beds that convert to a king, a curtained-off section with bunk beds, living area with double sofa bed, and one and a half baths with shower.

Navigator has a full range of cabins with balconies, fitting almost any type of cruise budget. Check into a Deluxe Balcony cabin and enjoy 184 square feet of space with a 46-square-foot balcony or a Superior Balcony cabin, which measures 199 square feet and gives you a roomy 65 square feet outside to enjoy your morning coffee and sunrise. The private verandahs are each equipped with two basic chairs and a small table, and have glass panels filling up the space below the railings. A standard accessible balcony cabin offers 275 square feet of living space with 42 square feet of balcony.

Step up to the suite life, and you'll enjoy even more space and amenities. Each 297-square-foot Junior Suite includes a bathtub, sitting area and a 69-square-foot balcony. Or book a 401-square-foot Grand Suite, which comes with a sitting area, large closet and bar, and a 104-square-foot balcony. The expansive 574-square-foot Royal Family Suite has room for eight in two bedrooms. The cabin features two bathrooms (one with a tub), a large living area, small dining table and 232-square-foot balcony. Navigator's 580-square-foot Owner's Suites come with queen-size beds, separate living rooms with sofa beds and private 157-square-foot balconies. Each Owner's Suite also features a dry bar, dinette and large living area.

The ship boasts one stateroom that allows its residents to own bragging rights for the cruise: the Royal Suite. The 1,336-square-foot spread features a 266-square-foot balcony, separate bedroom with king-size bed, whirlpool tub, bar, surround-sound system, living room with queen-size sofa bed, baby grand piano and, of course, concierge service.

Suiteholders, excluding Junior Suite residents, can use the Concierge Club Lounge on Deck 9. This windowless room features complimentary continental breakfast and a cocktail hour. Among other fee-free services, the concierge on duty can handle reservations for specialty restaurants, shore excursions and spa treatments.

Entertainment

The ship's main theater, Metropolis, delivers nightly shows, from variety production numbers featuring the Royal Caribbean singers and dancers to the standard onboard game shows like "Love and Marriage," as well as music and comedy entertainers. The 1,350-seat, Art Deco-style venue also is a hot spot for daily bingo games and the welcome-aboard show. This show lounge is elegant with touches such as stylized, elongated female figures on the curtain, wall sconces and skyscrapers in a sunburst pattern on the ceiling.

One of the more unique features at sea -- and found on all the Voyager Class ships -- is the ice rink in Studio B; typically there's at least one performance if not more on every cruise. Passengers are encouraged to get tickets, which are free, early for the "Ice Dancing" spectacular show because seating is limited. The show is an exceptional entertainment value, featuring all manners of spins, jumps and lifts with a wide array of musical accompaniment.

Navigator offers a variety of options for evening drinks and entertainment. Sing along with piano music in the signature, nautical-themed Schooner Bar. Boleros, a Latin jazz bar (though we caught multiple shows of a great country band there on our sailing) serves up mojitos and other popular Latin drinks. The Star Lounge offers karaoke and themed night parties, and smokers will enjoy the cigar lounge housed within this venue.

On the Promenade, you can sample a pint or two within sight of portraits of such luminaries as Dickens and Thackeray, while sitting back and watching a game at Two Poets Pub. Wine lovers will enjoy time at Vintages (a wine bar in association with Robert Mondavi and Beringer Blass Wine Estates with wine-appreciation programs for novices and aficionados). The Royal Promenade also comes alive with street entertainment on some nights. We enjoyed the spectacular Circus Parade as well as the Dancin' in the Streets party. The ship hosts a 1970's theme night during the cruise.

New to the ship after the refurb is the line's signature R Bar, which replaces the Champagne Bar on Deck 5 just outside the Promenade. This is an especially popular gathering spot for a pre- or post-dinner drink. It offers exotic cocktails mixed using a variety of techniques. You don't even have to stick to the printed menu: Just tell the mixologists the types of ingredients you like, and they'll whip you up something tasty.

The Cosmopolitan Club in the Viking Crown Lounge on Deck 14 is the late-night gathering spot, with a DJ taking requests and pumping out your favorite dance music.

The Vegas-style Casino Royale (with a New Orleans theme here) on Deck 4 features nearly 300 slots, eight blackjack tables, Caribbean Stud Poker, Texas Hold 'Em and Three-Card Stud tables, three roulette wheels and a craps table.

Craving a movie under the stars? Head poolside for one of the multiple movie nights offered on Navigator of the Seas' oversized LCD screen. Pool activities, such as games, bellyflop contests and the line's ubiquitous World's Sexiest Man contest, take place most days on the Lido Deck.

For other daytime entertainment, trivia buffs get ample chances to pit their wits against fellow cruisers with several daily sessions at venues throughout the ship. Test your knowledge with contests such as "Michael Jackson Songs," "What's That Logo?" or the ever-popular "Tri-Bond Trivia."

Fitness and Recreation

One of our favorite areas on board was the Solarium, a pleasant, adults-only open-sky enclave themed to Tuscany. It features a pool, fountain, two hot tubs, bar and lots of chaise lounges facing the sea, along with greenery, bronze horses and murals inspired by the Tuscan countryside of Italy. The ship's main pool area features two small adjacent pools, four whirlpools and stadium seating on vinyl-strap loungers. One of the pools and a whirlpool offer hydraulic lifts to aid accessibility. The pool areas were busy, but we had no trouble finding seats.

The fitness center on Deck 11 offers sea views through floor-to-ceiling windows. The gym sports 18 Lifefitness treadmills, 12 Lifefitness elliptical cross trainers, five recumbent bicycles, four stationary bicycles, two rowing machines, Lifefitness weight machines and two stair steppers, and additional free weights with up to 65 pound dumbbells. The free weight area is too small for an effective workout if more than three people are in the area at the same time, a point of some frustration. A separate mirrored aerobics area is set up for group classes with spin bikes and free weights; some premium classes, such as spinning and yoga, charge a $12 fee. A stereo system and television monitors provide entertainment while you work out. The facility features men's and women's locker rooms with a steam room and a sauna. The atrium area of the fitness facility has a soothing round thalassotherapy pool, free for anyone to use.

The Vitality Spa on Deck 12 above the fitness center is a serene oasis with a beauty salon, 14 massage rooms, one dry floatation room and a relaxation area. The spa and beauty salon, operated by Steiner Leisure, offers an excellent range of treatments (massages, facials, body tune-ups and waxing, as well as hair, nail and teeth treatments). Couples can enjoy a private steam and shower room, which you can book to spend an hour slathering each other in exfoliating lotion, mud masks and moisturizers. Service in the spa is outstanding -- and the quality of the treatments is high.

A basic 50-minute massage ranges from $119 to $159. A manicure is $45; a pedicure is $65. The spa offers discounts on port-of-call days. In addition, treatment employees will engage, too aggressively, in the much-loathed "Steiner Product Pitch" at the end of your appointment. If you're not interested in purchasing products, start off your appointment by saying so. Generally, that will eliminate the need to say "no" at the end.

Other fitness and recreational facilities include a jogging track on Deck 12 (five times around equals one mile). Also, the Voyager-class ships feature some of our favorite physical activities. The outdoor sports deck comes complete with a miniature golf course and golf simulator; a full-length sports court for basketball, soccer, paddle ball and volleyball; and, of course, the awesome rock-climbing wall -- 200 feet above the sea. Are you game? If not, it's fun just to watch. The ship also offers a handful of ice-skating opportunities on sea days at Studio B. The newest addition, a FlowRider surfing simulator, is always in great demand. Try some tricks on a boogie board or get stoked riding a surfboard. Spectators can watch the fun and the falls from the wraparound stadium-seating area.

Family

Navigator of the Seas offers a wide range of youth programs in a large space on Deck 12. Royal Caribbean has designed Adventure Ocean (open until 10 p.m.) for ages 3 to 17. Children must be at least 3 and fully toilet trained (no diapers or pull-ups) to participate in daytime and evening Adventure Ocean programs. As an alternative, the ship also offers Royal Babies and Tots, a drop-off nursery service for infants 6 to 36 months old. Parents pay $6 an hour during daytime hours (9 a.m. to 6 p.m.) and $8 an hour at night (until midnight) to have a trained professional watch their children. The ship also will loan toys for little ones. Free-time play is offered daily, allowing parents to interact with their tots using specially designed developmental toys and programs.

Adventure Ocean includes a section for 3- to 5-year olds (Aquanauts program) with computer stations, an arts and crafts station and an ocean liner-themed play area. The room for 6- to 8-year-olds (Explorers) features computer stations and video game terminals, and activities include talent shows, themed evenings, Adventure Science activities (including building an exploding volcano), and Adventure Art by Crayola projects (including making masks inspired by world cultures). The Voyagers room for 9- to 11-year-olds offers computer stations, flat-screen televisions and activities such as Survivor Night, conducted by the ship's youth counselors.

Teens have their own hang-out areas (open until 2 a.m.), and their program has been divided (sensibly) into two age groups: 12-14 and 15-17. Navigator offers a wide range of activities, such as teen parties with music and buffets, movie night in your PJs, video games, teens-only ice skating, dance challenges, capture the flag tourneys and more. Optix is the teen night club, complete with dance floor, flat-screen televisions and bar for sodas and other nonalcoholic drinks. An unlimited soda package for passengers younger than 18 is $28 for a seven-night cruise.

Beyond this, teens also have The Living Room, a place to hang out during the day with games, books, TV, futuristic furniture and an Internet cafe with seven stations. It's so cool the counselors often have to politely chase away adults. A large video arcade is nearby and so is Johnny Rockets to satisfy the teen appetite for fast food.

Generally, activities at Adventure Ocean cease during lunch and dinner times, but there is the occasional organized meal outing (to Johnny Rocket's, for instance). The complimentary My Family Time Dining program lets kids finish dinner in the main dining room in 45 minutes, then get escorted by Adventure Ocean counselors back to the kids' club to play (letting Mom and Dad enjoy a more leisurely meal). This service is available for first seating for kids ages 3 to 11.

Late-night group babysitting in the kids' areas (for ages 3 to 11) is available from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. for $7 per hour, per child. In-room babysitting for kids 12 months and older costs $19 per hour (a two-hour minimum) for up to four children and requires a 24-hour advance reservation.

Fellow Passengers

The ship sails out of Galveston, Texas, and you'll be sharing more than a few daily "howdies" with all the friendly passengers onboard who hail from the Lone Star state. The multigenerational crowds are sure to be filled with residents from Texas and Louisiana.

Dress Code

Casual is the key word during the day. There are two formal nights per weeklong cruise when dark suits, large belt buckles, bolero ties, cowboy hats and cocktail dresses reign. Other evenings, most passengers wear country club casual attire.

Gratuity

Royal Caribbean passengers are charged $12 per person, per day ($14.50 for suite guests). Gratuities can be prepaid or will be added on a daily basis to passengers' SeaPass accounts during the cruise. Passengers can modify or remove gratuities by visiting the guest services desk while onboard; however, when choosing MyTime dining, gratuities must be prepaid. A 15 percent gratuity is automatically added to bar tabs, and an 18 percent gratuity is automatically added to all spa services.

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