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Contemplating Taking a Cruise? Here are Some Myths and Facts

The newest of Voyager class vessels, Royal Caribbean has introduced in December 2002 the Navigator of the Seas. One of four ships that can claim to be "the world's largest", complete with a roller blade track, ice skating rink, and rock climbing wall.

Plus a boulevard full of shops, bars and cafes known as the Royal Promenade, and a 1950's style diner: Johnny Rocket's, great for burgers, dogs and shakes and a nickel jukebox.

Plus a Latin jazz bar and a Ben & Jerry's ice cream parlor. 

We sailed on a 2 day special Inaugural cruise. Navigator will alternate between 7 day Eastern and Western Caribbean cruises. Our observations are limited to the time we spent onboard. 

If you have sailed on the Voyager of the Seas you will notice that the steel oval framings of balconies are gone, replaced with full-length glass and teak railings.  

As big as it is, Navigator never felt over crowded and we were able to experience a variety of activities without the long lines one would of expected for a cruise ship that houses 3800 + guests.  

Three main dining rooms, Swan Lake, Coppelia and The Nutcracker, which are actually all part of one three-story venue offer traditional assigned seating dining. For breakfast and lunch, it's open seating.

Windjammer and Jade offer a sumptuous buffet, with Jade featured some very innovative Asian/ Fusion cuisine that would delight anyone's palate with the subtle flavors of the Orient.

At dinner time, Windjammer and Jade are a casual alternative to the dining room. We thought the wait staff service was good and the food was well prepared, the presentation consistent and the choices plentiful.

All consistent with what you find at a fine-dining establishment back home.

If you visit the Royal Promenade, you will find pastries in the morning, sandwiches, pizza and deserts at night as well as Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream and Berringer Wines.

At Johnny Rockets, the 50's themed diner style restaurant features red naugahyde booths, Formica counters, a jukebox, signature burgers, hot dogs, chili, french fries and onion rings.

The food here is included. All you pay for are Cokes, and ice cream shakes.  

For an upcharge of $20.00 per person you can dine at either Portofino, an Italian specialty restaurant or choose Chops Grille, A New York style restaurant featuring a high quality steakhouse menu.

Make your reservations as soon as you get onboard cruise or you may never get the opportunity to enjoy it. If you get a sweet-tooth or hunger pains ( How could you? ) at 2:00AM, no problem.

Navigator offers a limited room service menu available round-the-clock.  

Visit the Connoisseur's Club where you can enjoy aperitifs and fine cigars or stop by the Champagne Bar, An elegant but cozy atmosphere to share a glass of wine or champagne.

As wine lover's we enjoyed Vintages, the first totally dedicated wine bar afloat.

Here you can savor wines from the world's finest wine producing regions featuring Robert Mondavi and Beringer, with wine appreciation programs.

The staff is well versed in the history and education of wines. Wine tasting can highlighted the essences of wine and the staff helped pick the right kind of wine for us.

On the Royal Promenade you'll find the Two Poet's British style pub and Cafe' Promenade that features Seattle's Best Coffee.

Then there is Schooner Piano Bar, and Bolero's an upscale 'Latin Lounge" featuring composers of Bolero's and other popular rhythms of the 50's and 60's. Plus there are a number of Bars scattered throughout the ship. 

The Navigator of the Seas' Library has one of the largest collection of books I have ever seen on a cruise ship.

We were able to surf the net and check our e-mail at Royal Caribbean Online. ( 20 work stations available at an extra charge ) 

On the upper decks you will find two main pools and an adults-only pool at the Solarium. Workout at the Shipshape Fitness center or the Spa. Here you will find spinning bikes and free weights, treadmills, cross trainers, bicycles, weight machines and a thalassotherapy pool.

The ShipShape Spa has an ocean-view salon, massage rooms, and a relaxation area with ocean view. 

Send the kids to Club Ocean with what Royal Caribbean calls the world's largest youth facility afloat. There is Navigator Dunes, a nine-hole miniature golf course, roller blade course, Jogging track, full-size basketball court, golf simulator and towering 200 feet above the sea a rock climbing wall designed to challenge experts and beginners alike. (Too scary for us- no guts, no glory)

In the Viking Crown Lounge, we found the Cosmopolitan Jazz Club, a great cosy lounge for drinks and good vibes. There is also a Card Room, 19th Hole Golf Bar and Navigator has a Wedding Chapel that can accommodate 60 guests. 

We had a balcony stateroom with twin beds that can be converted to queen size bed, private bathroom, phone, closed-circuit television, mini bar and a hair dryer. No complaints here. The cabin was a good size, though not huge and the balcony really added to the spacious feeling. Nothing beats a view of the sea and the stars at 1:00AM. Very romantic. 

There are 1,500+ staterooms of which over 900 are ocean view and of those, 0ver 700 have a balcony/verandah. There are also interior cabins, with over a hundred of those with a window that overlooks the Promenade. The cabins have twin beds that can be converted to queen-size.  

If you bring your own laptop you can hook-up right in your cabin to internet access at an extra charge. If you are looking to go over the top, check out the Royal Suite: a separate bedroom with king-size bed, private balcony with a hot tub, whirlpool bath, living room, wet bar, dining area, tv/dvd entertainment system and a baby grand piano.  

Broadway style show productions at held at Metropolis. In "Now & Forever", the cast performs music and dance from such shows as Dreamgirls, The Producers, and Mamma Mia. An ice extravaganza in Studio B on Deck 3,"Ice Dancin'," features an international cast including Russian, Canadian and American skaters.

Great show.

You will need a ticket to see the show as space is limited. At other times, there is open skating for guests.

There is singing and dancing in The Ixtapa Lounge, and a variety of musical choices at venues throughout the ship ranging from classical, rock, country western, and jazz.  

A really fun to watch experience is the Mardi-Gras Parade where -- jugglers, comics, costumed characters and other performers parade through the Royal Promenade and perform for you. 

Adventure Ocean, Royal Caribbean's youth program is a great experience for your kids. There is a 22,000 sq.ft.area that includes computer stations with activities divided into age groups:

(1)three to five year olds,

(2)six to eight year olds,

(3)nine to eleven year olds, and

(4)teens; twelve to fourteeen and fifteen and seventeen. You will find an art studio, large play area, themed events, and science programs. Adventure Art by Crayola projects...and a lot more activites, too numerious to mention here. 

Navigator has an outdoor area for teen parties with music and food service. Fuel is the teen disco, complete with dance floor and Internet Café. Teens also can hang out at The Living Room....or play games in the video arcade.  

Baby-sitting is available.

Overall, we give Navigator of the Seas an 8 (out of a possible perfect 10). We think Navigator is a great for honeymooners, couples and families and especially for groups. There's plenty of room and lots to do for everyone.

Travel Professional

What Singles Should Know About Taking a Cruise 

Singles are underrepresented on cruises, but unless meeting someone is the sole purpose of your vacation, a cruise can be your best choice if you keep these things in mind.  

The Carnival line is the only cruise line that offers a "singles" rate. The others offer you, but you have to take a stranger for a roomy, or pay double. (Did I miss something? Is that a singles rate?) 

Some of the cruise lines (Radisson, Costa, Cunard) offer gentleman dance hosts. If you're a single male, you travel for pennies and it's your "job" to meet and dance with the single women on the ship, 8 pm to 1 am nightly.

If you're female, there are 4-5 men aboard, proficient in waltz, rumba, jitterbug, cha cha, polka, and congenial conversation who are "on call" every night to dance with you. 

Choose a large table for dining. It will water down the effect of any uncongenial dining companions. Ask to change tables if you need to. If you like the day activities, take the late seating. If you're hot for the night-life, take the early seating. 

Shore excursions booked through the ship are safe and scheduled, but cost more. Most ports have cabbies lined up waiting to take you to the same places for less.

(We got a 3-hour tour of St. Maarten for $10 pp instead of $50pp.) However, think twice before you hop into a cab alone. Try and hook up with fellow passengers, even dance hosts. 

If you can avoid the gambling and liquor, a cruise can be very affordable. Cruise lines make their money off the gambling and liquor. That's why they can feed you fabulous food 24 hours a day at those low last-minute rates.

Sail from a port that doesn't require airfare, and you can live in luxury for around $80 a day. You couldn't stay in a hotel and eat steak and lobster for that.  Cruises have been proven to be good for our health. For instance, don't you think at least 25% of our daily stress comes from car hassles?

On a ship there's no parking problems, traffic jams, or road rage to interfere with your relaxation.  

Shopping? Wait till the end of the cruise to shop onboard; they reduce prices. Check with friends or the ship's shopping expert on what to buy where. Each island has its specialities. For instance, braids are $150 in Key West, $75 in Cozumel, and $35 on Grand Cayman.  

Prescription drugs are sold cheaply OOT in Cozumel, etc. Bring CASH so you can stock up on Keflex and avoid doctor's fees. Many of the best bargains require CASH or TRAVELER'S CHEQUES. For other items, get off the beaten track. Stores that pay for space in the port generally charge that privilege back to you. 

Check with friends who've actually been on these ships to see what your fellow-passengers will be like.

Each ship has its own flavor. If you leave from Galveston, expect 90% Texans (scary).

If from Port Everglade, more of a mix - North, Northeast, Midwest, Europe. If you travel in late summer, expect lots of kids and teenagers

Maybe you care less about people, and more about the quality of food.

Decide what your priorities are. Then ask someone who's been on that line. The quality of different amenities varies, and each cruise line has its plusses and minuses. 

Most cruise ships have Internet service but it's expensive and not always available at sea.

However, most ports now have Internet cafes which are quite affordable--$5 an hour, for instance, in Cozumel, right on the dock. You can check your email anywhere on www.e-mailanywhere.com. It's FREE.  

One last suggestion.

If you like to speak, consider being a presenter on a cruise ship.

As I say in my ebook, "How to Get to Present on a Cruise," being an enrichment gives you extra visibility and maneuverability for socializing, as well as new people to tell about your services. 

Bon voyage!

About the Author:
(c)Susan Dunn ( http://www.susandunn.cc ),a coach, is a regular speaker for cruiselines. She is the author of "How to Get to Present on a Cruise", http://www.webstrategies.cc/acruise.html which gives you explicit tips on how to get chosen for this great opportunity and how to succeed once you’re chosen. Mailto:sdunn@susandunn.cc for FREE self improvement eZine.