A little background before I start my review of The Majesty of the Seas. My wife and I have cruised only once before - and this was also with Royal Caribbean on one of their largest ships 'The Liberty of the Seas'. That cruise was last year (Sept '07) and sailed from Miami for 7 nights around the Caribbean. It is from this point of view that most of the comparisons in my review are made. This time we have done back-to-back Bahamian cruises on the Majesty - the 3-dayer and then the 4-dayer, beginning 19th Sept 2008.
Day One - Arrived at the cruise terminal at 10:40. They hadn't started boarding yet so were held in an area just before security. Check in opened at 11:10 and we were on the ship by 11:30.My initial impressions of the ship were positive: very clean and smart. dEcor with fittings very much as per the Liberty of the Seas and therefore inline with the current RC standard. Lunch was already being served in the Windjammer. First impressions of the buffet were better than the Liberty (that was a serious food fight) as the layout means that food is more accessible, add that to the fact that the place was less packed made it an altogether more pleasurable experience. All the food avail on the larger ship was avail here too inc. Asian, Carvery etc... Lemonade, ice tea, water, tea and coffee all free in the Windjammer.
Rooms avail by 12:40 so we went to dump our hand luggage in our room. We stayed in a 'Superior Ocean view' room, I wasn't sure which bit was meant to be superior - was it the ocean view or the actual room itself? This room is very similar to an interior promenade room on the Liberty - i.e. their basic level of room on a new ship = superior room on the Majesty. The room was comfortable and clean with most fittings and fixtures in good condition. There was also a small two seat sofa which helps keep you out of each others way! I have no complaints about the room - indeed, the bed was really comfy. We then made our way over to the dining room to see the maitre'd to check if we had a table for two as requested. Good News! - it turns out that we did - we were really pleased about this as there are probably only about 20 tables for two onboard.
Out on deck there's a promenade on Deck 7 (but where's the shuffleboard?), two pools on deck 11 and a sundeck on decks 12 and 13. The pools are modern (just compare them to Carnivals 'pit' if you ever dock next to them) with plenty of space for sitting around the edge and sipping cocktails etc. The two Jacuzzis are almost impossible to get in as they are constantly in use. On the 3 day cruise it quickly became apparent that the crowd was up for a fun weekend away. This is not a complaint, merely an observation. There seemed to be mostly couples and same-age groups on this cruise.
Cococay - first thing, this place is much better than Labadee (the other 'private island' RC go to) in all respects except for the food, which is just as bad. There's much more room on the island with plenty of loungers too. The snorkeling is excellent and presided over by a good number of lifeguard stations. We went early to get a couple of loungers in the shade (shady areas are limited); bonus is that it's quiet at that time too. I highly recommend going for a walk along the beach down to the south end of the island - there's hardly anyone around and very tranquil. You might want to bring some beach shoes though as it does get a bit rocky the further along you go. Stayed until about 2pm then beat the rush back to the ship and, just like another reviewer here, went to Johnny Rockets for a late lunch. (honestly, don't bother with the food on the island - its much poorer quality than that on the ship). We made it to Cococay on both cruises.
Formal Night and Captains cocktail party - Really good fun with lots of free booze flowing for the one hour it's on. Most people made the effort here especially the women - lots of lovely evening dresses. The only minor letdown was that most of the men didn't reach the same high standard set by the ladies - most wore suit & tie rather than the full dinner jacket & black tie - come on lads -: you're not going to the office you know!
Nassau - Having never been to Nassau before we were interested to see what it had to offer. We didn't book any tours, just walked around town to see what we could see. Yes you do get approached by locals offering everything from Mopeds to Cigars but i'm pleased to report that my wife and I never felt pressured or threatened in any way. A simple 'No Thank-You' is all that is required. Their sales tactics are used by locals the world over from Cairo to Hong Kong to Mexico etc. etc. - its how most of the rest of the world does its tourist type business! Once you are away from the main street where the ship is, the number of street vendors rapidly drops to zero. We did pop into the straw market which seemed quiet (but it was a Sunday) but were not interested in what was on offer so didn't stay long. When our 4 day cruise stopped in Nassau, we stayed onboard.
Key West - Had a great day here. Once again we just walked around the town, but there's a load to see. I personally recommend 'peppers' who stock and sample an enormous range of chilli sauces. Take a few beers down there and have a free tasting session. Kermits key lime shoppe is the most authentic and they have free wi-fi and tasters too!
The Ship - Is now one of the smallest RC own but I didn't have a problem with that. Yes you can feel it moving sometimes but for the duration of our time onboard I personally didn't find it a problem. On the lower decks towards the front, you will hear the sound of the anchor, capstans and bow thrusters each morning when you reach your new port. For both of our cruises, the ship was full but there were always plenty of loungers during the day and places to sit in the evening.
The Food - Generally well presented but not quite as good as the food we had on the Liberty. Indeed I was a little disappointed to see three out of the four desserts on the menu putting in an appearance in the Windjammer buffet at dinnertime too. My wife also reports that her Mahi- Mahi Tempura on the last night was also available in the Windjammer that evening. The cutlery is fine but the crockery in the dining room is a bit chunky. However, the plastic crockery in the windjammer at breakfast and lunch was in far better condition than on the Liberty.
The Staff - We think that staff are excellent. They all work extremely hard. A little courtesy goes a long way - smiling, saying 'please' and 'thank-you', looking at them when you talk to them and using the phrase 'I would like' rather than 'I want' or 'give me a' makes a world of difference to how they interact with you and how they remember you. I have lost count of the number of times I cringed to hear classless (to borrow a term from another reviewer) people demanding things and barking instructions to the staff. Without fail however, the staff continued to be polite and courteous to these undeserving 'people'. Just for the record, I feel that the dining room staff to diners ratio is too tight. The evening meal sees a constant blur of waiters and assistant waiters attending far too many tables. They have barely enough time to serve everyone and practically no time for small talk. Compare this with the Liberty last year when we got to know not only our own waiter really well, but also the waiters from the adjacent tables too.
3 day cruise compared to the 4 day cruise - The main differences to me were:
1. More dressing up. About 80% of the ship wore something special to the Formal night. There were more Black ties and even a kilt or two! 2. More oldies and families. A little quieter than the weekend cruise. 3. More of a holiday feel. More announcements from the Captain and the Cruise Director and just in general, a feeling that the four day cruise was more of a holiday rather than a quick break.
In Summary - Fine Ship, Great Crew, Brilliant fun at a great price. Don't get hung up with the trivia - get out there!