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Navigator's Paradise

(July 18, 2003)

She was to start life as the Cold War research vessel Akademik Nikolay Pilyugin; however, she was never completed. Left an unfinished hull she was resurrected in 1999 as Radisson's m/s Seven Seas Navigator, she now boasts all the qualities expected of a six-star luxury liner. During a recent 7-day New York City to Bermuda voyage, I discovered while Navigator is designed for the demanding upscale traveler, the atmosphere on board is far more relaxed than other deluxe cruise ships.

Navigator's gorgeous reception area


Boarding in New York City security was tight, and due to the recent SARS epidemic, guests needed to fill out forms stating if they had or had not visited Toronto and/or certain Asian destinations. After completing the form, hand-sanitizer is applied to hands; this was standard procedure throughout the cruise for anyone boarding the ship. After the formalities, guests exchange passports and credit card imprints for crystal flutes of champagne and then are led onboard by white-gloved crewmembers.

At 33,000-tons, Navigator accommodates 490 guests, offers fine dining options, exceptional space-per-guest ratios, luxurious amenities, a Judith Jackson Spa, and excellent entertainment and enrichment options. With a full crew complement of 290, Navigator boasts a ratio of 1 crewmember to every 1.6 guests, offering an extremely high level of personalized, attentive service.

Glass-walled elevators rise to show off light airy reception areas, lounges, and restaurants that resemble classic old liner style though with a tasteful modern touch. Exquisite flower arrangements are everywhere throughout the ship filling the air with sweet scents. The remarkable thing about Navigator is that it becomes quickly familiar to guests; it is an intimate ship that offers no intrusive surprises. There are no loud areas, endless hallways, nor tiresome announcements. This ship was designed for rest and relaxation.

"Suite Life"

Navigator's Verandah Suite

Suites (staterooms do not exist on Navigator) are by far the best feature of the ship; there are simply no bad ones. All 245 suites ranging in size from 301 to 1,173 square feet have ocean views and 90 percent offer private teakwood balconies with cushy lounge chairs. At 301 square feet (355 square feet including balcony), my category A suite was exceptionally spacious, cozy, and impeccably clean. Every suite offers king-size bed or twin beds, separate living room area, fabulous marble bathrooms, featuring both shower and separate bathtub, walk-in closet, bathrobes, down duvets and pillows, mini-bar stocked with guest's preferred beverages and spirits, and TV/VCR. Lots of wood and attractive fabrics in soothing shades of blue and honey surround you with comfort. Larger suites and A & B category verandah suites provide butler service. And, with 24-hour room service it's not unusual for some passengers to come on board and disappear -- not to be seen until it's time to get off.


Compass Rose Restaurant

Radisson Seven Seas Cruises prides itself on its inventive cuisine along with an excellent selection of complimentary wines each evening. The two restaurants on board, Compass Rose and Portofino Grill, provide an inviting ambiance. Both offer extensive and tantalizing menus; particularly fresh fish and pasta, but they also serve up more elaborate items such as lobster, sushi, veal, duck, and filet minion. If you don't fancy the evening's offerings, just ask for what you want, and if the ingredients are available, it can be prepared for you. This was the case for the few children onboard who eagerly devoured custom-prepared gourmet chicken fingers and macaroni and cheese. Guests should book reservations for Portofino Grill, the alternative dining venue in the evenings, as soon as they board. The ship's democratic booking policy guarantees each passenger only one meal here, but guests can check with the maître d' for available tables. The Northern Italian cuisine here is superb and served in six courses; one of the better Italian dining menus at sea. Another dining option is the Pool Grill near the swimming pool, which serves hot dogs and hamburgers at lunch, plus salads and other quick fare.


Navigator's Groovy Entertainment

Navigator scored high in a number of important entertainment areas: nicely designed and appointed lounges and showrooms, and spacious deck areas and a 21-foot-long swimming pool, which was unfortunately unfilled for three days of the cruise.

The Seven Seas show lounge offers excellent entertainment throughout the voyage. By day, an interesting group of lecturers was onboard; by night, the line's recently upgraded show entertainment was a hit with everyone. The smaller Navigator Lounge and Galileo's lounge with its combination bar and dance floor attracted many guests before and after dinner. Amiable gentlemen hosts were always there to whirl around the dance floor with the ladies. The onboard casino was always lively when it was open. However, there were rooms that seemed empty much of the time; Stars Bar adjacent to the show lounge, and the cigar bar, Connoisseur Club.

If there was one disappointment onboard it was the ship's library, not because of the lack of reading materials or atmosphere, but simply because it served as a dual-purpose facility as the ship's Internet computer room. With eleven computers, it is impossible to sit down and read a book simply because it is a high traffic area.

When in port, a wonderful range of optional shore excursions is offered. Seven Seas offers an excellent shore excursion program. Prior to sailing, guests are sent a detailed booklet, printed expressly for the cruise and containing a thorough explanation of each excursion.

Spa & Gym

Daily Passages newsletter detailing the day's activities.

(click for larger view and to view all newsletters and spa menus from the cruise)

The spa onboard Navigator is operated by Judith Jackson Sea Spas, which is owned by the famed aroma therapist Jackson. The spa is divided in two with spa treatment rooms on deck 12 and salon on deck 11. Judith Jackson treatments are different from any other spa menus: simple and affordable -- the average treatment costs about $80. Jackson's specialty is an aromatherapy message, which uses specially blended essential oils - one of the best I've ever experienced.

The Fitness Center features all the latest gym equipment, with treadmills, rowers, cycles, free weights and weight machines. There's also a separate aerobics room, and the spectacular views through the floor-to-ceiling windows only enhance a workout. Outdoor exercise options are provided by a jogging track and sports deck with golf cage and table tennis, as well as a swimming pool surrounded by two whirlpools and broad teak decks for post-workout relaxation.

For Kids

There were a handful of children onboard, who despite the lack of designated children's facilities had a marvelous time. On select voyages in the summer months, Seven Seas offers its Club Mariner kid's program. (Similar programs are aboard Seven Seas Voyager, and Seven Seas Mariner). The program is designed for different age groups from toddlers to teens, and is supervised by specially trained counselors. One parent I spoke with noted the program was great for her nine-year-old, but not so much fun for her older child as activities were geared toward the numerous younger children.


One of Bermuda's famed beaches

Bermuda is an excellent option for a cruise - it is close to home and it's very safe and clean. While the island is a notoriously expensive destination, cruising on Navigator is an easy way to experience Bermuda and not spend a small fortune. Careful scheduling further enhances the uniqueness of this cruise. With her purposely-planned Wednesday departures from New York, the Navigator is the only regularly scheduled cruise ship in town when she docks in Hamilton on Fridays and Saturdays and in St. George on Sundays. With three full days to explore Bermuda, guests have the island to themselves making for a more relaxing time. (More on Bermuda next week)

AnitaVacation Thoughts

Service in the dining areas was at times annoyingly uncoordinated; wait staff seemed to do the same services twice, and often some things as simple as refilling water glasses or coffee cups was not accomplished without flagging someone down. Unlike my previous voyage aboard the Radisson Diamond, few waiters took the initiative to learn a guest's preferences. Despite this shortcoming, wait staff was always accommodating, friendly, and eager to please.

Numerous passengers complained of the vibrations in the aft part of the ship; particularly in the Portofino Grill. I did not find it too annoying, still crewmembers acknowledged that it is somewhat of a problem. While Navigator isn't the only vessel that cruises to Bermuda, she is without question the most luxurious way to get there. It is easy to see why Navigator is a favorite among savvy cruisers who want a small ship with modern big ship amenities.

If You Go:

In tribute to her name, the Seven Seas Navigator's destination is the navigable world. Navigator cruises to: Europe/Mediterranean, Bermuda, Caribbean, and Canada/New England. For more information, visit Radisson Seven Seas at Rates include gratuities, in-suite bar set up, all soft drinks, bottled water, and wine with dinner. Select packages offer free shore excursions and hotel stays.

Editor's Note: Radisson Seven Seas Cruises will be phasing out the "Radisson" part of it's brand name, simply to be called Seven Seas Cruises. There is no official timetable for the change; however, officials noted it would likely occur sometime next year.

Related AnitaVacation Feature

Bermuda Paradise

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