Majesty of the Seas January 16- 19th 2004 Pre-cruise Planning
Like any good sequel, the roots for our cruise planning started the day we returned home from our seven day western Caribbean cruise on Voyager of the Seas. This planning was aided by getting "bumped" from our flight home to a later flight giving us free airfare and cutting the cruise cost in half. In the middle of summer we thought about the depths of winter and a three day holiday. Martin Luther King Day was the first that came to mind for us. This review will cover in depth our cruise on Majesty of the Seas January 16- 19th 2004 departing out of Miami with stops in Coco Cay and Nassau, Bahamas.
Before we start I wanted to take some time to tell you a little about ourselves and the perspective that we would be using for our review. I am 34 years old and a Computer network administrator for a local school district. My wife is 33 and a Dental hygienist who works in a very modern office. We also have a four year old daughter. We had made a decision not to take our daughter with us on Voyager due to her age and at the prompting of both sets of grandparents who took care of her half the week each much to her over indulged delight. Six months out when we booked, we hemmed and hawed about taking her on this cruise and in the end felt like this cruise would be a "quickie" and decided that she would have more fun at home. To that end, we tried to streamline the process of getting to the ship, activities on the ship and getting back as well planned as possible. One of the main sources of information I had used for our Voyager cruise was the Cruise Critic boards, which had been very helpful. I found with the exception of one or two helpful Majesty veterans there was not a wealth of information to be found on this particular ship or its destinations. That is why I am writing this review.
As we approached our departure date our plans for our daughter started to unravel. My wife's mother, an avid cruiser, passed away suddenly in early December making for a difficult and sad time for our family. My stepmother was also having some surgery and medical problems and with this added pressure, communication between us became strained. To our relief my brother and sister in-law who had accompanied us on our Voyager cruise, were happy to take care of our daughter. She would also spend the day with both grandfathers. We did explore taking her with us on the cruise. At this late date, the cruise would have been almost $900 cruise and airfare. I left the airport mumbling about her just being four and said "What? For that kind of money she should be able to fly the plane." We had decided up front to forgo any hard sided luggage and go all carry on (official real carry on luggage, one bag each). We skipped any formal clothes and just brought smart causal, our only worry would be our table mates and we brought a bottle of wine to smooth over any problems. We also brought our own snorkels and masks, the first two Harry Potter books and books for my wife. All in all I felt we had packed all that we would need and not a stitch more.
Our plan was to Snorkel and sit on the beach in Coco Cay and shop and do Atlantis "The Dig" in the Bahamas.
Day One - "Holy Cow it's cold"
The first day of out trip seems to always start the night before. Having cleaned the house, packed, contacted every one with "in case the ship sinks" information and planned everything out for the morning, we headed over to a local restaurant with my brother and sister in-law to treat them to dinner. After dinner we headed to the market pick up some travel snacks and treats for our daughter when I noticed the van was not quite driving correctly. We stopped to get some gas and discovered the front driver's side tire has deflated and had come off its rim. We called a tow truck and sat and waited for help to arrive. (Now before you get the wrong idea I am pretty handy and although have never changed a tire on the van and when I looked for the spare it was not where I expected it to be but I would not have let that stop me. What stopped me was the fact it was -8 degrees out with a wind chill of -25). When the tow truck driver arrived he also had no interest in changing the tire either so we just towed it. In the end you can add picking up the van and putting gas in it to my brother in-law's list of good deeds for the weekend.
January 16, 2004 -Weather Albany -10° with a wind chill of -35 to -55 Miami 70° light clouds
Four thirty in the morning came really early after the night's excitement. We watched as school after school closed due to the cold. Then we headed off to the airport. Since we only had carry on we skipped the line and did the self check in. We had no problems getting through airport security except they did look twice at the bottle of wine. We didn't use any locks or zip ties, I did not have to take off my shoes. We boarded and we were off to Charlotte then Miami. Once in Miami we scooted past the luggage carrousel and right into a waiting cab. Once at the ship we filled out our Bahamas immigration forms and went right to check in with no line. We were cheerfully greeted and quickly processed. Then we boarded and started searching for our cabin (4565) on deck four the same level as our dining room and boarding area. The cabin we found and once we got over the initial shock of sleeping in a closet (These cabins are small, that is no secret 117sq ft to compare them with other ships of the line would be unfair, just be aware) we also were surprised to find no safe or mini fridge. The soda and water were just stacked on the desk. The bathroom was equally small and we finally found one of the infamous shower curtains that people mention on the Cruise Critic boards. All that being said we found the cabin to be fine for sleeping and getting ready for dinner. I could see if you had to spend a lot of time in there because of the weather it could be too small.
After changing we went off to explore the ship. We also meet our Cabin attendant Ivan from St. Vincent. We quickly discovered the only way to traverse large areas of the ship would be by the stairs (Which thankfully went both up and down, Thanks Rico) we went to the Centrum where we purchase soda cards $18 per person and checked on our dinner table and menu. Then off to the Windjammer for some lunch. We didn't see anything that varied from the traditional RCI fare, but everything was good. We shot up to the pool deck and took in the sun; there are two large pools with kid pools attached and two hot tubs (which were closed). Wondering why no one was swimming yet, I dipped a foot in a discovered that they were a wee bit on the cold side. That would be the theme for water on the boat and on the islands; I would do some swimming but not today. We then sought out the gym, Schooner bar and theater. My first overall impression of this ship is that it is showing it's age, stained & ripped carpet, dents in the walls, tape hanging from the ceilings and an overall out dated theme that is right out the early 90's. Did that ruin my vacation? No, it did not; we took the ship on face value. It's smaller than many and a little out dated which also means less people on the cruise and a sense of the history of RCI and its fleet. The shops and casino were closed while we were in port, something to remember because you are usually in port during the days on the trip.
Before dinner we had the compulsory muster drill. I found it strange how many people were taken completely by surprise when the drill started, though RCI had made three announcements and left detailed instructions on the bed. We mustered in area 10 which happened to be the bar, so we got to sit down and relax while the rest of the ship sweated outside. We met our neighbors there and found out it was her birthday and first cruise. After the drill we went up to the bow of the boat to watch the ship pull out, only to be thwarted by Captain Kristofferson announcing that the pilot was stuck in traffic and we would be running late. After taking time to explaining to a fellow cruiser that it was not the pilot that flew her plane here but the harbor pilot that was running late. We got ready for dinner and headed off for the Mikado dinning room where we met our dining companions. I think this was the only trepidation that my wife had on the trip. It would turn out that we were seated with some wonderful people. Our tablemates would be Bob and his wife Jill from Wisconsin; they were on their 7th cruise, the other couple was Dave and his wife Connie from Pennsylvania they were on their 3rd cruise. It was also Connie's 40th Birthday on Saturday the formal night. Our waiter was Mustafa from Turkey and our assistant waiter was Jose from Argentina. We will rate the service on a one through six scale; everyone will start at three and move up and down from there. We feel very strongly about tipping and dining in the dining room. I was anxious to see if the reports of Tip night flu would come to pass. I will also say that the staff works very hard and unless I run across a total lack of caring, they will get the full tip they deserve and usually more. We quickly discovered that Jose was in training and we just hoped that the glasses that he broke every other night don't come out of his pay.
The first night of the cruise was Venetian night at dinner I had Strawberry bisque, a Caesar salad, and the Ranch steak. I also had Chocolate cake for dessert. I enjoyed the soup, bread and salad. The Ranch steak was my choice because I am having some problems with red sauces. I found this steak to be some what chewy (I have had a very good Ranch steak on Voyager; it may have just been this piece of meat.) The biggest disappointment was the Warm Chocolate cake; it was dry and flavorless I could not even eat enough of it to get to the chocolate center. My wife had the Roasted Garlic soup (very good) the Caesar salad (typical), the Shrimp Scampi (excellent and much anticipated) and the Warm Chocolate Cake (see above). We used our soda cards in the dinning room so Jose brought us a couple of cokes. (Jose had to be prompted to bring soda and refills.) During this night we also endured the photo with the pirate, and a song from the wait staff, the song would have been fine if not for the music that was too loud to hear any singing. We finished the dinner with a discussion of the next day's plans and went off to explore.
First day ratings: Waiter - 2 (Mustafa was harried and stressed, mostly with working with Jose). Assistant Waiter - 3 (Broken glasses and all he is just trying to learn). Head waiter -3 (Introduced himself). Cabin Attendant -3 (Solid job keeping things clean).
We moved on to the welcome aboard show. This is where we met Rico the cruise director who was very high energy. We also were treated to "The beat goes on" a song and dance show covering music from the 1950's to 1990's Main stream pop. The show consisted of four singers two girls, two guys and a troupe of dancers. It was not Broadway, but it was entertaining and a comfortable theater. We enjoyed the show & drinks from the Schooner bar. After the show we went up for a walk on deck and retired to our cabin for some much needed sleep. We found our cabin clean and with a stingray on the bed for those of you not in the know that means "welcome home, from RCI."
Day Two - "This champagne tastes ...."
January 17, 2004 - Weather Albany 24° Cloudy Coco Cay 79° Sunny
Six fifteen in the morning is too soon also, now before you get all "hey you're on vacation sleep in for heaven sakes." My wife and I are a little over weight, we were not going to let vacationing get in the way of getting back down to a more comfortable weight. Our first stop: the gym and two treadmills. If I was a fitness expert I might give the fitness center a rating but for our purpose it worked just fine. After ½ hour we moved through the crowd of skinny people who were waiting for the fat people to get done with the treadmill (In the next installment I will let you in on how the treadmill people docked the ship in Nassau.) We did a couple cool down laps and headed right for Windjammer where we enjoyed a moderate breakfast out on the top deck. We watched the sunrise over Coco Cay. After breakfast we took the stairs down to the cabin to get changed. Let Ivan know about the toilet (When it refilled it came right up to the top of the bowl so when sat down it was more like a bidet, No Rico we did not get a feel for if it was fresh or salt water). We shot down the stairs to deck one and on to the first tender. The tender went over to Coco Cay with mostly the crew, staff and us. We made a right turn on the island and went right into the shops where we managed to surprise the shop keepers and hair braiders. We picked out a dress for our daughter and left with a new found respect for Caribbean shop keepers (SO, much different than Jamaica where we will never shop again). We then moved down to the beach and staked out two chairs tested the water (cold) and read for a while. After a 1/2 hour of that I wanted to go out snorkeling so I braved the cold water and was rewarded by crystal clear water and reefs teeming with life. It also helped that I was the only person in the water. Being the only person in the water I did get a little concerned when I saw what I believe was a barracuda swimming along. I looked at him and him at me and we just kept on swimming. Finally reaching the raft and wreck of an airplane, where one of the singers from the show/ lifeguard offered to feed the fish for me. A school of fish moved in and out of the airplane and all can say is it was well worth the trip. Returning to the beach my wife and I decided to explore the island. Using our soda cards for some refreshment, we followed the path around the island. We went past a couple of nice beaches and a hammock area. Then as we moved to pass another group one of the girls squealed out "Of my god, he's naked" Well we had found the naked beach or to be more precise one naked sun bather a gentleman about my size sunning it all. All I can say is dude, unlike the airplane reef "It" wasn't worth the trip. We reversed course and decided to join the buffet line. The food was plentiful and the lines were short. Again we didn't see anything that varied from the traditional RCI fare, but everything was good. We were intrigued by the roosters and chickens pecking around the picnic grounds. Around one o'clock we packed up and headed back to the ship. If you're a fan of just the ship, this crossing provides for the best pictures I think you can get of Majesty.
We changed and showered and ran into our neighbors. We mentioned we were going to check out the art auction and they came along. We went to the preview and tagged a couple of things we liked. Jason the auctioneer gave us a preview of the prices of the pieces we had picked out. As we waited for the champagne to come we moved some tags over to some other hopefully less expensive paintings. As the champagne was passed out our neighbor was heard to say "This champagne taste like ^$$." Well it may not have been all that good, but it was free. We did not bid on anything mainly because the one time a piece of art work came up for bid in the range we could afford and I liked it, my wife had already left to get ready for dinner. Without her help I could not lift that heavy bid card by myself. The art auction was informative and exciting, plus you walk away with a little piece of art work which I think looks good. Our neighbors bid on a couple blind bids and won a necklace from the shopping supervisor. They went back to the cabin to celebrate her birthday. Speaking of which we found that there were a lot of anniversary, birthdays and family reunions groups on this ship, I would think at those cruise prices that would be a great get together.
After quickly showering we went off for dinner with our wine in hand. Formal night I wore a polo shirt with khaki pants and sandals. I am unsure as to what elicited more stares my attire or the bottle of wine (I have purchased wine on RCI before a solid but unremarkable white zinfandel. We did not mind paying for it. We decided to bring the wine which at the last minute and were very happy with our choice which was more our speed). Arriving at the table we made comments on how nice everyone looked, and right away Dave loosened then removed his tie, we poured the wine and everyone was off telling the stories of their day. We notice that Jose had made some strides and was feeling more comfortable, which in turn allowed Mustafa to be able to spend more time with each of his tables and allow his charm to shine through. Tonight having eaten in the afternoon I skipped the appetizers, had a Caesar salad (good) and the NY strip steak (Very good) and I tried the Cheese Cake for dessert. (There were other entrEe choices that I could have had I was just in a beef mood all weekend). My wife had the Lobster Bisque (excellent) Caesar salad (typical), the New York Strip steak (a solid choice) and skipped dessert (nothing appealed to her). We talked for awhile and then went our separate ways. My wife and I, after shopping in the Centrum, where she got her inch of gold anklet from Voyager repaired/replaced, moved on to the casino. The casino on Majesty is very busy and seems to have its fair share of winners. For a while we played nickel slots; we were just not destined to win that night.
Second day ratings: Waiter - 4 (Spent time at every table and even scraped the table for us). Assistant Waiter - 4 (This would be his best effort). Head waiter -2 (Did not see him). Cabin Attendant -4 (The toilet was fixed and the room was clean).
We went to the cabin to relax and nap until the midnight buffet. The buffet which was on the pool deck was a good assortment of food. If you are expecting that creativity and amount that is available on the bigger ships you will be disappointed. The crowd seemed to be excited and happy with the choices. We can not speak to the food though because we left without eating; food that late would keep us up and we wanted to get an early start. I would also like to address the "trash" problem on the ship; we would run into bottles and glasses and food plates all over the ship, I never saw enough staff members cleaning up and on the flip side I think we should make an effort to move "trash" to where it can be found not to the smallest nook and cranny of the ship. You carried it down there bring it back up. We found our cabin clean and with a Lobster on the bed and went to sleep.
Day Three - "I just got propositioned by a lady on a hover round"
January 18, 2004 - Weather Albany 31° Cloudy Nassau, Bahamas 81° Sunny
Up at six fifteen, again, in the morning and off to the gym. On to the treadmills, we were soon joined by a couple of other people we were treated to a rare view as the gym looks out over the back of the ship and we were backing into the dock in Nassau. As the lady next to me started to falter I hit upon the idea that we six on the treadmills were pushing the ship in to the dock and we had to finish. This seemed to perk everyone's spirits up. We finished docking the ship and moved down to the Windjammer and ate breakfast on the deck. After a quick shower we shot down to deck one and into Nassau. Our first stop was the Straw market where not only did we take most of the vendors by surprise; we were treated to a church service in the front of the market; after all it was Sunday. We took advantage after the service to tour (Most vendors were eating breakfast). We treated the vendors and their merchandise with respect and were able to get not only the early bird special also the first customer of the day discount. We picked up a couple t-shirts, straw hats and dresses for my daughter. After exiting we walked down to the Parliament Square stopping at shops along the way. Then around 10 o'clock we walked to Atlantis, Yes you heard correctly, Walked. It took a while but what a beautiful day and challenging walk. We did get some great photos of the harbor from the top of the bridge. We reached Atlantis and went in marveling at the beauty of the building. We passed through the casino and looked around for the dig. I had read that they were tightening up the areas you could get into if you were not a guest. The dig was $25 per person. We passed on the dig: I know it is most likely worth every penny but we wanted to spend the money on other things, like lunch. We flagged down a cab, you're crazy if you thought we would be walking back, and headed to the Green Shutters pub. Finding the pub closed (it's Sunday) we moved down to Senor Frogs where my wife and I had some Tex-Mex food and watched the festivities. The food was good and the views and people were just a riot to watch. After lunch we decided to go back to the boat and rest by the pool. We collected up our books and headed to the pool. I took a quick dip in the pool and then off to the hot tubs. (Just a note on the only two hot tubs they were not open in or out of the port of Miami, or at night after dinner. I found that very disappointing.) My wife and I were just sitting down to read when a woman on a hover round rolled up and gave us her cards and asked us if we wanted to make more money. It was some kind of scheme I am sure I will be seeing on Dateline (NBC) soon. She moved on but not without giving my wife and me a bad taste in our mouths, which we promptly washed out with strawberry daiquiris. After resting for a while on deck we went down to the Schooner bar to watch the Colts vs. Pats playoff game. An informed and likeable crowd ( With the exception of one over indulgent girl who not only was drinking too much, she let us all know about her 36c's which in the event of the ship sinking could be used as a flotation devices. You know I'm all for being friendly with people but her friends really needed to reel her in) formed and sat and watched undeterred by the drink waiters trying to move anyone who was not drinking along. RCI did provide small cups of goldfish crackers, but like many there I would have drank more if I had some food to go along with it. After a heart breaking Colts loss we dressed and went to dinner. Tonight for the appetizer I had Ox tail soup (Very good), I also had a Caesar salad (good) and the prime rib (Good). I really thought about the turkey dinner. I wanted to try it to have in my review but I just could not bring myself to order Thanksgiving. I had the Brownie Sunday for dessert (good). My wife passed on the appetizer, the Caesar salad (typical), the Prime Rib (excellent) and the Baked Alaska (average; not quite as good as I had hoped). We said good bye to our table mates for the last time after taking some pictures.
Final ratings: Waiter - 6 (Spent time at every table and did something special for us with the chef). Assistant Waiter - 3 (Went back to hurried & forgetful, still in training though). Head waiter -1 (Stopped by for his tip) (On Voyager Asif our head waiter was attentive and informed, also willing to help in the main dinning and any other dining space). Cabin Attendant -5 (The room was clean & we asked for red departure tags and he came through).
We then spent some time shopping and picking up our pictures. (The photo area is a mad house as they are extremely unprepared for the onslaught of people. I think it has more to do with the space than the staff who was patient beyond belief.) We then went to the final show which was "Ralph" Jeff the Juggler. Jeff Harris "is a uniquely talented performer whose original juggling and comedy show has dazzled audiences around the globe." That is what his website says. I am ashamed to say I heckled the juggler. At the start of his act our cruise director Rico misspoke and called Jeff -Ralph Harris, which threw him off slightly giving the audience an opportunity to get into to his style of act, he took it all in stride and performed a show that I very much enjoyed, and "Ralph if you ever read this review sorry about the flash photo". You had to be there. We finished up the evening with a walk on the top deck. Off to bed.
Day Four - "I'll just let them wand me"
January 19, 2004 - Weather Albany 10° Snow Showers Miami 75° Overcast
We didn't get up to the gym on the last day due to it being closed, but we were up at six fifteen as were a fair amount of guests. We finished packing and showered, headed to the Mikado for breakfast. We had never been to the main dinning room for breakfast, and now we know why. It takes forever for breakfast; the ordering, waiting and with ten at a table it just is so slow. They called four colors while we were waiting including red. We did sit with some nice people from Texas and Atlanta but we should have just gone to Windjammer. After breakfast we picked up our luggage, checked the room one last time and left the ship. We waited for a while in line, then hopped into a cab and sped off to the airport. At the airport we got our tickets and got in line for security. In front of me in line was a girl who had a significant jewelry collection on. She asked the TSA agent if she needed to remove it all and he replied "I'd just let them wand me you'll be okay". The last I saw of her after I got through was a large female TSA agent walking her into a private room with no shoes; no jewelry, in only her under shirt, her pockets turned out and a bewildered look on her face. We moved down to our gate and waited for the plane and a possible bump. We did get bumped again but this time only up to first class for half of the trip home. I never thought I would be disappointed flying first class. We will have to save up for airfare and a cruise some time in 2005-6.
My final thoughts on Majesty of the Sea, which is scheduled for an overhaul this spring would be: I believe a cruise is what you make of it and Majesty gives you the chance to make it special. I think the crew could use a boost in the "go out of your way for the guest" column (With the exception of Mustafa). The ship is a little on the tired side but you are only there for three days and you can keep so busy you won't notice. The crowd was diverse with 20 something's mingling with 60 something's with everyone having fun. I am happy to report that the dinning room was full and there was no outbreak of "no tip" flu, the water in the cabin was not brown and no one fell off of the boat.