I thought that being confined to a boat would probably drive us all mad, so little space and nothing really to do other than sunbathe. Well I was wrong, hands down wrong!
We spent the day before our trip on the Navigator or the Seas in Southampton, we visited the city itself searching for the Zany Zebras currently residing in the town, we had dinner and we headed down to the quay to see if we could see the boat. It wasn't there yet, as it wasn't due to arrive until early Sunday morning.
So, when we pulled out of the hotel car park and saw this huge ship, I gasped and asked my husband if that was it? It was just huge and I honestly couldn't control my excitement, enthusiastically asking the children 'can you see that'? It really was something to behold and having never seen a cruise ship before I was amazed at how big it was.
We pulled up and headed to the departure lounge where we were given our passes for the day, each colour coded depending on your tour guide. When we eventually boarded, we walked along the passageways, up an escalator and onto deck 4, what we were greated with was lights, glitz and glamour and I couldn't believe we were there. I think at this point I was sold, imagining this being our holiday.
We started with a tour of some of the activities on board, with everything from a theatre, cinema, ice rink and casino I don't think we'd run out of things to do. Then with restaurants like something out of the Titanic I just couldn't stop the oohs and aahs! There are two main restaurants on the ship where the food is included in the price, then there are other restaurants around the ship which charge extra, these are something a bit different and offer the opportunity to have something a little bit special.
We then went on to look at some of the other rooms which although they had a balcony, only had a bed and sofa bed, so unless we knew we were going to be spending every waking minute out of the room I think we would struggle for a week with two adults and two children in one of them.
The outside room would still be preferable to the inside rooms though, if you are at all claustrophobic or have sea sickness then these are not the rooms for you, with a large mirror instead of a window, there is a definite box feel, these really are only for people looking for somewhere to sleep in my opinion. I am sure that for many people these rooms are just fine, given the many other areas of the ship you can spend time and that they are the least expensive way to stay onboard.
Next on the tour was one of the Owners Suites, which had a swivel television, lounge area, balcony and jacuzzi bath as well as shower, it was very opulent and an amazing room, we would have to save up for a long time to afford this level of luxury. It was divine though and I can only imagine how it would be to spend a fortnight in this room.
We went on to see some of the other options of rooms, including one with a separate bunked area for the children, even these were nothing compared to the suite we first saw, with separate bedrooms and a balcony it would be the most amazing way to spend two weeks.
After we had viewed the rooms we headed to the sun deck, the perfect place to chill and relax and with a pool and bar, I couldn't wait to have a quick dunk later. We stopped off to have a look at the wave rider, it looked like a lot of fun, but maybe better suited to the sunny Med or Caribbean, than a british "summers" day, there was a mini golf, basketball court and climbing wall here as well, offering something for even the most adventurous of cruisers.
We then had an hour of free time to either explore or visit the pool so we headed to the pool area, there are two of these in fact, one for adults only and then the family area. With two pools and four jacuzzi's this was a great area to relax, enjoy some sunshine and an occasional dip as well as great cocktails and drinks in the bar pool.
This area in the evening even gets turned into an outdoor cinema, this ship really did have everything and I just could feel myself getting more and more excited about the prospect of maybe one day going on a cruise.
After a dip in the pool, which was just a dip as it was so cold and a good half an hour in the jacuzzi we headed to meet our guide David, who took us for some lunch. I have to say at this point how great David was, so knowledgable about the ship and open to answering any of my more mundane and boring questions.
We headed to Johnny Rockets, an American burger chain which to be honest on a ship I wasn't expecting much. However it had a real 1950s American vibe, with booths, cola floats and cheery music it was a welcome break to sit down and by this point we were all really hungry,
The fries and onion rings were on a constant flow, and something to munch on whilst we chose our burgers, I had the #12 which was Cheddar cheese, iceberg lettuce, white onion, pickles, mayonnaise & our signature “red red sauce®” (chili ketchup with a kick), it was really good and the cherry coke was the perfect accompaniment. My husband and son both had a Smoke House and my son ate every single bit. My daughter had the hot dog and since she couldn't manage it all I had to help finish it off, it was rather tasty!
This is one of the restaurants where you have to pay a little extra for, I don't think it was a lot though possible an extra $7 or $10 a head which covers all your food, for a special lunch I'd pay this though and my it was good!
Feeling too full to even have puddings, we headed to see the childrens activity centre, here you can leave your children whilst you have some time for yourself. Now I have always been up until recently one of those parents who would never even consider leaving their children in holiday clubs, and a holiday is about all of us, together. However on seeing some of the other activity based holidays it occurred to me that myself and my husband only have so much to give our children in terms of energy and after a weekend of camping, they made friends and ran off to play without a second thought for us. Problem was, we were always worried about them and where they were, could we trust them etc.
As much as I love spending time with them, wouldn't it be nice for me and hubby to have a meal together without worrying about whether I bought crayons and a colouring book with me, wouldn't it be nice to have a swim and relax without worrying about whether they were safely away from the waters edge, to be able to read a few pages of a book and generally manage to unwind on a holiday.
Well, after seeing the activities on offer on the ship it made me think that maybe for a few hours a day we could leave them, they'd make friends and probably never want to come back to us anyway! It really was an eye opener to see what opportunities there are.
As well as all of this there are boutique shops and bars and with so much to explore during the shore days, with shore excursions or you can just make your own way round the port to explore, or you can just stay on the ship, great for a bit of peace and quiet.
So how do I feel now?
Well I would most definitely go on a cruise ship holiday, the thought of not having to drive anywhere, everything being in one place and hopping from one country to the next excites me and I am most definitely a convert. Certainly for the European visit you can drive down to Southampton, board the ship and thats it, no flights, no luggage to worry about finding at the other end. Everything there in one place, with plenty to do for all of the family and more food than you can shake a stick at, this really feels like a holiday to save for.
With all my worries of sea sickness, what happens if the norovirus strikes and if there enough lifeboats put to rest by David, I most definitely can see us on a cruise.
Thank you to Royal Caribbean for inviting us on the ship, it was truly a wonderful experience and we hope one day to see you onboard again.
NB: We were invited by Royal Caribbean for a day out on the Navigator of the Seas, lunch and travel were provided, all other expenses we paid for ourselves.