Myself and my sister-in-law just returned from our first ever cruise aboard Royal Caribbean's Majesty of the Seas. I'm 39 and she's 51. I was a little worried because I kept reading reviews about the Majesty being an old ship and run-down, but nothing could be further from the truth. I guess that if you have cruised on brand-new ships that the Majesty would seem a little older, but for me, it was absolutely splendid!
We had a very early flight Monday morning (Memorial Day) and as soon as we went to baggage claim at the Ft. Lauderdale airport, we saw people holding Royal Caribbean signs. They immediately ushered us to a Greyhound bus and at 11:30 a.m. we were off! When the bus was ready to leave, our driver announced that the Majesty was ready to let us board when we got to the port and that we should head on up to the Windjammer Cafe for lunch and that our rooms would be ready at 1:00. Round-trip transfers to/from the Ft. Lauderdale airport were $50...quite worth it since we didn't really have to do anything except sit back and enjoy (I believe they said round-trip to/from the Miami airport was either $25 or $28). He also informed us that, in case we were curious, the largest ship in the world, Freedom of the Seas, was docked right next to us in Miami. I was thinking that our old little ship would look even worse sitting next to the Freedom, but not so! I was thoroughly impressed with my first glimpse of the Majesty. Though I must admit.....Wow!....the Freedom is one big fancy ship! I think there were either 6 or 7 decks of balcony rooms.
Since we got there so early (about 12:00 noon), we walked right in and up to the counter and were aboard within about 15 minutes. This is where we first saw the photographers that you will see a lot of during your cruise. They are everywhere! We didn't have our picture taken as we embarked because I'd heard how expensive the pictures are, but now I wish we had. Most of the pictures at each port were $6.95. The formal pictures were 8x10 and were $19.95. I ended up spending about $75 on photos, but they were so good, I couldn't resist! I'd recommend smiling and having your picture taken whenever the opportunity presents itself, because you aren't at all obligated or pressured into buying any at all. In fact, once they take your picture, you never speak to anyone else again. You just go to deck 3 and look at them yourself, buying only what you want. We had lunch and by the time we were done, our room was ready and we'd changed into our swimsuits. We got in a good 3 hours of lounging/pool time before we even sailed out of Miami!
SHIP: I can't believe anyone would have anything really negative to say about this ship. Everything was brass and glass and sparkling clean. I didn't see any worn carpet or chipped wood, but the bathroom in the cabin was in need of refurbishing (which I understand will happen in early 2007 when the Majesty is dry-docked). The Centrum area and boutiques, dining rooms, decks and lounges were spotless and ultra-beautiful, if you ask me! People were cleaning and shining constantly. Our dinnertime tablemates were all also first-time cruisers and they were just as impressed with the entire ship as we were! There is great shopping on the ship, too! The 2nd night of our cruise offered the grand unveiling of their new $10 store and chains by-the-inch, starting at $1 per inch. Everything in the $10 store was...you guessed it....$10. There were a ton of great buys! Also, if you want small souvenirs, the gift shop has Key West, Royal Caribbean, and Bahamas key chains and fridge magnets 3 for $5.
STATEROOM: I think the Majesty's interior staterooms are the smallest in the industry, from what I understand. Ours was 119 square feet, and when I walked it off at home I was wondering how we'd manage with a closet, desk, two beds and a bathroom! I had told my sister-in-law to be prepared for a closet-sized room, so I was pleasantly surprised when we opened the door to our stateroom. Small? Yes. Too small? No way! There was a decent sized closet, little shelves and nooks and crannies all over the room, desk and bathroom, and plenty of room for storage under the beds (for luggage, shoes, whatever). We would have been comfortable with 3 in the room, but 4 people might have gotten a little crowded. But to be honest, to save money, I'd cram 4 in there and we'd be happy little campers! We were told that we would not have a safe in our room and that we could use a safe at the Purser's desk....but check your room first! Our room did, in fact, have a safe that you could set your own electronic 4-digit combination to. We were on deck 6 and only felt the ship move the 2nd night for about 10 minutes before we fell asleep. It was so slight, that we weren't even sure that was what we were feeling. A couple of times we felt a little vibration, but someone said this is when we were first starting up and leaving a port. We both wore the prescription Scopalamine patches behind our ears, just in case, and never once got even slightly nauseous.
POOL: We loved hanging out by the pool, but on the upper deck. No matter how hot it was, the cool breeze made it quite comfortable. There were always plenty of lounge chairs for everyone and this was a sold-out cruise. Island music playing constantly, either in the form of recorded music or a live band. The pool water was quite warm and clean and there were so many available chairs that you didn't have to worry about anyone moving your stuff.
ACTIVITIES: There was always something to do! I would have been happy staying on the ship the whole time instead of getting off at the ports (well, except CocoCay, that is!) We saw a belly flop contest, conga-lines and limbo contests, broadway-type shows, Karaoke, the Love and Marriage Game and The Quest Adult Scavenger hunt....and there was plenty that we missed, too! I would HIGHLY HIGHLY HIGHLY recommend seeing the Love and Marriage Game show and the The Quest. They were both hilarious. The Quest is even more fun if you plan on participating!
SERVICE: Our room steward was quite on top of things. I swear we couldn't leave our room for anything without him coming in and straightening up! I mean it....we'd leave to go somewhere and be gone 10 minutes, forget something, run back to the room and everything was neatened up! Of course, the towel animals were just as anticipated (they even wore my sunglasses or prescription glasses!) Our head waiter left something to be desired. Everyone at our table thought the same thing....he seemed not to want to be there and seemed put out by our questions and requests. Our assistant waiter though, more than made up for Mr. Personality's manner. Every employee we came in contact with was friendly and ready to help out with anything you needed.
FOOD: If you are a soda or juice drinker, I highly recommend the $6/day soda card that gives you unlimited juices and sodas on the ship and while you are on CocoCay, otherwise you pay $1.75 plus tip for an 8 or 9 oz. cup. When you buy the card the first day they give you a souvenir thermal mug and put a Coke sticker on your SeaPass card. When you use the mug, you just hand it to them and tell them what you want in it. If you happen to be without your mug, just show them your SeaPass card and they'll give you a cup of whatever you want.
What can I say about the food? I'm a pretty picky eater and like things, well, like I like them. If anyone complains, they must be really really picky because I was impressed with all the food. Let's start with the negative since there's only two things. First of all, someone told me that you could have lobster at dinner....NOT! I asked the first evening and our waiter kind of smugly smiled and said "no" while looking at me like I was asking a ridiculous question. I asked about shrimp cocktail, which another person told me would be available, and he said "tomorrow". I did get my shrimp cocktail the night of the captain's dinner, but he thought I was nuts when I asked for melted butter and lemon for it (I don't like cocktail sauce). I also had escargot that night, which was yummy! In fact, everything I ate was very good. The only other negative aspect was the Midnight Chocolate Buffet. If you're not in line 30 minutes before it starts, don't bother getting in line. They ran out of everything and we got one chocolate truffle-type thing and two chocolate-covered strawberries. Unfortunately, it's not totally the cruise lines fault. I could not believe the people I saw carrying heaping up plates of strawberries and other desserts. There is no way in the world that they could eat it all without getting sick and they made it so that many of us either waited in line a hour for nothing or showed up and the line was closed. The sickening part was that when we went to our rooms, there were plates in the hallways by people's room that were still full of desserts that they hadn't eaten. I know they were throwing away more than they ate.
In regard to some of the food, I've occasionally had better, but it was all very very very good! The mashed potatoes were great and I asked for them every night! You could have as much as you want and order different things if you wanted to try something else. One thing that I really enjoyed was that the dinner menu was totally different each night. I had prime rib, garlic tiger shrimp, soups, salads, mahi mahi tempura and pastas. I had the best sugar-free dessert I've ever had in my life because it sounded so good...it was a sugar-free vanilla coconut layer cake. Two people at my table ordered it and there was no way you could tell it was sugar-free! The lunch buffet was very good, as well as the daily breakfast buffet (both in the Windjammer). The made-to-order omelets were wonderful! We also discovered the pizza up in the Mast Bar that wasn't gourmet, but there weren't any complaints from me! The last evening we discovered that if you go into the smaller bars, they usually have a buffet warmer with finger foods too, like mini egg rolls, quiche and sausages. I'm surprised I didn't gain weight while I was there!
Room service is the way to go if you are hungry and the restaurants are between meals. The room service food is free and you just tip the delivery person a couple of bucks. We had hot dogs, cheesecake, potato chips and fruit. It was all very good! After so many "fancy" dinners, I was dying for a hot dog and it hit the spot!
PORTS OF CALL:
Key West - Not my favorite place, but I think it was because it was so hot! We went on the Trolley tour, but it was so hot it was miserable. We didn't get off because we just wanted to get back to the ship! Everything was rather crowded, but it was interesting! I tried conch fritters (pronounced CONK), but didn't like the spiciness. I ended up feeding them to the roosters that were running around wild. My other goal in Key West was to get some key lime pie, which I did....heavenly! I didn't get the chocolate dipped pie on a stick, but our dinner tablemates said it was delicious! I did find a lot of reasonably priced souvenirs and quality low-price T-shirts! Most people really enjoyed Key West, but since we aren't really into partying and the bars, it really wasn't the place for us.
Nassau, Bahamas - We did not have any shore excursions planned, and as soon as we got off the ship we were assailed by tour guides. One Bahamian offered us a private tour of Nassau, the "upper-class" area, Paradise Island and Atlantis, and everything in between. He said it would be $150 for just the two of us in his private limousine and that it would take about 90 minutes. He said we could pay when we were all done. Since we didn't have anything planned and my sister-in-law walks slowly and with a cane, we decided to take him up on it. I've seen many modes of transportation that were considered "limousines" so I was curious what we'd be riding in. He walked us over to a spotless white stretch limo and, just as he said, he took us everywhere, and narrated through a two-way intercom system the whole time. Traffic was utterly horrible and he said it was because there were too many cars on the island and that they were talking about limiting the number of car sales because it just keeps keeting more and more packed. Our 90 minute tour took about 2-1/2 hours, so it's a good thing we began right when we got off the ship, or we might have missed the boat leaving! He took us past all the public and government buildings, the "ritzy" house area, the very poor area (where the income is only about $100 a week), the Queen's staircase, fort, and shopping (other than the Straw Market). He stopped at many of these places and let us get out and look around for as long as we wanted). The Atlantis was beautiful! He took us in and showed us everything and even got us into the Dig for free...just walked up to the person "guarding" the entrance, spoke a few words to them, and in we went. When we were done he said he'd drop us off wherever we wanted to go. Since we'd decided on traditional bahamian food, we asked to be dropped off at the fish fry at Arawak Cay and he said "excellent choice". It was only 4:15 on a Wednesday, but most of the restaurants were already closed. Our guide was surprised that they were closed but stayed with us until we found an open one, recommended the snapper at Goldie's and showed us where to catch the #10 jitney for $1.00 that would take us to the Straw Market, which was just a stone's throw away from the ship. The snapper was a whole deep fried fish with eyes and teeth and everything....and full of bones. The peas and rice that seem to come with everything was the best part of the meal. The corn was out of a can and served at room temperature (very weird...it was quite cold).
The Straw Market was not what I expected. They wouldn't leave you alone! Women came up to you and would be putting scarves or jewelry on you and trying to get you to buy it and wouldn't leave you alone. They'd actually get mad when you walked away. I did not like that at all. If you are looking for some small souvenirs or T-shirts, just wait and buy them on CocoCay. They have the same items for just a little bit more cost-wise, without the high-pressure sales.
CocoCay, Bahamas - My favorite part of the trip! It was stunningly beautiful and picture-postcard perfect! Plenty of lounge chairs for everyone! We took our own snorkel and mask (though we'd never been snorkeling before) and rented fins and the required vest for $17. We also rented the $10 beach mat which was well worth it. I highly recommend taking a waterproof wallet or something similar so that you don't have to leave your SeaPass card, money, medications, etc. by your chair. They sell these on the ship for $5.50. We saw many colorful fish and it was quite exhilarating to be able to say we'd been snorkeling in the Bahamas! The BBQ buffet lunch provided by Royal Caribbean was very good. There was hot dogs, hamburgers, BBQ chicken and ribs, potato salad, coleslaw, corn, fresh fruit, cookies and more (but I can't remember the other stuff). I'm not much of a drinker, so I thought they put too much alcohol in their drinks. I got one of their frozen CocoLoco's and it tasted like pure rum. Next I had a "virgin" strawberry daiquiri and it was great! I spent the day drinking my free sodas with my soda-card. The Straw Market on CocoCay was beautiful, colorful, and quite picturesque, not at all like the one in Nassau. No high-pressure sales. On the far left side of the beach there was a man who climbed a palm tree and cut down the golden color coconuts. I watched him and then saw him and another guy cut the top off and drink what was inside. They asked me if I wanted one and I said sure. He cut a hole in it and handed it to me and he said the coconut water was great. I love the fresh coconuts you buy in the grocery store, but YUCK! I smiled as I tried NOT to spit out the liquid, thanked them, and asked what they were doing with them. They were putting them in a big cooler and said they were taking them back to the crew on the ship who love to drink the coconut water. The rest of the coconut was not yet ripe for eating. If you are looking to have your hair braided, wait until you get to CocoCay. They have a hair-braiding area set up behind the straw market and the prices were reasonable. I didn't care for all the girls I saw running around with their entire heads braided with tons of colorful beads, but as I walked by one of the braiders, there was a young woman having five 3-4 inch braids put diagonally in the top of her head with five small natural shells near the crown. It was classy looking and only $25, so I said "what the heck" and got mine done just like hers. As requested, she left my bangs and it looked really good. My gosh, was it tight! I thought she was going to pull my hair out! I kept it in for 3 days after I got home, but by then my scalp was numb and it hurt, so I took it out. CocoCay was a wonderfully relaxing day! If I went on this same cruise again, I'd stay on the ship for all the ports except this one!
DISEMBARKATION: Okay.....this took a while! When they call your color luggage tag, it's kind of a hit or miss thing. Should you run to deck 4 and stand in line or do you go ahead to the Maytime dining room and sit down for a leisurely breakfast? Might as well wait, because you'll be waiting in line anyway. I thought the line on deck 4 that was backed up into the elevator area looked bad, but that was nothing compared to the line once you got off the ship and had to wait to go through customs! Of course, I don't think this is Royal Caribbean's fault...I'd guess that U.S. Customs staffs as many officers as they want, so the fact that they could have used more was probably the fault of Customs and not Royal Caribbean. We really lucked out, though. As I mentioned before, my sister-in-law walks with a cane and her big problem is that she can't stand very long. We got in line and I went up to the front and asked if there was a place she could sit and wait for me to make my wait through the line and then when I got near the door, she could join me. They said, "Oh, sure!" and sat her down in a wheelchair right up front. I was only in line about 2 minutes and hadn't yet moved an inch (I was still between the elevators and the purser's desk) and a woman came to me and said "come please". I followed her to the beginning of the line where another woman was waiting with my sister-in-law in the wheelchair. They said the line off the ship was much longer than what we were seeing and that they'd escort us. I felt guilty passing by all those people in that immensely long line. She took us right up to the customs counter, we did our thing, she took us to the elevator and down to the baggage claim area where a porter loaded our luggage and took us right to our bus to go back to the Ft. Lauderdale airport. I can see where the average person would be frustrated with trying to get off the ship, but it was easy for us.
I can't wait to plan our next cruise. Only this time, my husband will go with me. Oh, where to go, where to go! Kudos to Royal Caribbean, the Majesty of the Seas, and all the employees who made this such a remarkable vacation for us!