I have taken many cruises in the past and this was the maiden voyage for my travel partner, so we have a varied perspective on this cruise. We embarked on December 19th for a four day cruise going to Nassau, CocoCay (private RCL beach) and Key West. Embarkation was smooth and effortless, which I was a bit concerned about because my travel partner is not a U.S. citizen, and I wasn't sure if things were going to be more problematic because of that. But they just made a copy of his green card and off we went to the welcome lunch buffet on the Lido deck. This is pretty typical of most cruises, to have this lunch buffet to keep people occupied whilst their rooms are being tidied up. The buffet food was fairly mediocre that first day, which is also pretty typical of most cruise ships.
Our cabin was quite small compared to other outside cabins I have had in the past. But heck, we spend so little time there, it doesn't really matter. Amenities in the cabin have all but disappeared -- no pen or paper or lotion or sewing kit or ship postcards. Shampoo comes out of a dispenser and you do get small generic soap. Don't expect hot water on the first or last day. (Sad, but true.) Our cabin steward was quite friendly, and the stewards on this ship still practice the old art of towel animals!
Our cabin was on the Promenade Deck (Deck 7), which is not the ideal spot for an Oceanview Cabin because you can't really see the sea all that well. However, it was not noisy with traffic as I feared, although there was a bit of concern a few times about privacy!
Sadly, a seaplane went down off the coast of Miami Beach that afternoon, tragically killing 20 people. The Coast Guard closed the port and our ship, along with the Carnival Fascination and Imagination, were trapped in the port for an additional 25 hours. So we missed going to Nassau altogether, which really disappointed people rather badly, including ourselves, as that appeared to be the only really good port included on our itinerary, and had the best shopping as well! None of us knows for certain whether RCL could have rescheduled us for Nassau the following day (speculations abound), so I can't be too upset at them for skipping on to CocoCay. In order to keep us happy and occupied, during our additional day in Miami's port, RCL arranged for two tour options, as well as providing each of us with $100 shipboard credit to mollify us. (Sadly, some people on board refused to be mollified and complained bitterly.) My partner and I took a tour of the Everglades on an airboat, which was pretty interesting, I'd never seen "terrain" like that. The alligators did not appear amused by our presence.
That evening we watched the "Boogie Wonderland" opening show and were very impressed by the music and choreography, which was not as oriented toward old fuddy-duddies as I worried it might be, having avoided all cruise ship shows in the past. The food in the dining room (Maytime) was pretty good, although they no longer offer distinct 5-course meals as they used to -- they now try to combine soups and appetizers into one course, which I refuse to do, ordering both soup and appetizer. Our waiter was not very good, not introducing himself and being rather curt throughout the entire cruise, which is a first, I've always had very friendly waiters. Our assistant waiter was very nice, though, and got extra tip as a result. We wondered if we got less attention from waiters because the two of us, a couple, were at a table by ourselves.
We finally departed on Dec. 20th at 6:00 pm. Seas were very smooth during the entire trip, which was particularly nice considering my partner was new to sailing. Weather was cloudy and a bit drizzly most of the trip, and Key West was actually chilly while we were there! So in the Winter, the Bahamas might not always be the best bet -- for guaranteed nice weather, head down to the Southern Caribbean.
Day 2 was CocoCay, which is a very nicely accommodated private beach with absolutely GORGEOUS snorkeling. If you can, definitely bring your own snorkeling equipment and totally ignore their "rule" that you need to rent $6 life vests. No one enforces the rule at all, so if you're a relatively decent swimmer (or, like me, know how to float), don't bother, just head out. There are tons of really pretty fish and the lifeguards feed them while you are there, so the fish might end up nibbling on you!
Lunch on CocoCay was a bit better than I'd expected, especially considering that RCL doesn't offer a sit-down lunch on board any more. They had spare ribs, which were good, and lots of veggie salads, which were also very good. Also typical hamburgers and hot dogs.
The night after CocoCay offered something I was especially looking forward to -- the Chocolate Midnight buffet. Boy was that a disappointment!! They should have called it the "Leftover Dessert Buffet." Very little chocolate, except for drizzle over some of the desserts and ice cream. Within half an hour they had run out of strawberries for dipping,so we missed that completely. Basically, if you are a true chocoholic, bring chocolate with you on the trip and don't bother staying up.
Next day was Key West. We had been warned by previous reviews about the long wait to get through Immigration, but luckily, the ship allowed us to disembark as soon as we, individually, had cleared immigration. Here's a wonderful little tip if you are traveling with someone NOT American - go through immigration with the foreigners. Their line is much much shorter. The line for Americans stretched out of the lounge where it was being done, down the hallway to the opposite end of the ship, and then up the stairway. Some people did not get off the ship until noon. (The ship offered free drinks during the immigration process to draw some people out of the line temporarily!)
In Key West, we took a snorkeling excursion out to the "largest reef in North America." All I can say to you prospective cruisers is DO NOT TAKE THIS SHORE EXCURSION!!!!!!!!! It was horrible horrible horrible!! THe water is cloudy and the reef is already half dead and there are very few fish that you can barely see. It was cold and wavy and although we had the option to stay in the water for an hour, I think we stayed in 15 minutes even though we are normally avid snorkelers. 49 dollars wasted (each), luckily, we used the shipboard credit. (I would have been better off ordering a lot of pina coladas!)
Shopping in Key West was also disappointing, with very few interesting shops selling very overpriced souvenirs. Best thing we bought was a long sleeved t-shirt because it was so chilly. Many of the souvenirs here can be purchased in Miami for half the price.
Disembarkation was a long wait in a lounge watching dumb tv. Once we were called to get off, however, it was quite rapid.
Overall, the food on the ship was a disappointment compared to Princess cruises of 10 years ago. (They had Italian chefs who were quite good! This one had a Chef from India, for what it's worth. Try the Indian food!) Entertainment was pretty good. The Love and Marriage game is hilarious, as is the "Scavenger" Hunt (sit in the front row if you plan to play!!!) The Rock Climbing wall was a lot of fun and not too busy. We didn't use the pools or hot tub -- hot tubs were often full of children. This was quite a mix of people on this cruise, both ethnically, and in ages and family sizes. Children are generally kept occupied and out of people's way, thank goodness.
Crew were generally quite friendly except for our one waiter and the purser's desk, who all seem to be quite curt (as people who deal with complaints tend to get over time!)
All in all, if you can get a good price and are not going for the food, the Majesty of the Seas is a nice ship. We paid circa $450 for the cruise plus $180 for airfare, minus the $100 credit, but don't think we would pay any more than that. Have a great trip!