After three sailings on three different Disney ships, it was time to try another cruise line. This time, with no children in tow, my husband and I took a short 3 night trip to CocoCay and Nassau on RCI's Majesty of the Seas (sister ship of the Monarch of the Seas). Since it is a smaller, older ship, we found it natural to compare our experience to our previous voyages on Disney's Magic and Wonder ships.
Boarding: RCI gets a point here for fast service and early boarding. We entered the terminal at 11:10 am, walked right up to a representative, got our picture taken, boarding started at 11:30 and we were at the pool, settled in with drinks and snacks by 11:45. Amazing. It made that first day seem pleasantly longer. Our rooms were ready with our luggage at the door at 1 pm sharp. RCI's terminal building is less fancy and there aren't any good spots to get a picture of the ship unlike Disney's outside patio.
Liquor policy: Disney wins, hands down, for letting people bring liquor on board. We had to 'sneak' alcohol onto RCI. We were successful, but our friends tried to fill a water bottle with flavored vodka and got caught. The security attendant shook the bottle looking for bubbles. Water doesn't react to shaking the same way alcohol does. All security did was throw it out but it was a waste. Drinks on board the Majesty were wonderful with a very long mixed drink menu and prices at $6-8/drink for some pretty fun concoctions which seemed a little cheaper than Disney.
Staff: Disney definitely has more smiles per 'cast member' but the RCI staff was pleasant as well. In fact our room host on the Majesty was the best room host we've ever had. I've never had a specific problem with any staff member on DCL or RCI. I guess I expected less attentiveness from RCI but everyone we encountered was helpful and nice. The bar staff does push drinks a little hard. They back off easily with a 'no thank you' but they'll be back in 2 minutes to ask you again.
Cabins: We've always had verandah rooms on the Dis ships but the Majesty has very few so we tried a 'superior ocean view' on deck 9. It was a decent size room -- though I hear a majority of the staterooms are very small. The desk was mirrored and had sides that opened for storage, which was nice. A small sofa. A fridge but it was stocked full with mini bar (costly) items. The bathroom was tiny with shower curtain, poor water pressure and warm (never hot) water. I prefer Disney's double bathrooms any day. For bathroom amenities RCL provides only shampoo out of a wall dispenser, and bar soap. The bed and pillows were hard but the built in book lights were a nice feature on the Majesty.
Bday: As a side note, if you are celebrating a birthday, definitely buy RCI's birthday decoration package. It's worth it.
Magnets and lanyards: Oh how Disney people love door magnets and lanyards! RCI people, not so much. I saw only a few people on the entire ship with lanyards purchased in the gift shop, or brought on board. We used our Castaway Club lanyards on the Majesty but most people simply used their pockets. Very few doors had magnets. If it's your birthday and you buy the bday package they put a huge, legal paper sized royal carib magnet on your door. I made some magnets for us and for our friends and no one stole them. I think they are fun and make it easy to find your door. They stuck just fine. Although RCI doesn't seem to mind tape on the door as I saw a few people with taped decorations.
Smoking: We are not smokers. Smoking is allowed on the Majesty in many places. The casino is very smoky. Of the 5 or so lounges, most allow smoking on the starboard side of the lounge. The bar itself is in the middle of the room so you've got smokers, bar, and then nonsmokers. I will say the air flow is pretty good and the non smoking area stayed more smoke free than I would have guessed. Still, it's there.
Dining: RCI wins a point for a better buffet at Windjammer than Disney's Topsiders but Disney wins for dining room food. The Windjammer is set up more like the Disney Dream with food station pods. The Windjammer has ethnic food galore -- amazingly good Indian food, Mexican, Italian. Multiple salad stations. In fact it's almost challenging to find basic grill food -- I saw burgers once but never chicken nuggets or fries. It's definitely an upscale buffet for lunch and dinner. The dining room was a disappointment though. The food wasn't as good as Disney ships, it was usually cold, and there was an upcharge for certain things. For instance, you could order a top sirloin but if you wanted filet mignon it carried a $15 upcharge. Disney Magic and Wonder dining room food, atmosphere and service far surpass that of the Majesty.
Soda Pop Station: This deserves its own critique category for one reason: Coke Freestyle. Unlike the Dis Magic/Wonder, unlimited soda package will cost you on the Majesty/Monarch, but it gets you an unlimited refill cup that you carry with you and can have filled free at any bar or restaurant on the ship. OR! You can go up to Windjammers and use the Coke Freestyle machine which is a single fountain beverage dispenser with a touch screen interface that lets you select which coke product you'd like and what flavor you'd like added to it. So you can have strawberry sprite, raspberry coke zero, lime sparkling Dasani, to name just a few. It's a fun conversation starter...: "Hey, what flavor did you fill up with?" I'd almost sail RCI again just for the Coke Freestyle machine. I'm easy to please.
Private Island: I met another Disney cruiser on CocoCay and she said what I'd heard over and over "Royal Caribbean nickel and dimes you to death". Both Coco Cay and Castaway Cay are lovely. But on RCI's Coco Cay it'll cost you $32 to have an umbrella put up! The kids area, including slide, costs money as well. I highly recommend renting a cabanette for $50 which gets you two covered chairs, two large bottled waters on ice, a fruit plate, and your own gourmet bbq lunch with delicious steak and shrimp kabobs. Also you get $10 off snorkel equip rental if you rent a private cabana. It's worth it! Snorkeling is nice, not great. In July there were many mini jelly fish. But here's the biggest bummer about Coco Cay -- the tendering!!!! I love love love that Disney docks at its private island. Tendering on the Majesty took 45 minutes from the very long line to getting on a boat, to getting there.
Shows: Majesty had a stand up comedian, a juggler comedian, and a 70's dance show. All three were well received by the audience. I thought the dance show was boring but that's a personal opinion. The theatre itself is two stories and I loved the set up. The seating is very comfortable -- sofa style. I actually like the theatre much better than the Dis Magic/Wonder.
Pools: Majesty has 2 salt water pools, no adult pool. The pools were usually very crowded. Chairs around the pool were plentiful but it was tricky to find shade. Not much different than the Disney ships. I like that the deck chairs on Disney ships are that stretched fabric rather than RCI's older plastic strip chairs.
We didn't have our kids with us so I can't comment on the kids clubs.
Overall, our trip on Royal Caribbean's Majesty of the Sea was a good value. You may get a little less in service, convenience, and amenities compared to Disney, but the price is also a lot less. If we sail without the kids again, I wouldn't hesitate to sail with Royal Caribbean.