Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Somewhere Beyond the Sea... Embarkation

Summer Cruise 2014 
Let the Fun Begin
Sunday, August 3, 2014  

In August 2014 Chris and I took a Western Caribbean Cruise aboard Royal Caribbean's Navigator of the Seas sailing out of Galveston, TX. This beautiful floating hotel took us to the following destinations: 

Cozumel, Mexico 
Georgetown, Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands 
Falmouth, Jamaica 
Chris and I had been on 2 other cruises prior to this one and they were both on Carnival Cruise Line and both cruises were on the exact same ship with and without upgrades. This cruise was all about "New Beginnings" as we tried new things from food to activities that we would not have done 10 months and 210 pounds ago. This will be a multiple entry blog about not only our 7 days at sea, 2 food blogs from each of our perspectives, a side by side comparison of Royal Caribbean and Carnival and finally a Food Wars- Cruise Style. 

Our home away from home for the next 7 days! What a beauty!

Sunday, August 3, 2014 
We had been counting down for well over 7 months and the day and time had come! We loaded the car with all of our luggage and necessities and headed south 79 miles to Galveston. We had spent most of the summer preparing for this "adventure" as Natalie liked to call it by researching the ship, it's entertainment, dining options and even daily activities and we knew exactly what would happen... well at least that is what we thought. 

We arrived at Galveston "Cruise Park" off of Harbourside Drive around 9:50AM which was early (even for us) but we decided to go ahead and park and head toward the terminal. We had heard that the Galveston Cruise Terminal was not only small but was a true headache to get through on embarkation and disembarkation day so we wanted to plan ahead and try to avoid any of this "chaos". We got on the shuttle around 10:00AM and made it to the 1st check-in point around 10:15AM where we dropped off all of our luggage and then made our way through the security lines and then began the official check-in process. This was our first Royal Caribbean cruise but somehow we got waved to go stand in the Gold and Platinum waiting lines. We were all the way checked in and ready to board the ship by 10:50AM. Around 11:15AM someone came over the speaker and said it was time to board the ship and they began with the really "high-up" crowd of Diamond and Pinnacle members; these people are ones who had cruised well over 40-50 times. Within 10 minutes they called for our group number and we were headed toward the gangway. We were officially scanned in as passengers on The Navigator of the Seas at 11:27AM.
It is time to get on that massive ship!

We went straight to deck 7 to see our balcony stateroom but unfortunately, it would not be ready until 1:00PM and the hallway which provided stateroom access was blocked. We knew ahead of time that we wanted to try out the Windjammer Cafe (The Buffet) first thing since most of the other restaurants were closed until dinner time. According to the research we had done and even the "Boarding Day Cruise Compass" (the daily newsletter for the ship) the buffet was supposed to open at 11:30AM but it was still not ready due to a late clearance from US Customs when the ship arrived back in Galveston from the previous week's cruise. We were originally told that it would be 11: 45 AM before they were ready but over 45 minutes passed before they finally opened their doors. We talked to a lovely older couple from Waco, TX who were on their 49th Royal Caribbean cruise and said this had never happened! It definitely left a "bad impression" in our minds and an even worse "Bad Taste" in our mouths. I am going to be writing a completely separate blog about all of our food endeavors but this was the worst buffet we had in our 3 cruises and in fact it was worse than some Golden Corral Restaurants we have tried on land. 

We finished our "much to be desired" buffet lunch and headed toward the reknown Royal Promenade on Deck 5. This was almost like a miniature city at sea with Shops, Coffee Bars, Wine Bars, Pubs and so much more. We stopped at Cafe' Promenade and tried some cookies and other pasteries but once again we were highly disappointed in the options offered at this 24 hour complimentary restaurant on board. At 1:09PM the announcement came on that all passenger stateroom were ready so we hauled our 2 rolling carry-on bags and other hand helds back up to deck 7 to our balcony stateroom.

Keep Calm and Cruise On!

This was our 3rd cruise and we had only cruised on balconies so we were intrigued to see how this would stack up. Immediately upon entrance to our stateroom we noticed a remarkable difference in the size of the room. While I didn't measure the actual square footage of the room it seemed as if it was at least 10-15 square feet smaller than the other balconies we had stayed in. The decor, however, was much nicer and better as well as the stateroom amenities such as the closet, vanity area and bathroom. 

The Navigator of the Seas is one of Royal Caribbean's biggest ships and at the time it was built was the largest cruise ship in the world. It is now Royal's 7th largest ship by tonnage and is bigger than Carnival's largest ship. It is full of on board activities such as The FlowRider surf simulator, a Rock Wall, an ice skating rink and so much more. Chris and I had researched these activities and found out that they get really busy during the week so we decided to go and try some of these out before the crowds even got on board.

We went to The FlowRider first where Chris and I were the 2nd and 3rd passengers to try it out. This was an amazing experience and we were able to try it out multiple times before more and more passengers started to figure out our little secret and arrive early as well. This was a Boogie Board session meaning you started out on your stomach then eventually got on to your knees. I tried it 3 separate times without any luck of getting on my knees but still had a great time. This machine was VERY POWERFUL and sometimes it would force me off the board and occasionally my swimsuit OFF OF ME! On all 3 times I tried I swear I flashed everyone in the audience. The FlowRider should come with a disclaimer for women... "Put the 'sisters' in a t-shirt before attempting". Chris on the other hand was almost a natural at this. Within his 2nd time he was on his knees and steering with his arms. Spectators watching and waiting for their loved ones to tried it out were saying things like (and I quote); "Wow, he is good. He must live on the beach." or "Really? A red-head Irish looking surfer. Now I have seen it all." This was comical to me since I knew none of this was true. I would politely chime in and and burst their bubble and tell them he was just good at it. Chris did it an overall 5 times before we headed back to the room to change out of our wet swimsuits.

Chris really was a natural at this!

Sorry it is sideways, I can't seem to figure out how to change that!
But here is Chris showing off his natural skills on the FlowRider!

We changed and then headed toward the Rock Wall which allowed you to climb 200 feet above sea level. It was not open yet so we decided to play a game of HORSE on the basketball court since we knew from previous cruising experience that the teenagers will keep it busy during the week. I beat Chris in this game of HORSE but it felt great to be able to get on a cruise ship and be active instead of just crashing in our room. 10 months ago and 210 pounds ago we would not have even thought about the FlowRider, Rock Wall or basketball. This cruise was all about "New Beginnings" and staying active! 

Believe it or not... I used to be pretty good at Basketball!
I DID school my hubby in HORSE! 

We waited about 20 minutes before the Rock Wall opened and once again, we were the first 2 people to sign the waivers and get an opportunity to conquer this wall. We both began on the easy level. It was 3:00PM and it was approximately 97* outside in Galveston so the gripping rocks for the Rock Wall were scorching hot. In fact, I was not able to make it to the top of the wall becasue my hand started to get blisters. Chris climbed all the way to the top of the easy level within 90 seconds, and the medium side in as much time, but came down with 4 heat blisters on his hands. We have already made plans to purchase sport gloves to use on the Rock Wall for our Anniversary Spring Break Cruise in March.

We will achieve and beat this wall... even if it kills us! 

Chris on the Rock Wall for the first time! 

At 3:30PM we went to the Cafe Promenade and got some coffee, water and lemonade then called our kids one more time before we had to go to the mandatory muster station meeting and sail away. We were supposed to set sail at 4:00PM but at 4:15PM there were still over 100 passengers that were still waiting to check-in to the terminal due to long lines and other issues. We were beginning to get frustrated with the continued tardiness of the cruise line but kept telling each other to keep an open mind. Finally, around 4:45PM the muster station meeting began and at 5:07PM we set sail for Cozumel (over an hour late).

Having fun at the Muster Station meeting.

Once we reached international waters we headed towards the Casino to play our favorite table game of BlackJack. They only had $6 minimum tables and our $30/day budget was quickly blown out the window. Maybe we will have better luck tomorrow! 

After cleaning up from our afternoon of physical activities we headed toward the Main Dining Room for dinner. It was 7:30PM and we were hungry from a full afternoon of activities. We took some professional pictures before we went into the Sapphire Dining Room. This dinner was MUCH BETTER than the lunch and afternoon snack options and we were beyond pleased with the service. We had a fantastic waiter, Agnelo, and assistant waiter, Sachin, team from India. They took great care of us from the beginning and all week. We told them that this was our first Royal Caribbean cruise and that we were real "foodies" and even write a blog about our food adventures. They really began to take care of us when we said this. They brought us anything and everything we wanted and sometimes extras just because so. It was a FANTASTIC service experience and far superior to our previous cruises. During the latter part of our meal the Main Waitress for My Time Dining came over to our table and invited us to the Captain's and Director's Table for the dinner the following evening. She explained that this was a very formal and private meal with the Director of Food and Beverage and the Captain as well as 4-5 couples. We were thrilled and honored to be invited and immediately brought our attitude and spirits up.

I'm ready for the first dinner of the evening!

After dinner we went to the Metropolis Theater for the Welcome Aboard show which began at 10:00PM. During this show the cruise director gave us plenty of information about the upcoming week, the LIVE orchestra performed for us as well as the Royal Caribbean Singers and Dancers and was concluded by a comedian Rick Corso. He was funny in a lame, adult from the 70's type of way. Chris enjoyed his antics a lot more than I did.

The Royal Promenade! Such a BEAUTIFUL area of the ship! 

More of us on the Royal Promenade.

After this show finished we went down to the Royal Promenade to watch the "Royal Circus Parade" which was literally a parade of circus animals down this city called the Royal Promenade. I have never seen anything like this in my life, let alone on a cruise ship. Natalie and Luke would have loved it but it seemed a little out of place to me.

Mr. Clown in the Royal Parade.

They really did put a lot of time, effort and I'm sure money into this parade!
It really was a circus!

Watching the Royal Circus Parade!

We sauntered back to our stateroom to call it a night. We were so tired from all of the anticipation leading up to the day and then the full load of activities we did during the afternoon and evening. We got ready for bed and laid on the bed only to find out that it was made of PLYWOOD! Wow, it was the hardest bed either of us had slept on in our lives. It seemed has if it already had "hiney indentions" in it and was sagging all over. The first night was incredibly rough and neither of us got a lot of sleep despite our tired and weariness.

It was only embarkation day and we were excited and anxious to see what the rest of the week would entail! Day #1 was full of fun and few surprises but it ended with a BANG... THE BED! Seriously, it was so hard and awful! 

Once again, we are SO BLESSED to be able to take this "adventure" and are incredibly grateful to both my parents and Chris's parents and most importantly GOD for giving us this opportunity and blessing! 

Tomorrow would be Sea Day #1 and were ready for another full day of excitement! 

God is good... ALL the time! 


  1. Hopefully third time is a charm--I'm getting tired of typing my comment! :-(

    I'm sorry you had such a bad introduction to Royal Caribbean. I don't understand the Windjammer not being available--I was off of the ship in record time! But we left late as well, due to passenger late arrival with RC-booked travel. I agree that the Windjammer was below par--I rarely went there. The new beds are not as good as the old ones. Both newly renovated ships that I've been on have had less comfortable beds than any other ships.

    Congratulations on being invited to a Captain's dinner! It's usually just for Diamond Plus and Pinnacle, and we're "only" Diamond. It was probably because you mentioned you'll be doing a blog. I look forward to the next installment of your cruise blog. I hope it got better!

    1. Sorry for the "Dr." bit--I can't remember my non-school user id and password ;-)