Our 10-day “luxe adventure” Caribbean cruise on Atlas Ocean Voyages’ World Navigator is in the books. Now it’s time to summarize our overall impressions of the ship and what we experienced.
First off, as we all know, traveling today isn’t just having a passport and a boarding pass. In most cases, in addition to being double vaccinated, you’ll need proof of a negative COVID test as well. Actually, multiple negative tests as you enter and leave countries. They are annoying, and expensive, and unfortunately, a fact of travel life that isn’t going away any time soon.
Like most of the cruise lines, Atlas requires a negative test in advance of boarding, and their medical staff will administer an additional test before you get on the ship, as well as a temperature check. The crew is tested weekly, and so are guests on cruises of longer than a week. Atlas does not charge you for the antigen tests they perform.
Along with the crew, guests in public areas must wear masks, and hand sanitizers are placed all over. Social distancing is recommended, but was not enforced on our voyage.
With that out of the way, let’s talk about the ship.
World Navigator is the first of what will eventually be a fleet of five ships under the Atlas Ocean Voyages banner. Headquartered in Fort Lauderdale, their parent company is Mystic Invest Holdings in Portugal, with deep roots as an operator of river and ocean cruises.
Launched in August, the ship is still shiny and showroom-new, an expedition ship built for those of us who like their adventure with a touch of luxury (full disclosure: We want our trips into the wilds to end with a hot shower and a five-star meal). World Navigator certainly delivers that.
Size-wise, it’s big enough, but not too big. Maximum passenger capacity is 196, with 127 crew. On our cruise, there were about 50 of us, so it almost seemed like we had chartered a super yacht for a private event. We have taken dozens of cruises on every size ship, and they all have their benefits. But if you appreciate personal attention and ease of getting around, it’s hard to beat World Navigator, not to mention how ships this size can take you to places the larger ships can’t go.
Designed by Oitoemponto (which means “eight o’clock precisely” in Portuguese), an industry leader in Europe, the ship’s interiors and staterooms marry vintage 1940s glamour with modern chic to achieve a look that’s both upscale and casual. The mix of mahogany, chrome and marble with bold fabrics and colors achieves a mid-century vibe that is both stunning and inviting at the same time.
Their “all-inclusive, all the way” fares include, among other things, airfare, transfers, basic wines and spirits, dining, complimentary shore excursions and emergency evacuation insurance (an industry first).
Observations and takeaways:
— The Service. The cornerstone of most cruise vacations boil down to food and service. We rate the service on World Navigator a solid five stars. The staff, from the room attendants to reception to dining, were uniformly pleasant and friendly, and called us by name by the second day.
–The Food. Again, across the board, the food we had was outstanding. The menus were designed by Brazilian chef Guillermo Muro, who supervised the staff and did a cooking demo as well. Breakfast was buffet-style at the ship’s main restaurant, Porto, on deck 4. Guests had the option of ordering made-to-order eggs and omelets, as well as pancakes and waffles. You could sit inside or dine al fresco. We chose the latter most of the time.
The other dining option is 7 Aft, by the pool on deck 7. They are open for late lunch and dinner by reservation. For grab-and-go sandwiches, pastries and coffee, there’s Paula’s Pantry on deck 4. Items served here are also available for room service. I should also mention there’s Afternoon Tea in The Dome (the observation lounge on deck 7) daily at 4 pm.
And while the food was great, we do have a suggestion: Create an option for late night dining and snacks for those who don’t turn in early. Several times we found ourselves craving pizza or burgers after everything had closed for the day.
— The Staterooms. The ship has 98 staterooms, ranging in size from 183 square feet (designed for solo travelers) to the 465-square-foot Navigator Suite. Some have the motor-activated “infinity” style windows. Ours was a Veranda room, with 270 square feet. Design-wise, they are beautifully done and come with a minibar, binoculars, robes and a large safe. Closet space is adequate, and we had a nice size balcony. But the star of the room is the spa shower, with its overhead rainfall, side jets and massage wand. I never wanted it to end. The bath also featured high-end products from L’OCCITANE.
Still, there are a few isssues to address. One is lack of U.S. plugs. You would be smart to bring along some adapters. Another is the room TV. The flat-screen set provides a gorgeous picture, but we never could figure out the remote, and the channels available are very limited (sorry, guys — no sports). It also would be nice to have music channels, and we learned too late that you can pair your phone with the TV’s Bluetooth. Who knew?
— The Public Areas. As a small ship, don’t expect soaring atriums or multi-level auditoriums. What you can expect are well-designed places to converse with friends or observe the sights. The main gathering spot is the Atlas Lounge on deck 4, with its own bar and plenty of chairs and couches. One of our favorites is The Dome, the observation lounge on deck 7, featuring a dramatic oval skylight and almost 360-degree views.
As an expedition ship, they have done a good job of maximizing the observation areas. Water’s Edge, located at the front of the ship on deck 5, has wrap-around seating that is heated when the ship is in the polar regions and offers up-close views near the water. There’s also an observation area aft on deck 5, with its own couches and chairs.
Deck 4 also houses an auditorium. Our cruise featured an independent film festival and lectures by a sports expert.
— Other Features. Deck 4 has a fully-equipped Fitness Studio (limited to reservations only to observe social distancing) and the first L’OCCITANE Spa at sea, with a sauna and serenity lounge available to everyone by appointment. I indulged myself with a 60-minute “Relaxing Aromachologie Massage,” which melted away the tension and stress of this grueling writing assignment. Well, someone has to do it.
There’s a Helipad up top for helicopter landings, and a wide array of watersports equipment, including Zodiac Milpros, jet skis, kayaks, paddle boards and an inflatable platform that can be deployed on the ocean to create a play area at sea.
— Shore Excursions. Atlas provides a complimentary shore excursion at every port, usually a bus tour of the destination. There are also optional paid tours you can choose as well. Since the Caribbean is just now opening up again to tourism, the situation is fluid from island to island. At several ports, we were the first cruise ship to make a call in almost two years. In short, expect the unexpected.
For example, we didn’t make our scheduled stop at Anguilla (not sure why), but continued on to Saba, a Dutch island with its population of less than 2,000. It was utterly charming and a pleasant surprise.
There were some communication breakdowns between port authorities and the ship that caused delays, and we had temperature checks at every stop. You could tell the last thing any of the islands want is bad press over COVID. On the flip side, the locals were thrilled to see tourists again, and welcomed us warmly.
Our favorite excursions were the beach days, when we were transported over in Zodiacs to play in the sea or lounge on the sand. At our last stop in Mayreau, the ship put on an elaborate beach BBQ that we’ll be talking about for a long time.
— Entertainment. As an expedition ship, don’t expect Broadway shows or flashy stage productions. What they do have is a fabulous pianist, Dr. Gino, and a very talented performer, Sean O’Shay, the ship’s entertainment director. We also had another singer on our cruise doing shows as well. The shows are nightly in The Dome, and usually conclude by 11 pm.
Our suggestion is get a DJ and simply play hits over the speakers so guests who aren’t ready to call it a night can dance and get their groove on after the shows are over.
— The ship’s WiFi needs attention. Each guest has a basic amount of complimentary WiFi, but it is quickly used up. Additional 1 GB plans cost $80, and 5G plans $360. Depending on how you’re using it, those can go fast as well. But the bigger issue is the erratic connectivity and slowness. As much as we love vacationing at sea, it’s hard to disconnect from our wired lives.
— Communications were lacking. We could have used more announcements about changes in what was scheduled. Too much information is usually preferrable to not enough.
— The ship gave everyone a complimentary load of laundry, which was much appreciated, given our 10 days at sea.
— Bring extra cash. We were surprised to find out a number of shops on the islands didn’t take credit cards, so take that into account. Also, there are a number of shops and restaurants that remain closed.
Like any new ship, Atlas has a few wrinkles to iron out, but overall, they are minor ones. World Navigator is beautiful, inside and out, with service as good as any we’ve experienced on a cruise. We all have to be patient as ships, governments and tourists alike navigate the COVID waters. With all the sanitizing, masking, vaccinations and testing, there’s probably no safer place to be in the world right now than on a cruise ship.
After a two-week hiatus, World Navigator is headed for the region she was truly built for: Antarctica, where more unforgettable memories await.
PHOTOS: credit Gerry Barker
The Dome on deck 7
The closet in our Veranda stateroom
Pam and I at the Pitons on St. Lucia
Preparing the Beach BBQ on Mayreau
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