Cruises are one of my favorite forms of vacation. There are so many reasons to love ’em. One of my favorite cruise lines is Royal Carribean, so for our most recent high seas vacation, my wife and I decided to take a three night cruise on the Navigator of the Seas.
When it comes to cruise ships, the Navigator of the Seas is not the biggest ship. The ship maxes out at about 4,000 passengers. To give you a comparison, the Royal Carribean ships Allure of the Seas, Oasis of the Seas, and Harmony of the Seas all max out at over 6,000 passengers.
We picked the Navigator of the Seas because it had just finished a complete overhaul a few months prior to our cruise. The ship was practically new by the time we experienced it. Everything was so clean and fresh. We absolutely loved the onboard experience, from beginning to end.
We arrived and checked in early. If you take a cruise, I advise you to check in early to beat the crush of people who will arrive later. Check-in is usually a pain in the butt. With Royal Carribean, the check in procedure wasn’t too bad. If you’ve never been on a cruise, it’s like going through airport security, but the screeners aren’t as well trained and much nicer.
After we got onboard, my wife and I went to eat lunch in the main buffet area.
FIRST SEA DAY
After we had lunch, the ship took off. We were on our way to the Bahamas with a stop on a Royal Carribean owned private island known as CocoCay.
When you’re on board a Royal Carribean ship that is headed to Cococay, you’ll hear this said a million times, ‘It’s a Perfect Day at CocoCay’. We still have that slogan in our heads.
After lunch, my wife went to our room and settled everything in. While she was unpacking everything and emailing and doing some work, I went to the ship casino, which wasn’t yet open. By law, the casino cannot open unit it reaches international waters, and it wouldn’t be open for a while.
So I one back to the room and grabbed a quick work out at the gym. After we did our daily workout, I dragged my wife out to the main pool deck that had slides and different water rides. The Navigator of the Seas now has brand new water rides and also a surf deck, all included as part of the cost of the boarding pass.
After we reached international waters, the cruise director announced that the casino was now open. My wife went back to the room to get some sleep and finish unpacking while I went to play the craps game that you saw in the first video.
I talk a lot of trash about the onboard cruise ship casinos, and most of that trash talk is justified, but from the ship’s perspective, they have every right to make a profit. The ships cost hundred of millions of dollars to build and have a limited life span of approximately 25 years. It’s a depreciating asset that eventually becomes unserviceable. Here’s an interesting article that summarizes how cruise ships make money: the revenue breakdown.
While I acknowledge that the ship has a right to make money, it doesn’t mean that I’m going to voluntarily hand over a pile of cash without getting something in return. As you will see from all my craps playing, as long as you can control yourself, not get out of line with your betting, and not have unrealistic dreams of hitting a giant score, your casino entertainment will be very cheap or practically free.
Remember, just play defensively at the ship casino. The bad odds means that if dig too deep of a hole, your chances of climbing out become tougher than usual. Stick to minimum bets and do not go on tilt. If you find that you’re going on tilt, walk away.
ROADGAMBLER ADVICE: Stick to the minimum bets and do not press. With the ship odds worse than normal, you do not need to expose more of your bankroll to the house edge by making larger bets. Of course, for some games and some bets, this advice is irrelevant because roulette or certain craps bets have the same house edge in most casinos.
After the wife was ready, we both spent the rest of the day lounging in the pool area.
It was awesome just laying around the pool with a beer. The wife made sure we were lathered in sunscreen. Always bring lots of sunscreen.
As nighttime approached, we spent a few hours just lounging around on our balcony and listening to the open ocean. The wife sent me to the buffet bar and I came back with a ton of fruit. I had a martini with my feet up on the rails. It’s little piece of heaven.
SECOND SEA DAY
On the second day, all the passengers were settled in and the wife and I spent the day exploring all the onboard shopping options. Hint: it’s all overpriced and quite the rip off. I have no idea who buys any of the stuff being sold in the shops.
We spent the rest of the day just drinking, eating, and lounging. Sometimes, doing nothing is doing everything.
Here’s another aspect of cruising: everyone is very boozed up. Despite the free flow of alcohol, passengers rarely become drunkenly violent. No one really gets out of line. It’s all quite festive. All the passengers are drunk and happy because everyone has forgotten their worries. I’m just going to be blunt and tell you that if are a teetotaler, then the cruise will be about 25% less fun for you. My wife doesn’t drink, and she just told me that she disagrees with this statement. I stand by it.
The second day kind of flew by because I was very drunk and having a good time. My wife says I’m a happy drunk, although I tend to get overly friendly with strangers.
This is Miss RoadGambler…
Miss RoadGambler stays mysteriously anonymous because in real life she’s a doctor at a major hospital. In the real world, lots of people still think that beauty and brains are mutually exclusive, and that their doctor must be an old gray-haired curmudgeon. She doesn’t want her coworkers and patients to know that when she’s on vacation, she likes to dress up and flaunt the results of her hours in the gym.
Somehow, I convinced the world’s most beautiful doctor to marry me. I hate to admit it, but I suspect that she’s got both the beauty and the brains in our relationship.
FOOD, FOOD, AND MORE FOOD: THE PSYCHOLOGY OF CRUISE FOOD
One of the main attractions and comforts of cruising is the limitless food. Everyone eats nonstop and at all hours. There’s something very cool about having lots of food available at all hours, not having to cook or prepare the food, and just the overall set up of everything.
Some of my friends – the ones who have never taken a cruise – tell me that they don’t understand why the food is such an attraction. They just don’t get it. So I’ll try to explain why the food on a cruise ship is such a vital aspect of cruising.
The food onboard a cruise ship is not the best you will ever eat. It’s decent, but it’s not award winning, unless the cruise ship is giving themselves the award. The food doesn’t win on quality, but it’s important to the overall cruising experience because it fits into the theme of letting adults be spoiled and just letting themselves go.
On a cruise ship, you don’t need to prepare any of your meals or snacks. You also don’t have to clean up after yourself. The entire ship staff acts as your personal butler, taking care of all your messes, dishes, utensils, napkins, and anything else that you would clean up if you were at home.
The food is also available at the drop of a dime, at all hours. Sure, there’s food at home in your fridge at all hours, and the local McDonald’s is also 24 hours, but eating a taco at 4 am on the Lido deck that’s open to the ocean – or inside with a view of the sea – is way more satisfying than eating a Taco Bell quesadilla while sitting in your car with a view of the city pavement.
On a cruise ship, there’s no check or bill for the meal after you’re done eating (unless you eat at a specialty restaurant). There’s no immediate cash transaction of any sort associated with the meal. You just eat and leave, sort of like what we did as a children when we were blissfully ignorant to the fact that our parents paid for it all.
Also, there’s no ‘getting ready’ to go out to lunch or dinner. Everyone just goes. Even formal night is not all that formal. The whole food experience is part of a nostalgic reminder of our childhood, when our parents took us out to eat. There was no ‘let me put on my make-up’. The idea of paying for the meal wasn’t in our heads. We just jumped in the car and took off to the Golden Corral.
We all get to be kids again, and the onboard food experience plays an integral part of that nostalgic fantasy.
Here is part of the buffet, which was rather large…
The best food is served during dinner. The waiters really go out of their way to treat the guests like VIP diners. I tipped the waiters extra for each meal. The post dinner gratuity is not necessary because they earn a tip that’s included with the final cruise bill, but these guys were so extraordinary that they deserved a little bit extra cash.
Pardon the pics, but what you’re looking at are RoadGambler’s attempts at taking pics while extremely intoxicated.
I think this was said by Miss RoadGambler quite a few times, ‘Babe you’re supposed to take a pic before you start eating’.
WELCOME TO COCOCAY!
On the morning of the third day, we woke up just as the ship was making port into CocoCay, which is a private island owned by Royal Carribean. It’s just a giant private beach with the typical water activities, like snorkeling and swimming.
The water is unbelievably clear.
The wife and I spend the entire day going around CocoCay and just relaxing. If you haven’t noticed, much of the time is just spent relaxing and doing nothing other than chilling out.
I had taken some other pictures that were supposed to be part of this trip report, but in my drunken state, I dropped my phone, which had all my pics, into those clear waters. My ‘waterproof’ phone did not survive because water go into the cracks.
The wife and I agreed that CocoCay is awesome.
ONTO THE BAHAMAS AND THE DOWNSIDES OF A BUYING AN INDEPENDENT EXCURSION
After CocoCay, the ship next headed for the Bahamas.
I gambled on the excursion and lost badly.
So a little background…
It’s generally accept wisdom that the cruise ships charge a premium for their excursions. There are similar excursions that are sold by independent guides and operators that are not associated by the cruise line. There are upsides and downsides to buying excursions from either the cruise line or the independent operators.
After I posted the First Sea Day video, there were two comments that perfectly summarize the upsides and downsides.
Reader Darrel said this in the comment section:
You could have had more money to gamble with if you purchased your excursions when you got off the ship vs on the ship…you know better….lol
The cruise marks up the prices 30-50% to keep their cut….
You can book directly with the excursion company directly on the shore…
Monte had this response, which is exactly what my wife would agree with:
For the sake of journalistic investigation, I convinced my wife to not buy the cruise backed packages and go with an independent operator. ‘We’ also agreed that we would take the cheapest option once we reached port. The wife objected because on our very first cruise together, we were burned by an independent operator. Ever since that incident, we had always gone through the ship for our excursions.
I told her, ‘babe, what are the odds we get burned twice in a row? Lots of people use the independent operators. Let’s give one of them one more chance’.
The brave doctor agreed, for science.
The next day, we arrived in the Bahamas and upon leaving port, we headed out to all the tour guides. We asked around and found one guy who was offering his tours for $20 less than the cruise ship price and $10 less than the other guides. The guy sounded legit enough because prior to letting into his van, he told us to take a picture of him and his license plate. He said we should do that with any form of public transportation that we take in the Bahamas.
Here’s the pic I took of him…
Our tour guide tells us that he’ll take us on a tour of the island and do all sorts of fun stuff. I pay the man and we jump in his can with about five other people.
The first stop was at a rum cake factory. That’s cool, but nothing to write home about. The entire group sampled rum cake, which is a Carribean dessert.
For the next 30 minutes, he drove around various parts of the island and points out various historically significant landmarks. While he’s driving us around, he tells all of us in the group that he’s going to drop us off a very fun resort and that we should explore it. Sounds fun.
He drove us to what looked suspiciously like a high end luxury resort, similar to what you would find in Las Vegas. After he dropped us off, he told us that he would meet us in two hours at a predetermined location on the resort grounds. The pick up point was at the other end of the resort, on the opposite side of where he dropped us off (remember this for later).
He said there were lots of fish and other beautiful things to see at the resort. We didn’t realize it was Atlantis until he gave us the map and pin pinpointed where he would meet us in two hours.
I turned to another member of our group and ask, ‘isn’t this strange that he drops us off at a resort when we practically just got off a floating resort?
After entertain ourselves for two ours, doing the same stuff and eating the same type of food you would find in a Vegas mega resort, we head to the waiting area for him to pick us up. The entire group is there, but our guide is not there at the designated pick up spot. We’re sure that we have the right spot.
Thirty minutes goes by, and the group is now steaming angry. I call the guy to bitch him out and tell him to hurry. He answers the phone and asks, ‘which group are you with?’
I get it.
His racket is that he picks up one group, drops them off at Atlantis, and then while that group is entertaining themselves, he picks up another group, and repeats the same with them. That’s why he insisted on picking us up at the opposite end of the resort from where he dropped us off.
He ends up being an hour minute late before picking us up. My wife is steaming mad at me for this experiment.
But wait…there’s more…
He shows up with his daughter who is coughing and very sick. My wife, who was sitting in the front earlier, moved to the back of the van and also pulled me to the back, where the two of us scrunch in with the two other people in the back row.
My wife tells the guy that she’s an American doctor and that his daughter has Chikungunya. I’m bitching the guy out and ask him to his face how many people he just dropped off at the front of Atlantis and if he’s going to be late picking them up, too.
He ignores my comment and says he’ll make it up to us and take us around the island and extend the tour by an extra hour. My wife says hell no, that girl can infect us.
I demand that he take us back to port, and he agrees to do so.
As he’s driving us back, and as we get near the port, I tell the guy to his face, that I’m going to post the picture I took of him online and out him as a con artist who abuses the trust that tourists place in him.
I then demand that he refund us the tour money, along with additional compensation for wasting part of our valuable day. I was expecting some sort of resistance, but he quickly and gladly gave us the money. He was probably just wanted me out of his hair because as my wife got out of the van, I told her to go fetch a cop if she saw one.
After we got back on the boat, my wife was livid. This was the second time we had been burned by taking an independent excursion. From this point forward, my wife made me promise that we would always stick with the excursions that were sold by the ship. The savings is not enough to justify the time that can be lost by taking an excursion that isn’t vetted by the ship.
Monte is spot on with his assessment.
My wife says, ‘never again’.
But come on, what are the odds we get burned three times in a row? Wife says we aren’t ever going to find out.
In the end, the Bahamas excursion was a small bump in the vacation. We didn’t let it ruin our day and spent the remaining time walking up and down the shop and restaurant lined port area. My wife, who almost never drinks, decided to have a beer with me, after that little adventure.
BACK ONBOARD AND HEADING BACK TO MIAMI
After we got back onboard, we spent the evening just lounging on our balcony and eating fruit. I was very drunk while eating fruit. I don’t know where Royal Carribean sources their fruit, but it’s so uniformly and perfectly sweet that I suspect they treat it with some sort of sweetener.
After the wife fell asleep, I went back to the casino to play craps for one last time. I was up a small amount from the first two sessions, so I figured I would play a final session. That’ll be the conclusion of cruise week craps.
On the last night of the cruise, things got rather interesting in the casino. I’ll have the report on that next week.
See ya then.
Posted in: Travel