Drydock is the maritime world’s version of, “having a little work done.” There’s the nip and tuck along with a lot of spit and polish and of course the mandatory new wardrobe. Last year it was the Voyager and the Mariner, and finally the Navigator. As the first ship in the newly christened Radisson Seven Seas Cruises, I was very excited to take her out on her first full cruise in 1999. I sailed on her for the first two years until the Mariner replaced her itinerary. But as things would have it, the Navigator will once again be back in Alaska starting May 2010. Knowing that I would be back onboard I was anxious to see how she looked after her “work.” During our stop in St. Thomas, the Mariner and Navigator were in port together so I had the chance to go aboard and have a look around.
Those of you who have sailed on her know she is the smallest ship in the fleet with only 490 passengers; for some that translates to intimate and friendly, others see it as small and cramped. During her drydock I think the designers were able to accentuate the intimate aspect by enhancing areas like the Navigator lounge and Galileo’s with over-stuffed furniture and inviting upholstery. The Compass Rose on the Navigator has always been a pretty room, so the new chairs and carpeting create an even more elegant feel. My favorite addition was the way that the Portofino was split into La Veranda and Prime 7. Though La Veranda is rather formulaic on all Regent ships now, the creation of Prime 7 out of a corner of the former restaurant is brilliant. The restaurant feels uber-exclusive and classy; very Oak Room in the Plaza Hotel.
One of the biggest surprises was the effort that was put into the Pool Deck. The Pool Grill has been expanded and now includes a salad bar, hot service area, and ice cream bar. New tables with large umbrellas and chairs clustered around the pool give it a very resorty feel. Speaking of the pool - oh, the demonic pool of the Navigator has been tamed! When the ship first came out the pool sloshed so ferociously not only could no one swim in it, it spilled out most of its water whenever we were under-way. The supposed fix was to shorten the pool by adding in a shallow wall. Unfortunately all that did was to draw out the time it took to develop a good slosh. So now - there’s a completely new, properly designed pool! Not only does it not slosh it looks great with its new white and blue tiling.
Stars Lounge still lacks - everything. The old room was criticized for looking like the inside of a refrigerator - cold and blue. It was popular as one of the few places smokers could congregate. I am sure the designers were trying to overcome the sterile feel of the former room, however now it looks and feels like a hotel lobby. The space has been divided up for music and dancing but I still don’t think it works.
My greatest concern for the Navigator as it heads to Alaska is that the ship no longer has a forward lounge. The new spa which was installed a few years ago is absolutely fabulous, but what used to be the forward lounge is now the gym and aerobics studio. As we sail through the fjords and up to the glacier it will be great for those on the treadmill but what about those who want to get out of the weather or cannot stand for long periods of time…. I see “upset” written all over this one.
Finally, as we were sailing out of port I saw the pièce de résistance - the stern. It’s no secret the Navigator has been known for years as the Navibrator. She does shake. Well, she now has this extended “skirt” on the back of the ship. I was standing next to Giovanni, Chief Engineer on the Mariner, and he explained how that is supposed to even out movement. Well, we’ll see. I’ll certainly let everyone know in May.