On Location: Sailing on World Navigator

Talking to luxury travelers sailing on Atlas Ocean Voyages’ first new ship, the 196-passenger World Navigator, it’s clear from the “get go” that they’ve sailed on many luxury cruises, but they like the bit different vibe and more casual, “luxe-adventure” and fun-loving feel of this small-ship product. 

Owned by Portuguese-based Mystic Invest Holding and headquartered in Fort Lauderdale, FL, Atlas Ocean Voyages is catering to the North American market and already developing a loyal following of open-minded people, eager to share experiences. The 9,930-gross ton World Navigator debuted in the Mediterranean in August, and Luxury Travel Advisor sailed on that ship in October in the Caribbean. Here’s our first-hand voyage insight. 

Upscale Look, Comforts

With a spiffy dark blue hull, World Navigator is a lovely ship that’s sailing expedition voyages to Antarctica this winter. Other times of the year, the small ship operates in other regions with a bit softer cultural/adventure voyages. Walking aboard, guests immediately notice the ship’s mahogany-like, lacquered walls in public rooms, corridors and accommodations. While those dark walls exude a masculine feel, the lightly colored contrasting décor—in particular, the crisp white bedding in staterooms/suites, soft-colored carpeting and upholstered chairs with bright and light colors and attractive patterns—creates a pleasing-to-the-eye combination. 

It’s clear from the start that Atlas sets its own course, often combining some typical cruise elements with an edgy twist. At the captain’s welcome party, for example, travelers toasted to the upcoming voyage with a flute of champagne, but the top of the glass also had bright blue interior patch of iced Blue Curacao. 

Two spacious lounges offer comfortable seating and a convivial aura for mixing and mingling. Deck 7’s forward-facing Dome Lounge offers 270-degree views, and is the go-to, convivial spot for guests to actively socialize during evenings and late into the night. In contrast, the Atlas Lounge on Deck 4 is a bit more traditional, quieter and sports retro, with mid-century-modern furniture. 

For pool play and sunning, World Navigator’s mid-ship area offers a swimming pool, two hot tubs, many seating areas, as well as the 7AFT Pool Bar and grill area. Those in search of a workout can head to World Navigator’s jogging track and complete 15 laps for a one-mile run. Back inside the ship, the Fitness Studio space is decent sized for a small ship and offers state-of-the-art TechnoGym machines, free weights and two yoga balls, plus space for exercise or yoga classes.   

Seeking pampering at sea? World Navigator’s 947-square-foot SeaSpa by L’Occitane offers spa treatments that dovetail with a holistic approach. Facilities include two treatment rooms, a relaxing reception area, eight-person Serenity Lounge, and infrared sauna with an adjacent shower. We’d suggest the 90-minute “Sleep and Reset Massage,” or perhaps a “Shea Nourishing Comfort” face care treatment (25 or 90 minutes). For the ultimate deep tissue massage, opt for the 90-minute “Deep Tissue Intense Relief” treatment. 

Atlas Lounge

The Atlas Lounge on Deck 4 is traditional and quiet with mid-century-modern furniture. 

Dining Options

Located at Deck 4’s stern, World Navigator’s main restaurant, Porto, honors the name of its parent company’s headquarters — city of Porto, Portugal, also home to Atlas’ operations base. Guests aren’t likely to see any formal attire here, even in the evening, as World Navigator’s dress code is always resort casual. Guests are asked to wash their hands at wash stations before entering the restaurant. 

Breakfast consists of a small buffet (which crew serve, but sometimes guests beat them to it), and passengers can also order cooked to order eggs and so on. Lunch and dinner are table service. One nice option on pleasant weather days is Porto’s sizable, covered exterior deck for al fresco dining.

So, what’s on Porto’s dinner menu? One evening our appetizers included a chicken platter with lemon-Tabasco sauce or char-grilled marinated artichokes. Soups ranged from Asian broth with Angus dumplings to cream of squash soup with Himalayan salt, pumpkin seeds and chili oil. Salad choices included a tasty Mexican beef salad, or alternatively, a Red Beet salad with horseradish and chives. 

Entrees one night ranged from Zurich-style veal with creamy mushroom sauce to whole roasted strip steak served with gravy, horseradish and Yorkshire pudding. Vegetarians could choose the grilled Miso-marinated eggplant steaks. Our choice? We’d highly recommend the delicious, robust seafood pie with a flaky pie surface; inside, it was brimming with shrimp, fish and calamari. Sides included fondant potatoes; Guinness and cilantro rice; curry and tamarind bean sprouts and carrot; and grilled vegetables, cabbage and seasoned butter. 

Be sure to save room for dessert, such as peach cobbler; a chocolate and salted caramel tart (highly recommended), sugar-free red velvet cake or a pot of fruit salad and Tahitian vanilla. 

One unique twist? Within Porto is Alma, translated into “soul” in Portuguese, and it offers an additional specialty menu on select nights. Here cruisers can taste traditional dishes that Portuguese grandmas learned from their own grandmas, based on recipes passed from generation to generation. 

Open for lunch and dinner, the exterior 7AFT Grill is a casual, gourmet grilling chophouse with a Josper-invented, charcoal-fired oven; it serves strip steak, filet mignon, lobster, both meat burgers and plant-based Impossible ones. We’re not a fan of plain iceberg lettuce, but the chef designed a creative version of that, and guests can also order steak fries and creamed spinach too. 

For “grab and go” food and drinks, head for Paula’s Pantry café, named for Paula Ferreira, executive director of Mystic Invest Holding. Nestled between the reception area and Porto, it serves up made-to-order latte, coffee, cappuccino or, as we requested, a caramel macchiato. The line uses small batches of roasted, organic and Fair Trade-certified Caffe Milano coffee beans. Guests also can order Kusmi teas and fresh detox juices. If the munchies hit, step up to the Paula’s Pantry counter and select from freshly made muffins, pastries, croissants, cookies, smoothies, juices and such light fare as sandwiches, salads and soups. 

Between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m., the Dome Observation Lounge also serves up Atlas’ version of afternoon teatime with tasty finger sandwiches, snacks, tea and cookies, plus the lounge has an open bar. Room service in the stateroom or suite is also available from a breakfast or “always available” menu. 

Guest Quarters

All accommodations on World Navigator are oceanview, and 90 percent have private verandas. Starting March 22, 2022, look for six 183-square-foot, oceanview cabins (with a window, not simply a porthole) permanently designated as Solo Suites. Even though they’re less spacious than Veranda and Horizon accommodations, they offer elevated perks — such as butler service, suite level privileges and no single supplement.

During our cruise, Luxury Travel Advisor stayed in No. 505, a comfortable, 270-square-foot Veranda stateroom with a private veranda (teak flooring, two chairs and a small table). The stateroom featured those same dark lacquered wood-like walls mentioned above, but again, contrasting, light-colored bed linens, carpeting and other soft goods as well as creative metal trellises along both walls between the bedroom and living area combined to present a pleasing look. 

Our queen-sized bed was convertible to two twins, if desired, and was decked out in soft, Egyptian cotton bed linens including a duvet. Storage was good, and guests will find a digital safe, hair dryer and terrycloth robes and slippers. All staterooms and suites also have Nespresso machines with coffee and tea and a personalized bar set-up, based on a form they filled out prior to arrival. 

Upon arrival, they’ll discover their mini-refrigerator stocked with their choice of sodas, sparkling water and beer, plus one bottle of spirits is provided on the desk. Guests can choose in advance from either Hennessy VS Cognac, Ketel One Vodka, Tanqueray No. Ten Gin, Sierra Tequila Reposado (Gold), Mount Gay Black Barrel Rum, the Glenlivit Founders Reserve (single malt) or Knob Creek Kentucky Straight Bourbon. Could be improved? That bottle choice (as well as the mini-fridge choices) included no red or white wines, something many guests expect from a luxury line. 

World Navigator offers both morning make-up and night-time turn-down services for accommodations, and we found the housekeeping crew members friendly and competent. Our large wall-mounted flat screen TV had “infotainment” programming including movies, voyage and account information. 

Our bathroom offered a walk-in, spa shower walled with mosaic tiles. Luxury Travel Advisor particularly appreciated that shower’s trio of options—a rainforest shower, a separate, hand-held shower head, plus multiple body jets. A singular sink is atop a woodgrain-like, veneer cabinet, and guests will find L’Occitane bath amenities, including shampoo, conditioner, body wash, hand wash and hand lotion. 

While our desk in the living area had attractive wall artwork above it, there wasn’t a mirror on the wall, nor any portable make-up mirror on the desk (nor in a desk drawer). Yes, all accommodations do have make-up mirrors in the bathroom and suite guests do have a second make-up mirror at their in-room desk. Still, when two people in a non-suite-level cabin are readying for dinner—one showering in the bathroom—it would be helpful to have a make-up mirror at the desk for the other person’s use.

The 300-square-foot Veranda Deluxe stateroom is a bit larger than the stateroom we stayed in and has a larger balcony that spans 52 square feet. Other options? Horizon and Horizon Deluxe staterooms are the same size as Veranda and Veranda Deluxe categories, but they offer a Juliette balcony rather than a full one. In addition, Horizon balconies feature a full, drop-down window with the press of a button—turning the area into an open-air balcony.

All staterooms have a desk with a chair, while the Horizon and Veranda accommodations also have a small sitting area with plush loveseat and coffee table or two chairs and table. Guests have multiple USB ports and 110V and 220V outlets as well as binoculars for guest use. Horizon and Veranda accommodations do not have butler service. 

For the ultimate in accommodations, three top suite category choices await on Decks 5 and 6. Four 382-square-foot, one-bedroom Journey Suites offer a more spacious balcony and have butler service. Providing even more space along with butler service are two 445-square-foot Discovery Suites and four 465-square-foot Navigator Suites. 

Guests in the Navigator Suites can expect separate living and sleeping areas; a master bathroom with dual sinks, a shower, separate bathtub and a separate water closet with toilet; two oversized, interactive, flat-panel TVs with “infotainment” system; a double-wide, 106-foot-long veranda with sun loungers, teak chairs and tables; and more. 

World Navigator Solo Suites

A Solo Suite offers 183 square feet of space and comes with a window, not simply a porthole.

Entertainment & Enrichment 

Potential guests shouldn’t expect a ship with multiple entertainment, live shows and scads of activities around every corner. It’s a more low-key aura onboard. In the ship’s Dom Henrique Auditorium or in the ship’s lounges, you may see a pianist playing live music or a pianist/singer performance, along with enrichment lectures, movies or a lesson in cocktail mixology. That said, Atlas tells Luxury Travel Advisor that it’s interested in “ramping up” the onboard entertainment a bit.

On Deck 5, guests desiring to check out the scenic views or view marine life or wildlife can head to the Water’s Edge bow area, which has “heated” benches so it’s comfortable to be outdoors even in a polar climate. Ashore, Atlas offers many active shore excursions such as hiking off-the-grid, as well as cultural excursions with unusual twists such as visiting an archaeological site with virtual reality programming. 

World Navigator has a mud room and carries a 12-member expedition team on Arctic or Antarctic expedition voyages. It also has 12 Zodiacs, 12 sea kayaks (six tandem and six solo ones), 12 paddleboards, two Zodiac pros for jet skiing and two Yamaha Waverunners. One fun option? On certain Antarctica and Arctic region voyages, the ship offers “Zodiac safaris” that even allow guests to sleep ashore in the open air. 

Summing up her fall 2021 experience on World Navigator, Julianne Butler, a Dream Vacations franchise owner and vacation specialist from Denver, CO, says that “World Navigator combines the small ship feel of a river cruise with the varied sea and port experiences of an ocean cruise with the ultimate in luxury.” She describes the onboard cuisine, bars, luxurious accommodations and the L’Occitane SeaSpa experience as “exceptional.” 

Her favorite experience? “On our particular cruise, the crew transported our five-star lunch experience to a private beach via Zodiac where we dined on white tablecloths with crystal glassware,” she says. She recommends this new line to guests desiring an all-inclusive luxury cruise in an intimate setting with adventure options — citing tours that range from a day at the beach to adventure tours such as ziplining and overnights on the Antarctic ice shelf. 

Butler does suggest that mobility challenged guests chat with their advisor pre-booking as many excursions require use of a tender or Zodiac to go ashore. Onboard, the ship itself has two elevators for guest use. 

Other Perks and Inclusiveness 

World Navigator is eco-friendly in that it has GPS positioning that eliminates the need to drop either of the ship’s two anchors, thus preserving the sea floor and coral reefs. In addition, two electrically-driven Schottel SPJ hydro jets also supplement normal propulsion — allowing the ship to move silently forward at up to five knots per hour; that doesn’t disturb marine life or wildlife making dolphins, whales and other sea and land critters a bit easier to spot. 

The ship has an onboard medical center. While the ship does not carry submersible or helicopters, it does have a helicopter pad should someone need medivac transport off the ship in an emergency. 

Atlas Ocean Voyages’ “All Inclusive, All the Way” fares include roundtrip commercial economy air for all journeys including complimentary direct private charter jet service for Antarctica sailings; yoga, Pilates and spin classes; unlimited pours of select alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages; emergency medical evacuation insurance; prepaid gratuities; and one complimentary shore trip in each port. Max Shore multi-day overland programs in the middle of the cruise will offer unusual adventures at an optional charge. 

Regions of Operation

This winter, World Navigator is sailing in Antarctica. One big perk is an included A330-200 air charter flight by National Airlines from Orlando to Ushuaia, Argentina. Guests will arrive in Orlando, take an antigen test between 2 p.m. and 5:30 p.m., and those testing negative will go to a sanitized private ballroom inside the Hyatt Regency Hotel at Orlando International Airport. 

At 10 p.m., they’ll board the plane for an 11 p.m. flight nonstop to Ushuaia. A dinner, snack and breakfast with included beverages will be served on the flight. Previously, the line had announced a stop for a crew change in Chile, but that government requirement is now removed, so the flight from Orlando will be nonstop. 

In July 2022, a second sister ship, World Traveller, will debut. Those two ships will sail to the Arctic, Baltic region, British Isles, Iceland, Greenland and Norwegian fjords. More new “sisters” will join the fleet, too—World Seeker, later in 2022, and World Adventurer and World Discoverer in 2023. 

Overall, World Navigator offers something a bit different within the upscale cruise space and the Atlas product will be interesting to follow as it navigates to new global horizons.

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