Quips, quirks, and biases
One of the great things about cruise vacations is that, in many cases, they are what you make of them. Because of that, I always like to include this little introductory section where I describe where I'm coming from, as context definitely colors any review. This was my 9th cruise on Royal Caribbean, and 19th cruise overall. I've been "loyal to Royal" lately because I like their ships, have received competitive pricing, enjoy the C&A perks, and enjoy the OBC I receive for NextCruise bookings. I made my booking directly through Royal Caribbean. Before leaving, I deemed this the "anti-me" cruise. I usually book at least 3 months out, I always fly in the day before the cruise leaves, and I've never gone stag.
I'm currently a graduate student, and I booked this cruise on a lark just over a week before its departure because a) the cruise rate was phenomenal ($189 for a single person in an OV cabin) b) the airfare was tolerable, and c) I needed a break from school (already, sheesh!). The fact that this cruise would push me into Diamond territory for my 10 day Panama Canal cruise on the Jewel in December played no factor at all ....
Normally I would never fly to my destination the day of the cruise, especially given the current state of bookings and airlines. However, given that I was leaving during the school year and had both school and work obligations, I was forced to choose between rushing/hoping to make a flight on Thursday afternoon from Indianapolis that needed to make a connection that would get me to Miami by around midnight or flying out early on Friday morning and, if everything went as planned with the flight an connection, making it to Miami at around 10:20 AM. I cranked the costs for hotels, flights, and transportation ... and also calculated the odds of making the Thursday flight ... and decided to fly out day-of. Because the first flight left at 6 AM out of Indianapolis, I used a Hotwire credit I had gotten from complaining out my last hotel for my cruise out of Newark and stayed at the Extended Stay America about a mile from the airport. My only luggage was a backpack that included my laptop and a few changes of clothes.
I had been monitoring the actual departure time for that 6AM flight for a week and had noticed that it had departed early each day except one where it unfortunately had a 5-hour delay. With a little trepidation (knowing I had a 48-minute connection in Atlanta), I arrived at the gate to find the plane there, along with the pilots and flight crew ... always a good sign. Boarding started as promised, and by 5:45, the plane was loaded ... but nothing else was happening. At 6:00, the pilot's door remained open, and from my isle seat, I could see them going through binders in the cockpit, at which point I started going through my contingency options (I had a list of numbers in my phone and planned on beating the rush Amazing Race-style, if necessary). At 6:05, an announcement was made apologizing for the delay, but there seemed to be "a slight malfunction of the safety equipment." At 6:12, the safety briefing started, only to get interrupted half-way through by a call from the cockpit. At 6:14, there was a loud clang. At 6:15, the pilot said that they had fixed "the door problem" (amazing how it changed in nature once it was fixed) and that we were ready to get underway. We pushed away from the gate at about 6:18 and had an uneventful flight from then on out (whew). Actually, after taking off 18 minutes late, we arrived 15 minutes early, which was definitely nice. In Atlanta, I of course had to switch terminals, and the gate had changed from what had printed on my ticket, so I'm glad I checked the screens before going heading anywhere. I arrived at the new gate with about 15 minutes to spare before boarding started on the flight to Miami. This flight proceeded without incident, and we arrived in Miami at 10:20, exactly as scheduled.
Transportation to the ship
I had not made any solid plans for getting to the ship from the airport. This was actually the first time I had ever needed to go directly to the ship from MIA. I knew that a cab would be a fixed price ($25+tip), but when I came out of the terminal I saw the SuperShuttle kiosk and decided to inquire as to their fee. It turns out that SuperShuttle charges $17/pp to get to the Port of Miami, with a promised wait time of "only 5-25 minutes." Since I was so early, I decided to go the SuperShuttle route, and my assigned shuttle actually arrived in about 3 minutes and there was only one other passenger onboard. We stopped at the next station for a few minutes but there were no takers, so the shuttle actually took off for POM instead of circling the airport a few more times (which I appreciated). The shuttle arrived at the cruise terminal at 10:50, and the terminal was effectively deserted except for porters.
Before entering the terminal, I sat down at a bench and dug through my bag to retrieve my SetSail Pass and passport. With these out, I breezed through the first line of security (zipping ahead of others doing their digging inside) and took the escalator upstairs to find a line in the holding area before the more stringent security check complete with metal detectors. I got in this line and waited until about 11:15 when they started letting through. I left everything in my backpack and was able to go through without removing my laptop (which I appreciated). I then headed to the priority check-in line for being Platinum and was immediately shown to an available agent. Check-in was painless (though the scanner was broken and would not read my passport), and by 11:30 I was in the Windjammer eating lunch ... which led to my only disappointment of the day ... no honey-stung chicken! My experiences with the chicken have ranged from very good to not-so-good, but it has been my first-day lunch staple for my 7 Royal Caribbean cruises in the past 2.5 years. The other offerings were very fine, but still ....
Day 2 - Coco Cay
I woke up at about 7 AM to see the Sovereign of the Seas passing us in the distance. We arrived at Coco Cay at around 8 AM, and tendering started at about 8:30, as promised in the Compass. The tendering announcements were actually kind of humorous, as it was repeated several times ... at 8:30, 9, 9:25, and 9:50. I went to the railing and saw that the tenders leaving the ship were fairly empty with most people, I'm guessing, preferring to sleep-in instead of wasting their first night sleeping on this short cruise.
I boarded a tender at about 11 to go to Coco Cay. By this time the tenders leaving the ship were fairly full. I boarded fairly late in that particular ship and had to wait about 10 minutes or so before we headed towards the island. It was about 11:30 by the time I stepped off the tender. By this time, many of the hammocks around the island were occupied, but there were a few open. The same was true of lounge chairs closest to the water, but there were more chairs open the further from the dock you roamed. I stopped at one of the bars to accomplish the only purpose I had for the day: buy a CocoLoco. With my drink in hand, I headed back to the tender and had to wait about 15 minutes for the almost entirely empty tender to return to the ship.
Activities were sparsely attended this day (and the next, actually). I went to a few things like Blongo Ball, trivia, and the soduku challenge. Dinner this night was formal, is it was the night of the Captain's Welcome Aboard reception.
Day 3: Nassau, Bahamas
Majesty was docked by about 8 AM, and passengers were cleared to leave soon after. There were several morning activities at 9 AM (walk-a-mile and the ping pong tournament) that were cancelled for lack of participants. I went ashore at around 9:30 only to find that most shops were closed until at least 10 AM. Past noon activities were better attended, as most people seemed to finish their day in Nassau early or not plan to get off the ship at all. This, the last night of the cruise, featured the production show (Signed, Sealed and Delivered), the repeater party (platinum and above), and the Quest.
The Majesty's crew seemed friendly as a whole. If I had to compare them, they seemed a little less outgoing in terms of little things like saying "Hello" in the hallway. I enjoyed my interactions with the cruise director's staff (Kevin and Justin). Evidently the cruise director on this cruise (Darren) was filling the position for just this one cruise, as the previous CD was taking the cruise as a "guest" in order to evaluate performance from a passenger perspective. I didn't go to any of the evening shows, so I can't say that I had much of an impression of Darren as a CD, though I guess I did meet him once on the pool deck and he shook my hand, so that's more interaction than I've had on most cruises (outside of events like the captain's party). My cabin attendant, Hurley, was very on-the-ball and always greeted me as "Mr. Christopher" when he saw me in the hallway.
I was in an OV cabin (5526) and, as always, the standard cabins are tiny. It was plenty of room for just me, of course, but I was very glad that I was on my own when it came to personal space. The refurbishment is evident, as the cabin and furnishings were all in great condition ... much in contrast to my most recent cabin on the Explorer that had walls and furniture full of gashes, cuts, and scrapes.
Because I booked so late, I was none of my dining requests could be accommodated. Instead of a big table at late seating (where I could talk to people without the expectation of being the lone person outside a group), I was given a four-top in early seating. Seeing as I tried to be economical in my packing (only brining a back-pack) and had planned on skipping formal night anyway, I went ahead and spent formal night in Johnny Rocket's while spending the other nights in the Windjammer. I thought that the food was decent in all venues, with dinner probably being the highlight. Breakfast was decent with the made-to-order eggs and omelets, but it was both expected/disappointing to see the horrible biscuits still on the buffet with watery gravy. As was also expected, I was disappointed in most of the desserts offered ... if it was a cake, brownie or cookie, it was usually decent, but other desserts (like tarts, key lime pie, and tiramisu) were what has to me become typical on RCCL - quality topping with a gel-base that is wobbly, mostly tasteless, and has an odd texture.
Having only been on the Monarch recently, I have to say that I much prefer the Majesty's Johnny Rocket's and Compass Deli to Monarch's pay-for-sushi Jade. The Compass Deli offered some nice soups and paninis. My favorite sandwich was probably the 3-cheese panini (also known as a grilled-cheese). I also tried a cuban sandwich, but it was uninspired and was still very cold in the middle (and almost burnt on the outside). PS ... my new favorite question was asked at the counter while I was sitting down ... "Does this tuna salad sandwich have fish in it?"
Majesty does both the colored-tag debarkation and express debarkation. For this cruise, because of a low count, they offered the "valued C&A walk-off" program to Platinum and above instead of Diamond and above. I was off the ship by 7:10 and in a cab by 7:25. Quite a line for express debarkation had already formed by this time.
Just a side note ... the immigration agent seemed to find me very interesting because I was traveling by myself. It was like I had to convince the guy that yes, I was traveling alone ... yes, I only spent $10 on souvenirs, etc. When he asked me what I did and I said student, he asked for my student ID and looked it over while he asked me to describe my schooling, what year I was in my program, what classes I was taking, etc. Very interesting ....
I ran into one issue that irked me, and that had to do with my final bill. When I received it at 6 AM, I noticed a discrepancy (an extra $13 charge when my total bill was around $50 is definitely noticeable). I went to the customer service desk, explained that the charge was a mistake, produced every other receipt, etc ... and was told that I needed to come back at 7:30 when the bar manager would be there. When I said that I was doing express debarkation with C&A to meet my flight, I was told that I could cut in line to get to the bar manager ... though that didn't seem to help me when it came to the 30-45 minute line I would then have to enter to get off the ship. It just seems to me that if the bar manager is the only person that can remove charges, then perhaps s/he should be available in the morning as soon as the bills go out in order to facilitate those who need/want to get off the ship quickly.
This was a nice little cruise, though of course it is always painful to do a three-day cruise because it is over as soon as it starts. I can't say that the cruise was any rowdier than any others I've been on recently, though there was definitely A LOT more drinking while IN the pool.