The idea of taking to the seas aboard a cruise ship had never interested me. My grandparents had cruised extensively, but the fact that they were old, wealthy, and incredibly British meant from a young age, my assumption was that cruises weren’t the most exciting places to be.
My own idea of a great trip would be one that’s filled to the brim with unexpected adventure, wrong turns that lead to new experiences, encounters with locals, and breathtaking scenery.
Cruises, I thought, didn’t offer any of this – that was until my desire to say yes took me well and truly out of my comfort zone, and led to the realization that cruises are far from what I had envisioned, and are actually something I’d do again in a heartbeat.
Royal Caribbean reached out to us many moons ago after stumbling upon our journey to say yes to life. Their email was adorable, they knew so much about us, and were clearly very enthusiastic about a life of yes and so we read on!
David being David very quickly made his way to the section of the email detailing the amenities, events, and itinerary aboard their recently renovated — to the tune of $115 million — ship, The Navigator of the Seas and WOWEE talk about action-packed.
It was at that moment, while sat on our couch at home in the Cotswolds on a somewhat chilly winter evening – reading about the waterslides, escape rooms, ice rink, jet skiing, snorkeling, zip-lining, and private island destinations; that we both made the decision to say yes to trying cruise life.
Before we could embark, we first had to make our way to the buzzing metropolis of Miami, a city that we have visited many times before, most notably on the way to the Florida Keys or in transit to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando.
While I had managed to nap the flight away, David didn’t get a wink of sleep – thanks in part to the lycra-clad lady sat beside him who tried on multiple occasions to lean in for a cuddle; I think that after the first couple of attempts he was just too scared to sleep!
Feeling somewhat bleary-eyed, David was especially looking forward to making his way onto the ship, and into our cabin for a sneaky little nap before the excitement began. I, on the other hand, was feeling pretty nervous as it’s no secret that my sea legs are more akin to jelly legs; I get incredibly sea-sick, car-sick, bike-sick – you name the motion, and I’ll likely get queasy at the thought of it.
Fun Fact: I didn’t get seasick once, and after some research into the stabilization of these floating resorts, I’m impressed and still unsure as to how this works so well!
I had never explored a cruise ship before so didn’t know what to expect. I had, however, been on my fair share of larger ferries so assumed that it would just feel like a bigger version of this – but it felt more like a floating tropical resort.
I made my way through the gangway, and took my first tentative steps onto the Navigator of The Seas; this wasn’t at all what I had expected, this beautiful, spotless, and homely vessel wasn’t so scary after all, and best of all, one of the first things I saw was the Starbucks on board. For anyone reading this, that knows me well; you’ll know that a cup of Starbucks a day keeps the Nadia monster at bay!
Before heading to our cabin, we took some time to explore our new home for the week. We made our way through the bustling boutique district aka the shopping zone of the ship, home to perfumeries, blow dry bars, sports bars, and stores for picking up odds and ends like forgotten toothbrushes.
We traversed the many decks to check out the almost countless snack stations before making our way onto the outer deck for a quick peek at the pools, waterslides, surf machines, basketball courts, and climbing walls on board.
Essentially, we spent the first hour or so running around like the proverbial kid in a candy store, but instead as two adventure junkies experiencing the astonishing majesty of a cruise ship for the very first time.
After quite the exploration, we needed a quick pick me up to tide us over until dinner, so a read through the menus of the many eateries — many of which are complementary to guests — before heading to our cabin was our next priority.
There were tiki bars offering canapes to accompany the many cocktails on offer, sports bars offering traditional game day delights alongside hearty beers, snack bars with pizza and sandwiches for days, Mexican food stands with flavorful fare such as quesadillas, burritos, and tacos, burger joints with burgers and fries galore, and soft serve stations for a quick ice cream pick me up!
After walking around exploring the sights, the snacks, and getting a good dose of the Miami sea breeze, David and I were more than ready for an emergency nap before dinner, and so we made our way to finally see our home for the next week – our cabin.
Our room was incredibly spacious – I mean, there was a ridiculous amount of room, we could have thrown a small cocktail party in there quite comfortably! It had everything we could need, including a fridge, hairdryer, ample wardrobe space, couch, T.V., bed, bathroom, and cute little balcony complete with a table and chairs for those romantic evenings of watching the sun dip beneath the horizon with a cocktail in hand.
The decor was a beautiful blend of classic and modern, with the feeling of home, but the comforts of a nice hotel.
The tasty treats didn’t stop at the snack stops, and the Navigator of the Seas boasted an impressive number of restaurants on board, with complimentary restaurants including the Windjammer buffet, and the Dining Room.
Paid options included Italian, Japanese, Seafood, and Steak restaurants, or for when you’re feeling a little sleepy from all of the sun there’s also 24hr room service; although we never actually got the chance to try it.
The amount of food on offer was impressive, but at first, we weren’t impressed with the lack of nutritional information available.
Sure, for the meat eater and those without allergies, the ship was a tasty playground with international cuisine on every deck. But for those of us with allergies and dietary requirements, I was disappointed to see that most of the food signs and menus merely offered the name of the dish, with no indication as to whether a dish was vegan, vegetarian, or contained common allergens.
We quickly found our way around the initially confusing system of finding vegan food. All you have to do is either ask for the chef when we want to eat at a specific restaurant or give them 24hrs notice, and they would cook us up practically anything that our hearts desired!
P.S. shout out to Chef Joseph, the on-ship allergy and dietary requirement ninja who knows every single ingredient in all of his dishes and even the possible cross-contaminants from the factory that each ingredient is produced in. He was the man responsible for keeping us very well fed with curry, pastries, stir fry, salads, burritos, and vegan chocolate cake just a few of the tasty treats we had on our trip.
I’d actually go as far as to say that now is the perfect time to travel on a Royal Caribbean cruise as a vegan, because there aren’t enough of us yet that they make up big batches it means that not only do we get the tropical vacation, but a personal chef experience… something I’ve missed a lot since coming home, Chef Joseph where are you?!?!
Waking up aboard the Navigator of The Seas for the first time was one of the most surreal experiences I’ve had as a traveler, and here’s why. Traveling full time, via airports, vanlife, trains, trams – whatever type of transit that David and I have done over the past several years, for the most part – it does feel like a chore.
I know, that might sound like a real first world problem, and I’m fully aware of it – however, this blog is all about sharing our personal experience, so I’m going to be completely honest. The idea that I can go to sleep in an incredibly comfortable bed only to wake up in a new and exciting location feeling refreshed and ready to go – is a brand new experience and one that I adored.
We grabbed a quick iced latte from Starbucks, a couple of beach towels, and made our way down to the exit of the ship.
Before you arrive at a Royal Caribbean destination, you’ll get the chance to book one of their local excursions, and we opted for the Pearl Island Snorkeling excursion!
The boat ride from the port to Pearl Island was pretty quick, yet it provided us with enough time for the guides on board to give us a little info on Nassau, the history of the island, tell us a tale or two, and point out some of the more impressive architecture.
We docked at Pearl Island and were met with sheer paradise, a tiny island surrounded by water, with a quaint lighthouse, light sandy beaches, turquoise waters, and palm trees offering that familiar and stress-free sound of the palm leaves rustling in the breeze.
It was pretty early, probably around 10.30-11am when we arrived, the weather was warm but not too hot, the perfect temperature to make our way over to the cabanas and leave our bags behind while we went to explore.
The local ladies working on the island were fantastic, they were so friendly and chatty, and always quick with a great drink recommendation. After a Pina Colada for me and some unique drinks that I can’t remember the name of for David, it was time to hit the water and join our snorkeling tour.
Snorkeling is something that we’ve done on countless occasions, and it can be lackluster when the water is murky, or a delight when the water is clear or the wildlife plentiful – I’m happy to report that we were greeted with the mesmerizing combination of clear waters and wildlife galore.
I do have to take a moment to say – if you plan on taking part in this snorkeling tour, or any other for that matter – please be respectful of the coral and animals that you come across. Coral is incredibly delicate, and when your guide says to you that you absolutely must not touch the coral – that also means DO NOT STAND ON IT PEOPLE.
Waking up to the sun peeking through the curtains, the distant sound of tin drums, and the combined view of both beach and mountains is something that I could soon become accustomed to.
We awoke a little earlier on our day in Labadee; perhaps it was the excitement of what was to come after Nassau offered such an exquisite time, or maybe it was David waking me up to tell me about a weird dream he’d had! Either way, we were dressed, caffeinated, and ready to go in record time.
As two people who have traveled extensively, we’re pretty accustomed to switching from one climate to another, but I think that having a base in England for a few months now has weakened our resistance to heat; because wowee was it toasty.
Luckily it wasn’t the kind of heat that left you feeling sweaty and gross within minutes, and with two water bottles in tow, we happily made our way to explore what Royal Caribbeans private destination had to offer.
But hang on a mini-minute, I know what you’re thinking – “What on earth is a private destination,” well it’s essentially a peninsula which is leased by Royal Caribbean and used as the stopping point for their cruise guests.
They were telling us all about how this helps to bring income to the Haitian people while also saving the main residential areas from an influx of tourists; I wish that I’d found out more about how this works, but alas time was short.
We set up on some beach chairs in the shade, on the Barefoot beach and waking up first thing was definitely worth the serenity of the beach at that time in the morning.
But sitting on the beach wasn’t cutting it, not when the tantalizing turquoise waters were mere feet away, and David and I hopped in for a quick morning dip. Cue a gasp and tiny internal scream, the water here, though the weather may be scorching – is as cool as a cucumber at this time in the morning, much to my surprise!
Feeling cooled down by our splash around, we made our way to the beachside bar, a rustic wooden hut that boasted local specialties, and a giant drum of fresh coconuts just ready for the sipping. On such a hot day, a giant coconut, served ice cold, complete with paper straw was an absolute must!
While you would be forgiven for assuming that our day in Labadee was all about the chill time, the thrill time was actually yet to come!
Jet skiing has been one of the few activities that has genuinely terrified me, and I mean almost bursting into tears scared. But rather than let my fears win, I have — since my first encounter with the sport — gone on to try jet skiing a few times and now love it, it turns out that I only hate it if David’s driving!
Along with our buddies Becca, Stuart, and Seth – we took to the calmest waters I have ever seen, aboard our speedy watery steeds.
Now, I should preface this by saying that our tour guide had made us all shout out where we wanted to be in the line up based on how fast we wanted to go. Seth swooped in with the number one spot, David called a close second, and feeling the pressure I raised a tentative hand for third, followed by Becca in fourth, and Stuart in fifth.
You see, I’m not always the most gung ho, but in the back of my head, I always know that I am supposed to say yes to life. So even on occasions like this where I would not so secretly prefer to stick to my comfort zone spot — of dead last — I try and bite the bullet and say yes.
But fast forward a few minutes, and my bravery seemed to be ebbing away, sat aboard the powerful jet-ski the reality of how fast I probably agreed to go is, to say the least, freaking me out. Becca and I make eye contact as though to both say “What have we done?”.
The nerves seem to pass a little as we both laugh about the looks on each other’s faces, and we decide that we’re going to go for it and slow down if it’s too much.
Wouldn’t you know it, saying yes turned out to be a great decision and that jet skiing tour was one of the most fun tours I’ve ever done, I know what you’re thinking “Sure, Royal Caribbean made you say that – you big yes saying liar.”
But nope, genuinely so many moments on this trip have made their way to my all-time favorite travel memories, I’m as surprised by that as you are, after all; I was about 90% sure that cruises were for boring old people!
One of the parts about cruising that I hated the idea of was the days that you had at sea. I’m an adventure kind of lady, and while I do enjoy a good day of chilling out, that won’t keep me amused for long – so I was expecting some serious lulls in the adventure while at sea.
I can now say that even though I tried to fit in every fun activity available, I probably fit in around 50-60% and even that was action-packed and exhausting!
So without further ado, let’s run through just a few of the activities that we partook in:
There was a T.V. show when I was growing up in England called the Generation Game, it was a variety show hosted by a chap called Bruce Forsyth – a real character, but I digress. The show involved different teams who each competed to perform a specific skill, and that was very similar to one of the evening activities aboard the Navigator of The Seas!
Examples of skills that contestants had to perform on the Generation Game included balloon animal sculptures, cake decorating, and dancing.
The “adult” game show aboard asked for more down to earth skills, such as presenting the host with a brassiere, doing the splits, and last but not least – convincing several men to make their drag debuts with varying levels of success, with a dazzling display by our teams own Champagne Supernova!
Watery tunnels to swoop around in above the sea! I like to think that this was the memo given that resulted in the Navigator of The Seas having some epic onboard watery fun times aka water slides!
On one of our days at sea, we decided to hit the slides and have some adrenaline pumping fun while benefiting from a quick cool off from the Caribbean sunshine; win-win.
There were two slides to choose from; the Riptide is a single person slide that gives off a psychedelic feeling as you swirl and twirl through brightly colored tunnels on a front facing mat. The awe-inspiring part about this water slide is that as you round your final turn, the colorful tubes are replaced with a transparent section that is suspended off the side of the ship and above the sea.
Another option for some double trouble is the Blaster, a two-person slide that allows guests to swoop around aboard an inflatable raft with unexpected twists, turns, and drops for a thrilling ride with incredible views!
We hit the laser tag arena with dark-colored stealth clothing, boundless enthusiasm, and team spirit to rival any local little league team.
I was in team pink, and we were going to win. And win we did! Well, not necessarily in terms of how many points we scored – but definitely in terms of how often our team screamed at one another, accidentally shot each other, tripped over our own feet, and most emphatically when it came down to which team had the most fun!
Edit: Upon reading through this post, David requested that I edit to clarify a few points. Firstly, he was on the opposing team. Secondly, his team won, and thirdly – he was the high scoring player! There you go David, are you happy now?!
I had never tried an escape room until this trip, I’d heard great things, I’d heard some not so great things, and I couldn’t decide whether it was something that was worth trying.
The best way to find out whether you’ll enjoy something is to do it, so along we went to the escape room on the Navigator of The Seas to try our hand at this popular new pastime, and try we did. With slight trepidation after being informed that we were the smallest group ever to attempt the feat of escaping; we made our way into the room and got straight to work deciphering and solving the puzzles.
There were times that our minds were boggled, but in the end, we triumphed and escaped with minutes to spare. All in all, it was great fun, the time flew by, and now I’m sold on the idea of an escape room.
On our final night on the Navigator of The Seas, we were a little sad that the trip was coming to an end, we had such an incredible time and still hadn’t managed to do every activity on board. But rather than being sad about the end of the trip, we decided to make the most of our final night and head over to the karaoke with our gang of friends that we had made on board.
Rip-roaring fun is the only way to describe the events that unfolded, with downright jaw-dropping singing performances — seriously Royal Caribbean, y’ all should add a talent show to your schedule — to headbanging sessions on the dance floor.
Whether you’re looking for the perfect end to an evening of party and adventure, or are looking for a quiet and romantic spot to take your special someone – head to the helipad for a spot of stargazing.
The clear skies, crisp air, and perfect quiet aside from the gentle sound of the water made for the ideal way for us to end our final evening on the ship. And together with David, and our new found blogger, Instagrammer, writer, and influencer friends we sat and lay around the helipad, watching for shooting stars, reminiscing on moments from the week of fun, and wishing the trip wouldn’t come to an end.
Of course, I’m not one to believe in stereotyping or judging something before I’ve experienced it for myself. So, why did I discount the notion that cruises could be rip-roaring fun for so many years?
Plain and simple, the answer is fear. Even though David and I have traveled in almost every way possible, partaken in some obscure activities, and immersed ourselves in many cultures – there was always the safety net of being able to leave should we ever feel uncomfortable. When you’re on a ship – that’s just not possible.
We have always stood firm in our belief that saying yes to life is the only way to live, but that’s not to say that it always comes easy. So, when Royal Caribbean reached out to us and invited us to experience the newly refurbished ship, we hesitated, resisted, and then after a quick chat about what Saying Yes is – we both said yes.
Having now experienced what it is to cruise aboard a great ship like the Navigator of The Seas, I can wholeheartedly report that it’s something I would absolutely do again, and again, and again!
This was a press trip organized by Royal Caribbean. All opinions are our own.