Navigator of the Seas - Spain and France October 19, 2018
We started this adventure on Tuesday, October 16, on an evening flight to London. We’ve never been to London so we wanted to spend a few days there first. We flew on Virgin Atlantic and can’t say enough about the service and friendliness of everyone we encountered. Great job! We landed early in London on Wednesday, to a drizzly and dreary day. Took car service from Heathrow to Central London, to our Hotel in St James. Traffic was as we expected: abysmal. Stayed at the Conrad St James, which was in a great location, close to underground, Westminster Abbey, within walking distance to Buckingham Palace, Parliament and London Eye. The room wasn’t quite ready so we dropped luggage and went to Westminster Abbey and then lunch. Got call that room was ready, so we got settled in the Hotel, and then did Hop on Hop off of London that afternoon. Despite the weather it was fantastic. We got up early and then set off for Churchill’s War rooms, so interesting, what a view into the times. We then walked to Buckingham palace, taking in the Horse Guards and even got a treat of seeing Royal carriages going by. After we went to the Tube and off to Harrods for the afternoon. Can’t go to London without going to Harrods Had lunch in Harrods, an experience. Tube is so easy and convenient, no comparison to NYC subways which we take every day. Long day capped by a very good dinner in a local Italian restaurant recommended by the concierge, Bon Gusto.
Next day was Friday, October 19, time to get to Southampton and the ship. I have always wanted to see Stonehenge, so we arranged for a transfer to Southampton with a stop in Stonehenge. Forgot to mention that after our arrival day, weather was gorgeous, and we have the pictures to prove it. Time in Stonehenge was fascinating and the countryside in and around Salisbury was very pretty, the bus ride was not. The bus itself was fine, new and well equipped, however it picked us up at 7:45 and by the time we picked everyone up from various Hotels we were on bus for 2 hours before hitting the highway. My husband who is tall and has long legs was very uncomfortable. Live and learn.
After approximately 2 hours at Stonehenge we were on our way to the ship. We pulled into port at about 2 pm and were on board quickly. She looked great driving up! Now after having read some recent commentary on these boards about the condition of Navigator, my husband and I were somewhat concerned about what it would be once we were on board. We chose this cruise for the itinerary. I am very pleased to say that the ship, despite its scheduled dry dock, was and is in great shape. We had read descriptions of “tatty and worn” “worn carpets and ripped seats” and frankly we did not see it. Sure if you look hard enough you can see some items, but it was far from tatty. We were just on Adventure right after her dry dock so we were looking. In fact we saw signs of continued maintenance which is what you would expect from Royal Caribbean. I hope this reassures some folks who have cruises coming up in weeks leading up to the dry dock.
Our cabin, a junior suite on deck 9 was fantastic and in very good shape, again we had read some reviews about furniture, bathrooms and carpets and again I would have to reiterate, that we did not see or encounter those issues. Our cabin steward was efficient and kept us stocked with fresh ice and 2 extra bath towels. He had even moved our luggage into the room once it was delivered. We are not demanding travelers generally but in all the cruises prior to this, even in the Crown Loft on Oasis, the steward would not remember about the towels and definitely did not have ice bucket filled each evening.
In addition to the itinerary, this cruise stood out in 2 ways: service and food, at least in specialty and MDR! Food quality and temperature were exceptional and service was a step above our recent Royal Caribbean Cruises. We had 2 very good dinners in MDR, and all but one of our breakfasts were in the MDR. The remaining dinners were in specialty restaurants. Service and quality were very good. Waiter and assistant waiters kept water full, refilled drinks, and were quick to please. No issues with bar service in MDR. I can’t really comment on windjammer as we only had one meal there and other than the fact that it was noticeably hotter, it was not memorable from our other windjammer experiences. We chose to avoid windjammer if at all possible.
Our first port of call was Bilbao, and weather was very nice, we chose to tour countryside and old town and have tapas with the Royal Caribbean excursions . We then walked around the local town. Next up was A Coruña, and that was a surprise. We did not plan a RCCL excursion, we walked into town with map, found the old town, and square. Did some exploration and picture taking then walked back towards the ship. We ended up taking a city tour with a local outfit with English speaking guides for €17 each. Took 2 hours and it was well worth it. The views from Hercules Tower were incredible.
Day at sea on Tuesday, again weather was great. In my opinion not warm enough for pools, but there were folks with hearty constitutions out on sun deck in bathing suits and in the pools. They were enjoying themselves and that’s what matters. We enjoyed the sunshine and deck but with a jacket or long sleeves.
Wednesday we docked in Cherbourg and we did the RCCL excursion to Utah Beach and the Museum there. Excellent guide on bus, and then the museum and the guide at museum was outstanding. Moving. That was a must do for us. In fact we left saying that at some point we’d like to come back and take a whole day to see all the beaches of D-day.
Next up: Le Havre. So we have never been to Paris, and while we knew it would be a long day and not near enough time to do Paris properly, we could not let the chance go by while we were in striking distance, so we did the excursion to Paris with lunch cruise on Seine. We have beautiful pictures, had a nice lunch and left with determination to return for a proper visit. Returned to ship for our last night, and dinner in MDR and it was not disappointing as some dinners are on the last night.
Im writing this on the our return flight while it’s all fresh. By the way, all of our transportation providers were chosen based upon feedback from these boards. Here are some shout outs to the providers we used:
Blackberry cars for transport from Heathrow to London.
International Friends, through London Toolkit, for transfer from London to Southampton via Stonehenge.
Smith’s for Airport, for the transfer from Southampton to Heathrow.