Navigator of the Seas with kids: Everything you need to know

Last week my youngest son and I returned home from a fabulous seven night cruise onboard our first Royal Caribbean International ship.  I’ve shared our rave review of the entertainment which featured as part of the largest retro festival at sea here – Back to the 80’s Cruise Highlights.  In this article I hope to share what it’s like to cruise on the Navigator of the Seas with kids.  I’ll be covering dining options, the activities and facilities onboard for kids including the kids clubs, the service we experienced from the crew and of course a review of our cabin.

First impressions Navigator of the Seas with kids

We arrived with Claire from Tin Box Traveller and her two young daughters who had also been invited to review the 80’s cruise.  You can imagine our excitement as our taxi slowed to a stop at the Southampton cruise ship terminal alongside the 15 deck high, 1,020 feet long ship.  Although the Navigator of the Seas is relatively small compared to newer ships* she still has the capacity to hold 3,990 passengers and 1,213 crew and she looks absolutely huge as you approach her… especially if you are 3 years old!

(*To put this into perspective, the newest RCI ship, the Symphony of the Seas, holds 6,680 passengers, 2,200 crew and has 18 decks!)   

Claire and I had envisaged lengthy queues through security with three irritable children but within 15 minutes of this photo being taken we were onboard and eating lunch in the buffet dining restaurant which was a very welcome surprise.

Normally when I board a ship it takes me a few days to get accustomed to the lay out and finding my way around but I found the Navigator of the Seas quite easy.  Don’t get me wrong I still got lost fairly regularly but the digital touchscreen maps near every lift made it much easier to navigate your way around the ship.

**My tip for the best cabin location when sailing on Navigator of the Seas with kids – The ship is well designed with most passenger facilities confined within deck four and five midship, pool deck midship on deck 11, kids clubs and facilities all together on deck 12 aft with the sports deck directly above.  We were in a cabin on deck 8 right at the front of the ship so had to walk the length of the ship to get to the Windjammer buffet restaurant, kids clubs, sports deck and arcades.  If I was to cruise on the Navigator of the Seas with kids again I would request a cabin at the back of the ship to make it a little easier for my son.

Navigator of the seas

Dining options Navigator of the Seas with kids

I thought the quality and choice of food onboard was exceptionally good.   Claire and I particularly enjoyed the formal dining experience in the main restaurant whereas the kids loved selecting food for themselves from the extensive buffet in the Windjammer cafe. Navigator of the seas Sapphire dining room

The kids never seemed to tire of piling their plates high with interesting concoctions of fresh fruit, pasta, pastries and puddings before pestering to go over and help themselves to a Mr Whippy type ice cream!  They loved that all their favourite foods were readily available onboard – burgers, sausages, pizzas etc, Claire and I loved that we were able to load their plates with salad and fruit too to help ease the mummy guilt.

We stuck to the complimentary dining options whilst onboard – Windjammer Cafe where you grab a table and then help yourself to buffet food and complimentary drinks. (There were always complimentary hot drinks available, fruit juice at breakfast time and lemonade, blackcurrant squash for lunch and dinner times which was a pleasant surprise as I thought we would have to pay for soft drinks).  Sapphire, the main dining room is spilt across three levels and offers buffet and waiter service for breakfast and lunch and a more formal waiter service in the evenings.  And Cafe Promenade, which we used on several occasions as it was just so handy.  It only served a very limited selection – pizza, sandwiches, cakes and drinks but as it’s available around the clock we found it very convenient for late night treats, snacks before going off the ship to explore ports and grabbing glasses of milk for the kids before bedtime.

We didn’t feel the need to splash out on any of the five speciality restaurants that you pay extra for, although the Japanese and Mexican restaurant menus looked incredible and would be perfect for a special evening celebrating onboard.

My tips for dining onboard the Navigator of the Seas with kids

Firstly, to avoid the crowds, do the opposite of what the majority of other passengers do… Dine in the formal restaurant (Sapphire) for breakfast and lunch and the buffet restaurant (Windjammer) at dinner times when we always found it very quiet.  This way you don’t need to worry about reserving tables and you’ll be dining in a more relaxed environment.

Secondly, don’t miss out on ordering complimentary room service for breakfast.  It was my favourite dining experience whilst onboard and the feature of our cruise my son has told everyone about since we came home. I mean who can blame him… he was dunking chocolate donuts into chocolate milk whilst looking out for whales and dolphins whilst sailing to Lisbon… every kids dream surely?!

Activities and facilities Navigator of the Seas with kids

The Navigator of the Seas took her maiden voyage in 2002, she was then renovated in 2007 and again in 2014.  At 16 years of age she doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of her sister ships (excuse the pun!) so don’t expect to see huge water slides, splash parks or bionic bars.  She does however have a Flowrider surf simulator, an ice skating rink (unfortunately not open as a rink whilst we were onboard as the studio was used for some of the 80’s acts), a rock climbing wall, a nine-hole miniature golf course, an outdoor cinema screen and a decent sized arcade.  Certainly enough facilities to entertain kids of most ages onboard for a 7 day cruise.

We spent alot of time on the pool deck during sea days, the kids loved the hot tubs (and the self-serve ice cream machine located next to the pool!)  Fortunately we didn’t have to feel too guilty about them disturbing fellow passengers as there is also an adults only pool and hot tub for those who wish to stay clear of youngsters.

Navigator of the seas pool deck

We didn’t get to use the Flowrider as the ship was rolling too much on our last two sea days but Claire and I tried the rock climbing wall which was great fun (ooh my legs and arms were aching the next day!) and the kids all loved the games arcades and mini golf course.

Royal Caribbean kids clubs Navigator of the Seas

Travelling outnumbered, three kids between Claire and I, we were keen to check out the kids clubs from day one!  We were really impressed with the opening hours of the kids clubs: 9am – 12pm, 2pm – 5pm and 7pm – 2am on sea days and 9am – 5pm, 7pm – 2am on port days. We were also impressed that the kids we spilt up into age specific age groups, Royal Tots and Babies, Aquanauts 3-5, Explorers 6 – 8, Voyagers 9-11 and Teens 12-17.

For ‘Royal Babies and Tots ‘ in the nursery there was no charge for the 45 minute parent-baby playgroup sessions  and a child care service cost of $6 per hour until 6 pm and $8 per hour after 6 p.

As our three kids were all 3 and upwards the kids clubs were complimentary until 10pm when you then paid $7 per hour for the service.  We thought this was exceptionally fair.  Of course we only used the kids clubs for a few odd hours during the sea days and after dinner to watch a show at night but they loved it and Claire and I enjoyed having a drink and watching the evening shows in peace.

I was mainly impressed with the kids club facilities and service.  All three kids enjoyed the range of activities they experienced from a ‘camping expedition’ where they made back packs and pretended to toast marshmallows to a treasure hunts and a dance party.

Kids wearing their camping expedition rucksacks!

One of the features I wasn’t too impressed with was the rather over the top policies.  Nothing serious but as a parent of a three-year old who is normally in bed for 7pm I struggled with the concept of them not offering the choice of watching movies at night with a blanket and teddy.  We were told that teddies and blankets were not permitted due to US health and safety regulations and milk could not be offered due to the risk of another child being allergic. (This is fair enough but you would hope they could keep the milk in a confined area for the small minority of kids who have milk allergies).   I felt that the late nights had a knock on effect onto the next day and would have preferred the evening kids club to be more of a night nursery however this is a service only offered to under 3 year olds.

Tips for using the kids clubs on Royal Caribbean ships

If you don’t want your child to be kept entertained all night at kids clubs you may prefer to take a pushchair to push around the ship at night if you think your child will sleep through the shows, etc. Also all kids from 3+ need to be fully potty trained as staff cannot assist with pulling up and down pants.  (We spoke to one mum onboard whose son had had a couple of accidents as he couldn’t pull down his own pants and she had been told he was on his final warning.  This seemed a little unnecessary when he was asking to go to the toilet).   

The service we experienced on Navigator of the Seas

The crew onboard were exceptionally happy and eager to please.  They also loved the kids and went out of their way to make them feel welcome with high fives and an extra special service in the restaurants and at the gangways when boarding.

Our cabin steward, Joe from Jamaica, was truly brilliant and made our cruise so memorable with his cheerful banter and creative towels animals which he placed in our cabin every night, much to my sons delight.  We had a chat with him every time we came on and out of our cabin and we all had a big hug as we left.  Joe played a huge part in making our cruise so memorable.

Making towel animals with our brilliant cabin steward, Joe

Cabin review – Navigator of the Seas balcony cabin

It was such a treat to stay in a balcony cabin.  Particularly so high up by the Bridge too.  The cabin had a pull out sofa, spacious dressing table and wardrobe with plenty of shelves and hanging space, (all needed for my 20 dresses and 17 pairs of shoes!).  Of course the best feature was the balcony itself, which we thoroughly enjoyed hanging out on with Claire and her daughters.  Nothing quite beats the feeling of popping open a bottle of fizz whilst watching the world sail by!

Summary – A week onboard Navigator of the Seas with kids

It was our first time onboard a Royal Caribbean ship and I wouldn’t hesitate in going on one again.  It was a pity we didn’t get to see the regular entertainment team performances, (they had the week off as the 80’s acts took over the theatres, etc).  I would have liked to have experienced their ice skating show in particular.  The Navigator of the Seas is by no means an all singing all dancing ship, if you’ve been on a newer RCI ship you may miss the wow factor facilities onboard but as we haven’t we didn’t.  Next time I would love to try a newer ship with water slides, splash parks, etc however if the price was right and the ship was calling into the ports I wanted to see I would certainly sail on the Navigator of the Seas with kids again.

Claire has published a brilliant video of our week onboard.  It captures our week perfectly.  You can view it here

Tips for cruising with kids

Just a quick summary note regarding cruising with kids in general. I’ve you’ve never considered it you seriously should.  With more cruise ships being launched annually there are some great deals to be had.  Cruising is not as expensive as many people think.  When you look at the overall price you need to take into account that accommodation, entertainment and ALL meals are included, (unless you want to go to a speciality restaurant).  The kids clubs are free with RCI from 3 years old (until 10pm) and you can sail from Southampton cutting down on travelling costs.  I have to say it was so stress free and convenient being able to pull up to Southampton cruise terminal, drop off our bags with a porter and not see them again until later on when we checked into our cabin.  The luggage allowance is 90kg per passenger too which makes travelling with all the kids paraphernalia very easy.

Anyway more about this in a later post.  I’m getting carried away.  Thanks for reading and I hope you consider sailing onboard the Navigator of the Seas with kids! 

Back to the 80s cruise review

Disclaimer – We were invited to review the Back to the 80’s Cruise by CruiseCo.  I am not under any obligation to review the Navigator of the Seas for Royal Caribbean however I thought it would make interesting reading for anyone considering booking a family cruise.  For more cruising with kids tips and reviews check out my other website which I co edit with some fellow family travel bloggers – Cruising with Kids.  

Pin for later – Navigator of the Seas with Kids 

Navigator of the Seas with Kids review

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6 Comments

  1. 10th June 2018 / 3:53 am

    We are kid-free now, but still think Navigator of the Seas looks like a great vacation choice! We haven’t sailed with Royal Caribbean yet, but this ship has us seriously considering it. Especially after this post!

  2. 4th June 2018 / 9:38 pm

    We had an aft cabin on our last RCC cruise and it was great, I love the activities and facilities on board for families the ships are fab I love how the kids are channelled so you dont see other peoples kids unless you want to, you can avoid the kid crowds. I am not a fun of buffets at all we much prefer the formal dining the service is wonderful and the food amazing x

  3. 4th June 2018 / 8:17 pm

    Lisa some fab tips here about where to stay and where to eat (reverse dining is such a great idea) I also like the idea of the breakfast on the balcony what a lovely idea.

  4. 4th June 2018 / 12:03 pm

    It definitely looks like an exciting ship! I’m glad you had a good time! #mondayescapes

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