PORT OF GALVESTON, Texas — Following a successful 5-night shakedown cruise, Royal Caribbean’s Navigator of the Seas welcomed guests on a seven-night maiden voyage to the western Caribbean, proudly displaying the refurbished vessel packed with improvements and firsts after a month in dry dock in The Bahamas.
The goal: Provide a Texas-sized “Wow!”
The massive ship — think of it as larger than the ocean-liner Titanic — was the world’s largest cruise ship only a few years ago and is still in the top 10. Attractions on the revamped Navigator are designed to keep passengers active and wowed.
Launched in 2002, Navigator, the first of the Voyager class second generation, was the largest ship in the Royal Caribbean fleet at that time.
Today it is still considered large, but is noticeably smaller when docked beside Royal’s Allure of the Seas, the largest of the Royal ships with a double occupancy capacity of 5,400 guests, compared to 3,114 on the Navigator.
Central to the guest experience on the Navigator is the Royal Promenade, a four-story atrium that serves as an entertainment district and meeting space. Among its offerings are a 24-hour cafe, duty-free shops, a pub, a wine bar, live music and dancing, and parades of costumed characters from Shrek, Madagascar and Kung Fu Panda.
New to the Navigator is the Flowrider surf simulator located on the sports deck, Deck 13. Grab a board and hang ten on a 40-foot-long surf simulator for no extra charge. It’s within view of the full-size basketball court and the mini golf course which are always open.
High above is the rock climbing wall, a great way to get a fantastic view of the ocean as a successful climber rings the bell at the top.
One newly introduced feature stood out on the Navigator, changing the atmosphere of interior cabins. Installed in 81 interior staterooms which previously had no ocean view, virtual balconies are a technological marvel that takes an inside stateroom and adds real-time views of what’s happening on the ocean and on the shoreline as the ship passes. Occupants see where they are traveling on a screen from floor to ceiling accompanied by the comforting sounds of the ocean as the ship floats along.
The virtual balcony was introduced to the media in a small interior stateroom on Deck 3.
Ronnie Farzad with Royal Caribbean’s entertainment and activities Dream Team and Charlie Miller, an associate partner with Control Group, technology and design consultants in New York City, were on board to explain it all.
The sounds and scenes of the sea are captured by very wide-angled lens RED Epic digital cinema cameras, one facing forward and the other to the rear, mounted on the ship. Where the cabin is situated on the ship determines which of the two images is received.
Wide angles and placement of a virtual railing — an image identical to those on real-life balconies — virtually exclude seasickness. Leaving nothing to chance, the image and sound can be switched off and the draperies closed.
On the maiden voyage, live images were of open waters and the shoreline of Honduras, Belize and Mexico as the ship slipped past. Cruising speed usually is 18 to 20 knots. The delay from the cameras to staterooms is less than a second.
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