Royal Caribbean sent its 12-year-old Navigator of the Seas ship to drydock in January to get a revitalization. The Voyager-class ship returned to service in Galveston, Texas, from Grand Bahamas Shipyard in Freeport. The refurb added some of the line's signature amenities and activities and breaks ground with others.
I got a chance to check out all that's new on Navigator during a weeklong cruise to the Western Caribbean. Here's what I found. The updates overhauled plenty on the ship, but mainly staterooms, dining and activities.
Royal added 86 staterooms to Navigator and debuted its "Virtual Balcony." The line also installed a FlowRider surf simulator (at left). How about the revamped menu in Chops Grille and new specialty dining locations Sabor, a Mexican restaurant, Giovanni's Table, which replaces Portofino, and Izumi Japanese Cuisine, which offers an a la carte menu.
The "revitalization" expands the cabin total to 1,643. The ship is able to accommodate 3,286 passengers, up from 3,114. Deck 12 added 24 new panoramic oceanview cabins (a new category) and 14 more balcony cabins.
The floor-to-ceiling HD screen gives cabin occupants a real-time view of the ocean from cameras mounted on the back of the boat or the bridge. Curtains can hide the screen, which also projects a simulated railing.
All staterooms received new flat-screen TVs to replace old tube TVs. The new screens are attached to an arm that can be extended and adjusted to provide a view of the TV from anywhere in the cabin. New carpeting was installed throughout the ship.
The line's longtime specialty steak house Chops Grille got a new menu with premium steak choices. Items include a dry-aged steak burger on a brioche bun topped with bacon and gruyere cheese, braised short rib and veal chop parmesan. I loved the appetizers: gruyere tater tots, slab of bacon, truffled french fries. The upcharge steaks -- a 16-ounce dry-aged New York strip and 20-ounce dry-aged porterhouse â were fantastic, but the additional fee of $18 and $19, respectively, is added to the $35 restaurant service charge.
Izumi Japanese Cuisine eatery offers sushi and fusion options priced a la carte. We didn't eat there but heard it was very good.
Giovanni's Table replaces Portofino as the ship's Italian specialty restaurant. Diners pay $20 for a menu that offers traditional Italian foods, served family style.
The ship's three-level main dining room has been refurbished and renamed Sapphire, eliminating the separate names Swan Lake, Coppelia and The Nutcracker.
Other changes to the ship: The two-story disco, the Dungeon, was removed to make room for added cabins and Sabor. The former 19th Hole Sports Bar is now the Diamond Lounge for the line's Crown & Anchor Society loyalty members. And the former Champagne Bar is now the line's signature R Bar (at left), which specializes in mixology drinks, such as the Raspberry Ricky, Gin Basil Smash and Hemingway Daiquiri.
The main pool area got a new 220-square-foot LCD movie screen, and passengers can use the new "wayfinder" interactive screens near the elevator banks to get directions around the ship or access a digital "Cruise Compass" that outlines the dayâs activities onboard.
My experience: The food was great and the ship had a fun and vibrant feel during my cruise. Well done, Navigator.