Posted by San Luis Obispo Mom on Saturday, July 9, 2022 Under: Cruise Review
We went on a family cruise vacation on Navigator of the Seas Ship through Royal Caribbean. It was a 4 night cruise with 2 stops: Catalina Island and Ensenada, Mexico. The port was at Los Angeles so we drove a few hours from San Luis Obispo to Los Angeles and then got on the ship from there. Even though there were some mishaps in the beginning, I ended up having a splendid time on this cruise!
Click here to Jump to the section about our Catalina Island Stop during our cruise.
Click here to Jump to the section about our when we were at the Ensenada port during our cruise.
Click here to read my blog entry about my Carnival Cruise that also stopped at Ensenada. I've been on both the Royal Caribbean and Carnival Cruise lines to get to Ensenada, Mexico.
Even though I've provided jump links above, I highly suggest reading my review from beginning to end because I'm sharing some mishaps that could be helpful and help you be more prepared for them.
(Here's a short video of my morning walk on Navigator of the Seas during my trip before everyone woke up.)
I've also included many pictures of my vacation experience on the Navigator of the Seas down below!
Cruise Mishaps on Day 1The big mishap happened right from the beginning when we discovered that we didn't get the room that we had selected before we went on the ship. We had printed out the tags according to what Royal Caribbean had for us with our room number already pre-printed and attached them to our 4 bags. After the bags were taken away by the staff, Covid-19 vaccine records were checked along with our passports and going through 3 different lines in order leave the port and head to the ship, we discovered that the sail pass on our Royal Caribbean app for my account changed to a different room number on a different floor! My family of four was supposed to be in 1 room with 2 adults and 2 kids. Well, after discovering that our room number changed on my Royal Caribbean app, I asked my husband to check what his says on his app on his phone. His room number was different by one digit from mine! They had split us into 2 different rooms, non-connecting. In a normal situation, having two rooms seems like a great upgrade but it's not in this case because each room was only big enough to fit two people and neither of them were ocean view rooms, and we had anticipated to be in one when we booked our cruise! We had to go to Guest Services right away. After getting in line on the ship in the Guest Services line on Deck #5, they said that they had to put us into different rooms because there was an issue with the room we had booked for! It may be a Covid-19 situation, or maybe the previous guests who stayed there got sick but they weren't allowed to give us details, it seems. We mentioned about our tags having a different room number printed on our bags with the original assigned room number so they called a staff member to alert them that we were no longer in that room and are assigned to two different room numbers to ensure our bags get to the right place. It was kind of a bummer dealing with this right at the beginning of our vacation but they promised we would get back into 1 room, together as a family, with an ocean view. We had no choice but to wait several hours before they can figure out which family didn't show up so that we could get into an ocean view room. While we were waiting for the good news, we tried to make the best of the upcoming hours. Our second mishap also happened a few hours later on the first day (Day 1) as well.
The second mishap is kind of related to the first mishap regarding our unforeseen room change situation. Since we still had a few hours before our dinner time at the main dining room at 5:30PM, we went to the Open House at Adventure Ocean (kid's club) on Deck #12. The Adventure Ocean is complimentary and included for all guests with kids with them. The range for Ocean Adventure is 3 - 11 years old. You drop them off and they get to enjoy kids' activities with other kids on the ship. The kids liked the tour so we registered them and since we didn't know what our future room number will be, we used the current room numbers assigned to us. As if it's not even more confusing, Royal Caribbean had assigned each kid to a different room number as our family had to be split. It was confusing to explain why our sons were split into two different room numbers, which was not what was supposed to happen for this family trip. We warned them that our room numbers would change in a few hours and they reassured us that there would not be a problem later. Well, there was a problem later and I'll get into that through the sequence of our events.
We had to change our clothes for dinner for our main dining room time so after talking to the staff member at Adventure Ocean, we changed in one of our temporary rooms and headed to the arcade to burn another hour before heading to the dining room to our assigned table #223 on Deck #3 on Navigator of the Seas.
When we were at the arcade, we tried to use our sea pass to add credits to the card to play some games and guess what, it was not working! A staff member suggested that we use the arcade's phone to call Guest Services to see what the issue was. The Guest Services representative on the phone said it may be related to the room change they did for us. They had found an ocean room for us and that we can go to the new room to find our new sea passes. Well, it was getting close to dinner time for our 5:30PM seating so we decided we'd go find our new room after dinner.
Dinner was delicious with great service at the main dining room as usual. Every day, the menu has daily offerings. Here's a couple of pictures of the items that I enjoyed at the main dining room for dinner.
This was our 4th cruise adventure (1 Disney Cruise, 3 Royal Caribbean Cruises) and I'm glad the high standard is still the same at the main dining room, even during Covid times. After dinner, the kids were ready to get checked in at 7PM at Adventure Ocean. We checked the kids in with our sea pass with no issue but we did tell the staff that since Royal Caribbean has just changed our room number, our room number will be different than what they have on file. They reiterated that it would not be an issue. We decided that since Adventure Ocean would be watching our kids for a couple of hours, we'd go ahead and get our new sea passes from our new room immediately to get that out of the way. Well, we got to the new room and the sea passes that were there had different names on them by the door! They were not our names! What probably happened was this was a no-show but the Guest Services team did not swap out the old keys with new keys with our names by the door. So...we had to get back on the elevator back down to Deck #5, get in the Guest Services line again and get this straightened out.
When we got to the front of the line and were called to come up to the front to the counter, we had to explain our situation all over again because this representative had not helped us out previously before. My husband was getting really frustrated so I took the initiative to talk this time. Maybe I came off like a pushover because the Guest Service Representative did not apologize but said that yes, those were somebody else's keys and they would make new ones for us right now as a matter-of-factly as possible. Great, finally our family can share one room number with our names on them. I think given our situation, my husband and I have been very polite and tried to control our temper to the best of our ability. Having sea passes with the correct room number tied and displayed with our proper names is imperative because they always scan our sea passes as we leave and return from the ports for identification and even ordering alcoholic beverages on the ship!
After getting our keys from the Guest Services Representative, we went to our first rooms to get our 4 suitcases and my husband and I took it upon ourselves to move them without having to wait for help. Four floors up from the elevator and trekking around other passengers who were heading out for their dinner and night activities, we made it to the room that we would be enjoying for the rest of our cruise! By then, my husband was beat and disappointed in all of this fiasco. I just kept pondering what was going to happen next and comically laughed out loud as I summarized our Day 1 and simmered it all in. I suggested that we go get a drink at the bar since the kids are still at Adventure Ocean. We were after all, on a vacation. We hopped to a couple of bars to check out all of the ambiances and I think that helped him get back into "relax" mode.
We checked out the Cosmopolitan Club first on the top deck (pictured above). This was my most favorite spot to have a drink with my husband. Then, we went to The Bamboo Room at Deck #5 to try out some tropical drinks.
After a little exploring as a couple, it was time to pick up the kids so we went to get them at Adventure Ocean with my sea pass and an issue came up. My new card with the new room number that has my name of them could not be scanned properly by the kid's club staff! I could not check them out with the sea pass card. Thankfully, the lady remembered my face with my kids when I dropped them off earlier but she said I needed to get the keys fixed. Oh my gooooooooo! So, for the third time and final time on Day 1 of our cruise, I went to Guest Services to get my keys fixed. I told Guest Services of our new issue with scanning our cards at Adventure Ocean to check out our kids and all they had to do was just scanned our cards again to ensure they are fixed. I couldn't wait to get back to my room to sleep. My legs were so tired from walking around and pulling luggage by the end of night. Day 1 on our cruise was a mix of excitement, stress and a work out!
Day 2 - 5 on Navigator of the SeasAfter getting through the crazy first day of our vacation on the cruise, the rest of the days were much better! The next morning, I woke up early in excitement and waited for the fitness center to open at 6AM. My husband and kids were still sleeping and since I had some time before it opened, I got a cup a coffee at Cafe Promenade (open 24 hours and food and drinks are complimentary) and walked to Deck #12 to walk around in peace. See my video reel to see my quiet morning stroll around Navigator of the Seas.
Press the play button above in the Pinterest video that I've embedded from my trip. I really enjoyed this quiet stroll and couldn't wait to enjoy more activities that the ship had to offer. Once the fitness center opened, I took a towel from a stack that the ship had available for work outs and did a 2+ mile jog on one of their treadmills with the ocean view. I tripped at one point but didn't fall (could have been because of the rockiness of the ship on the water or I was just a klutz) and was glad the gal next to me asked me with a smile, "Are you okay?".
I replied, "I'm good" and smiled back. Good vibes!
Almost every day, except for the 5th day (departure day), we swam in the pool!
They have lifeguard jackets for the kids to use for free. You just return it when you're done using them. They always have life guards on duty during the opening hours at the pool so I always felt like my kids were safe. You can also check out complimentary towels for use by the pool with your sea pass. You just have to remember to return them so that you don't get charged for missing towels. We didn't pack any towels with us on our vacation, knowing this. This was one less thing to worry about.
We went to the Windjammer Buffet every day for breakfast and lunch but ate at the main dining room every night in our best (long pants and collared shirts for the boys and dress for me) at 5:30PM. I liked this routine and the kids grew used to it. I had a pep talk with them before we got on the ship that evenings are for dressing up and where we have better table manners. (On a Carnival Cruise that my family and I went to, we did a last minute booking so did My Time Dining. Read about our experience with Carnival Cruise's My Time Dining on this blog link.)They showed no resistance when I said it's time for our main dining time. Also conveniently around dinner time is when the Royal Caribbean photographers take pictures of us so I was able to have many great professional photos of the kids in their dapper al fits by the end of the cruise. At the time of this cruise, my kids were 8 and 6 years old. I always treasure the fun portraits we've taken on every cruise. They are so fun to keep and look at. Taking pictures are always free. It's purchasing the photos to keep that cost money. You can review them and pick and choose which photos to purchase.
Every night after returning to our room from dinner from Day 2 - Day 4, there was a towel animal waiting for us. We really loved this surprise that's expected at every cruise we've been on.
The kids especially loved the eyeball stickers on them.
Port Stop #1: Catalina IslandIt had been on my list to visit Catalina Island for over a decade. I've heard of this beautiful island through other people and that there were some people who regularly took boat trips from LA to Catalina Island. So when I found out that my husband was booking a cruise for us and the first stop is Catalina Island, I was so excited! We had to get on another boat from our ship to get to the Catalina Island port so allot time for that. The first things that I saw as we're nearing the dock were the sailboats, just like the pictures I've seen on the internet. The water at Catalina Island is so clear, you could see orange fishes swimming just by walking on the dock. It was amazing! Here are a couple of pictures that I took on Catalina Island.
The kids enjoyed the playground that was right by the dock at Catalina Island. It was nice to be on leveled land after a couple of days out at sea.
Even though Avila Beach in San Luis Obispo (SLO) County is not an island (I'm from SLO County, California by the way), Catalina Island really reminds me of Avila Beach! Isn't that crazy? The sailboats in the water, small shops, upscale feel and beach vibes were very similar! See my video reel of Avila Beach. I guess I really didn't need to travel far. However, I'm glad I went on this adventure and finally discovered what Catalina Island is like. We roamed for a few hours and then decided that we were hungry. After viewing the menu at a restaurant on Catalina Island, we felt like the buffet at the Windjammer on the ship had all of that and more so we decided to hop on the boat back to our ship and grabbed lunch. The kids both just wanted their protein shakes and enjoyed some relaxing time watching TV in our room as their little legs were tired from all the walking so my husband and I took turns going to the buffet and taking food back to our room to enjoy it. Our ocean view room also had balcony so I got to enjoy my plates from the buffet on our private balcony. I really, really enjoyed it very much.
Typically, an ocean view room with a balcony costed extra but because they ran out of regular ocean view rooms, they put us in what's available and in this case, it was an ocean view room with a private balcony. This was the one bright side to Day 1's fiasco.
Port Stop #2: Ensenada, MexicoOur last port stop was Ensenada, Mexico. The best part about having a room with an ocean view and a balcony in our exact room location is I could immediately see it when we have arrived at our destination. This was my view from my room when we arrived in Ensenada!
My husband booked an excursion called "Rosarito Beach Club Day Pass" where we went to Rosarito Beach by a bus tour and enjoyed a day out at a beach club called Sunio. It was a 45 minute drive and along the way, I captured a couple of photos from the view of my window on the bus. Surprisingly, this part of Baja California reminds me a lot of Ragged Point in San Luis Obispo County! It just makes me so much more appreciative of SLO (San Luis Obispo) County. See my picture of Ragged Point on my instagram to compare it to this view of Baja California in Mexico.
I also spotted the Devil's Castle (pictured below), known as Castillo Del Diablo to the locals, from my window on the bus. It's a famous landmark out here in Baja California. I'm going to do another comparison here but the name of this castle reminds me of an important landmark in San Luis Obispo County called Diablo Canyon. Diablo Canyon is located in Avila Beach and is where the very last active nuclear power plant in California is located. I know it's somewhat of a stretch but this is another awesome thing that reminded me of where I live, San Luis Obispo County. Avila Beach is part of San Luis Obispo County. See my instagram video reel of my hang out at Port San Luis Pier in Avila Beach.
When we finally got to the beach club in Rosarito Beach, we ordered margaritas and tacos a la carte. There were two different Rosarito Beach Club excursions and we picked the one where margaritas and tacos were not included because my sons are not old enough to drink and they are not a fan of spicy tacos yet. A la carte worked well for me and the beef and chicken tacos were the best tacos I've ever had! It was cloudy when we got there around 11AM but I still had a great time. I ate a total of 4 tacos by the time our beach day was over. I came back with a food baby.
As we finished our day in Mexico, I felt grateful to be an American and Central Coast Californian and have easy access to similar sceneries as Catalina Island and Baja California here in my home county in San Luis Obispo County. I enjoyed our Royal Caribbean cruise on the Navigator of the Seas and being able to discover new places, of course! I very much wish that I had more days on the cruise at sea as I didn't have enough time and energy to attend a show onboard. We did get to participate in a trivia game at the Schooner Bar where I tried a Tom Collins (this one had lychee syrup in it).
Next time, we're going to find a cruise that's longer than 4 days. I felt like it was too short and there were so many complimentary shows and entertainment that's part of the entertainment itinerary on the ship that I didn't get to see! I can't wait until my husband plans our next one. He's actually the one who took me to my very first cruise ship 11 years ago and I'm glad we've gotten to hop on a different ship, every 2 or 3 years.
I've raved about the similarities between the beautiful places that we went to during our cruise and the county that I live in, San Luis Obispo (SLO). If you've never been to the Central Coast of California where SLO is, you can see pictures of the beaches that I took all around San Luis Obispo (SLO) County on my blog or you can view my instagram via @sanluisobispomom.
I've also been on a Carnival Cruise that also stopped in Ensenada but left out of Long Beach Cruise Terminal (still LA area). Read my blog entry about my Carnival Cruise experience to compare it with the Royal Caribbean Cruise.
- If you're traveling by plane, don't pack anything with aerosol like sunscreen spray or hairspray. Find sunscreen lotion that you apply yourself that are non-spray! Aerosol is not allowed on planes for travel. If you're just driving to your port to hop on the cruise ship, then aerosol spray is fine to pack as aerosol is okay to bring with you on the ship. I always prefer using the lotion that you apply on yourself anyway.
- Find a waterproof pouch before you get on the cruise so that you're ready to take pictures with the waterproof pouch if you'll be near a lot of water activities. You don't want to accidentally break your phone!
- Bring nice clothing for the evenings on the ship if you'd like to really dress up to take nice pictures on the cruise. They have many professional photographers ready to take pictures of you as a souvenir. Taking pictures and viewing them is free on the boat. It's buying them for keep that costs money. Many regular cruisers will dress up more than the newbies for main dining rooms and pictures. There is always at least 1 formal night on the cruise. We dressed up every night for dinner (khakis, button up shirt, nice shoes, dresses) at the main dining room for dinner and dressed extra nice for the 1 formal night on our 4 day cruise. The main dining room won't turn you away if you're not dressed under their suggested dress attire (you can find this attire guide on the Royal Caribbean website) but depending on your personality and comfort level, you may feel a bit underdressed among guests that may be dressed in nicer attire.
- Get your vaccination records and Covid-19 Test ready to go to show the cruise line staff when you check in, if this is still a requirement for your cruise. It was a requirement for us when we traveled. Royal Caribbean used a special kind of Covid-19 Test where they monitor you live as you take the test. We had to do this to show that we tested negative. You only have a 2 day window from your cruise to take this test at home before your cruise but you have to have the kit ready so order the Covid Test kit that they specifically noted in their cruise preparation information ahead of time to ensure that they arrive in time. It was pretty pricey for us but thankfully, we were able to use our health savings card to pay for their specific Covid-19 test kits. If you have all of these positive test proofs readily available to check in the cruise ship, you'll be able to speed through the long lines quicker. There was a family who blatantly looked like they were racing us to get right in front of us in line but because they didn't get all of their paperwork handled correctly with the positive tests to prove they were clear, we were processed a lot quicker and beat them to the ship. I gave them a side eye because they were apparently staring at us after our check-in process was so quick. Watch this rockstar family with our shades on do this right, as we board the ship! :)
- Reading Suggestions:
- Royal Caribbean Cruise Port in Los Angeles is only 31 miles from Universal Studios Hollywood. Read about our trip to Universal Studios Hollywood to check out Super Nintendo World during our Spring Break.
- I also went on a cruise to Ensenada through Carnival Cruises (Royal Caribbean's competition cruise line) as well. Read my review about my Carnival Cruise experience to compare it with the Royal Caribbean Cruise!
- Read my pros and cons comparisons for both Royal Caribbean and Carnival Cruises. There are some things that I like better at one cruise over the other on certain things like kid's club, dining room services and more.
In : Cruise Review
Tags: royal caribbean family cruise review navigator of the seas catalina island ensenada ports on cruises from los angeles la