Due to my school schedule, we were unable to fly into Miami the day before the cruise. Flying day-of is stressful, and for good reason. About 3 PM on the day before the cruise, we were contacted by Delta to tell us one of our flights had been cancelled (ATL to MIA leg). Instead of routing through Atlanta and arriving at 10:27 AM, we were rebooked to route through Detroit and arrive at 11:27 AM. No big deal there, except we were "confirmed" on the new flights without seat assignments. With an early morning coming anyway (2:30 AM wake up call), this did not help sleep come easily.
However, props to Delta ... we had seats assigned at the gate on both of our (completely full) flights and everything ran on time. We flew with checked luggage (free with Delta credit card), and once that was collected, we grabbed a cab from the taxi queue outside of the MIA baggage claim and headed to the ship for a $24 flat rate charge.
Upon arrival at a little after noon, we found a porter to tag my parents' bags they had taken advantage of a price drop to upgrade the week before the cruise. After that, we proceeded through security (you need to show your passport/ID and SetSail Pass to get in the building, then go through a metal detector once up the escalator). In the past, I have found this security to be a bit lax, but they actually made me take my belt off on this trip ... interesting. Anyway, we were quickly through, to the C&A priority line, and immediately shown to an agent. I had had my fingers crossed for an upgrade as the sailing seemed to be having trouble filling up, but alas, I was kept in my 3rd deck interior cabin while my parents had their 9th deck superior ocean view. By 12:20 we were checked-in, onboard, and heading to the Windjammer for a much needed embarkation day lunch.
As with many mass-market lines, the short Bahamas cruises are relegated to the oldest ships in the fleet, and the Majesty is no different. I had first sailed the Majesty after her major refurbishment a few years ago, and no startling changes have been made since then. She offers quite a bit for an older ship, with many large lounges, bars, and showrooms. The Schooner Bar, for example, is much larger than on newer ships. This offers more space, of coure, but also cuts into the coziness of the surroundings ... a trade off. The dining rooms, on the other hand, cover two decks and are wholly contained on each deck. Unlike other ships where the dining area shares a large open space between decks, the dining rooms on the Majesty feel a bit cramped with lower ceilings ... it's not hugely detrimental to the dining experience, but it was something I felt/noticed on the first few days.
In contrast to the main dining rooms, the Windjammer has a great, open feel. Like newer ships, the WJ has been organized into food sections instead of one long buffet line. This works when the WJ is not overly busy, but when it is overflowing, people start approaching from all angles and get clustered up. This happened duing the one night we ate in the WJ and it was a mess. Seating can also be an issue, especially if the managers are reluctant to open the back area of the dining room. The top floor of the WJ is reserved for Sorrento's pizzaria, the Compass Deli, and Johnny Rockets. Sorrento's was typically open from noon-5AM (I believe), the Deli from 11:30-6:30, and Johnny Rockets with varying hours in the afternoon and evening.
There are some sports offerings on the Majesty, incluing a half-basketball court and a rock wall. The deck 7 promenade goes around the entire ship for walking/jogging, though passengers are asked not to jog on that deck between 10PM and 10 AM as it is directly over passenger cabins. There is also a fitness center on deck 9, though it is fairly tiny and, due to the low ceilings, does not offer eliptical machines. There are two pools on deck 11.
While the Majesty shows her age, the number of venues and the constant upkeep by the crew make her feel like a younger ship. The biggest sources of passenger consternation I noticed seemed to be the elevators and deck 6. As for the elevators, there is only one main set in the middle of the ship, with three elevators on each side of a large lobby that have seperate call buttons. These elevators fill quickly, especially when people are going to/returning from port as they exit in the embarkation/debarkation area. The centrum elevators are less seldom used, but they only run from between decks 3 and 7. The aft elevators are my personal favorite and pretty much what I exclusively used, even when I was at the bow of the ship. They run from deck 5 up to deck 14 (Viking Crown) and are mostly forgotten besides showtime as they are across the ship from the WJ. As for deck 6, it is a tween deck that only occurs on the front of the ship. In the back of the ship, the decks skip from 5 to 7, leading to confusion for some.
I'll be frank here ... Nassau is not one of my favorite ports. The two big attractions are Atlantis and the straw market. Other than those things, at least in my experience, there is not a lot to distinguish this port. On our first stop (3-day, Sunday), we did not really do much besides get off the ship to look at the Oasis of the Seas and visit the shops at the pier. The shops are definitely lacking, stores have limited hours on Sunday, and with 4 ships (inlcuding Oasis) docked, lines to re-enter the pier area were long as there were a lot of people digging for their ship cards and photo IDs. This stop was a day stop with Majesty pulling out around 5 PM.
On our second stop in Nassau (Wednesday), we took the trip to Atlantis. This can be reached by water taxi ($3/pp) or regular taxi ($4/pp in a shared-ride van), though there is evidently quite a walk from the water taxi to the hotel itself. As Majesty had a late night departure (midnight), we visited after 5 PM because we heard there were more things available to see for free in the hotel after that time. We ended up looking at the aquarium, wandering around a bit, and making a small donation in the casino. There were plenty of vans waiting to return us to the ship, but outside of Atlantis, the area seemed pretty shut down in the evening, even with two ships remaining in port. Even Senor Frogs near the pier seemed to close early.
Key West (4-day only, Tuesday)
The Majesty docks at the Westin pier, which is right near Mallory Square and Duval Street in Key West. This is much better than the Navy pier that Carnival uses which requires a tram to take passengers through the base. Many of the attractions in Key West are very walkable, so I would not recommend ship-sponsored excursions unless you want to do something out of the ordinary. Popular attractions such as the Conch Train, Sloppy Joe's Bar, etc, are within a few blocks of the ship. There is also a CVS pharmacy a few blocks away in case you forgot any supplies or want to buy a few cheaper Cokes ... things like sunblock are definitely cheaper here than in the Majesty's general store.
Coco Cay is the cruiseline's "private island" and requires tendering, which is a process by which passengers are shuttled over to the island on small boats or ferries. The water was a bit rought on our first stop (Saturday), but much smoother on our second (Thursday). Once ashore, it is essentially a beach day, though there is a small straw market (cash only). There are also bars on various parts of the island, as well as sports areas, buffet facilities, and a nature trail. There is ongoing construction on the island, and it seems clear that RCCL is definitely trying to improve the area with quite a few changes since my last visit. The general rule for Coco Cay is that the further away you get from the pier, the less crowded the beachers and hammocks are. Traveling to the far tip of the island offers much fewer people (and sometimes seclusion) though of course you are also away from food and beverage servers (if that's a worry).
We took the nature trail which is a nice, cleared area that goes to the tip of the island. It takes about an hour to travel the trail (as is warned on the sign), and while the trail has been cleared, there is some stepping and uneven ground. There are also numerous exits from the trail towards the beach. Once you've reached the end, you can return back through the trail, along the beach (if the tide is out), or via a road which is much faster and smoother than the trail. They seem to be creating a shuttle system, but I never saw it running.
The tender process is definitely less convenient than walking off of the ship, but isn't horrible. Tendering starts at about 8:30 (I think) and seems to get really crowded at around 10-12 which is when the majority of people seem to have gotten up, gotten breakfast, and gotten ready to head to ashore. There can be waits, especially in between tenders and while the tender is loading. The voyage itself isn't long at all (maybe 5-10 minutes) but is definitely rougher than on the Majesty, so if you are at all prone to seasickness, you are much more likely to feel it on a tender.
I would rate the food on Majesty to be a bit above average. Admittedly, I'm a bit jaded when it comes to cruise food, but I felt that there wasn't too much that was absolutely outstanding, but neither was there too much I ate that was completely awful. We ate breakfast every morning in the dining room (in the Diamond section) which was OK ... probably the weakest meal of the day in the MDR. I found the pancakes uninspiring and opted for french toast on most mornings. One morning there was also Chocolate breakfast, complete with chocolate waffles, pancakes, parfaits, and even a chocolate milkshake. The pancakes and waffles were not that great, though the milkshake was pretty tasty and definitely indulgent. Cooked-to-order eggs seemed to come consistently well after the rest of the food, even if the items were asked to be delivered together. At new addition, at least for me, was a self-serve cereal bar with various varieties. Cappucinos and other specialty coffees tended to either take most of the meal to arrive or never arrived at all (saying the machine was broken). I did not find service in the diamond portion of breakfast to be up to par with other ships, but part of this may have been that there were different waiters in charge of the section every day as opposed to other experiences I've had where the same team worked those tables every day and learned preferences pretty quickly.
Lunch was offered in a variety of venues. One lunch per cruise was in the main dining room. On the 3-day, the MDR is when the ship is at Coco Cay. On the 4-day, it is the day of an early-afternoon arrival to Nassau. Lunch in the MDR is open seating in that unless you request a private table for your party, you will be seated with others at a large table. There is a set menu as well as a great salad bar where you can go up have a salad made, tossed, and chopped to order (with toppings like proscuitto, fresh mozzerella, etc).
Besides the MDR for lunch, other options include the WJ buffet (except for Coco Cay day on 3-day) which I found just OK. We actually ate most of our lunches at the Compass Deli on deck 12 which offers a ceasar salad bar, sandwiches, pressed-to-order paninis, and made-to-order crepes. I generaly stuck with a cuban or cheese panini with a sweet crepe (five minute wait) for dessert. My mom enjoyed the savory mushroom crepe. Many people never seemed to discover the Compass Deli, though at a few points between 11-noon, it is the only food venue open, so it seemed very crowded at those times. Other options for lunch were Sorrento's pizzaria (not the greatest pizza, but kind of OK), the BBQ buffet on Coco Cay (never tried it), and Johnny Rocket's ($4.95 cover charge + upcharges for sodas and milkshakes).
We mostly ate dinner in the main dining room and had a few repeated menus on the B2B. I thought that appetizers were generally very good, though of course the shimp in the cocktail were tiny. Entrees were decent, though some of the beef dishes were just not make with good cuts. I ordered a NY strip that was served thin and gray. After that, I tended to stick with pasta or poultry and was generally happier. Desserts, I thought, were much improved over past cruises with almost no "gel" desserts where creams are replaced with a wobbly, weirdly textured gelatin (though these were still in abundance in the buffet area). Dinner in the MDR was fairly quick in on the first leg with our wonderful waiter Godfrey, taking about 1.5 hours. The second leg was a different story, however, with dinners extending up to 2 hours and actually cutting into showtimes.
The one dinner we ate in the WJ was during the late night in Nassau on the 4-night cruise. We arrived at about 7 PM and the WJ was overwhelmed. Only the front portion was open, there were people swarming every station from every direction, and not nearly enough free tables. The WJ manager would keep moving the ropes blocking the back portion of the dining room back one table at a time to accomodate more people, but it seemed obvious they were not prepared for dinner that night.
FYI ... Dress in the main dining room was unsurpisingly casual, though there seemed to be more of an effort to dress up on formal nights. About the only dress code enforcement I saw (and experienced on debarkation breakfast of all times) was the denial of hats.
This is the one area where you really know ... well ... that you are on a Sovereign class ship. I had a standard interior cabin for both cruises, and make no mistake about it, those puppies are tiny. The cabin itself consisted of a queen bed (two twins pushed together) in the back corner under a TV suspended from the wall. With the beds together, there was perhaps a two foot gap between the edge of the bed and the wall. There is a chair with a desk/vanity (mostly taken up by snack bar items ... which can be moved ... and the ice bucket. The closet has a few sections and a safe. The bathroom is tiny with a stool, sink, and shower with curtain. One of my cabins had a long shower curtain and the other had a short one that did not effectively block the water which was annoying. Though tiny, it was perfectly comfortable for just me. Shared with another, it could be a bit cramped. With 3-4 people ... I have no idea how that works.
On the first leg of the B2B, my parents had a superior oceanview on deck 9 and the difference in rooms was astounding. Besides the large window, there was much more room around the bed as well as a half-sofa with a coffee table. The drawer space in this room was doubled from the interior, and the bathroom was also larger and much less cramped. I'm not saying these cabins are huge by any means, but compared to the interiors, they are expansive.
Every crew member I interacted with seemed friendly and helpful. There definitely seems to be a satisfied quality to the crew on this ship, and they seem to have a good bit of comraderie. Both of my cabin stewards were fine. As noted above with food, Godfrey was an outstanding waiter. Zelpha and Suzzianne (sp?) in the Viking Crown Lounge were always outgoing during the nightly Diamond event.
The biggest area of complaint I have is about the guest relations desk. I don't know if it was just staffed with slow workers or there were mostly new cruisers with lots of questions, but there always seemed to be a long line at the desk on both cruises. At one point in the evening after early dinner, all of the switchbacks were completely filled and there was only one person working the desk. On debarkation day, there would be lines of 30-40 people waiting to settle bills or address problems and there would only be 2 people behind the counter, and some people were quite upset, mentioning they had been in line for over an hour. Again, I don't know if this is par for the course nor not, but I had a complaint with guest relations the last time I was on Majesty and things seem not to improved over the years (though I will say the crew members were exceedingly nice once you finally reached them).
We only attended the Welcome Aboard show the first night of the first cruise and it was OK. As the other shows seemed to be clones of ones we had seen on other ships (Signed, Sealed, and Delivered, etc), we did not see any production shows. I personnally didn't care for any of the comedians. I spent a little time listening to music in the Schooner Bar in the evening which was decent, though some of the songs really needed an electric acoustic guitar instead of a straight electric. The lounge singer, generally placed in the Centrum, was almost laughably bad as she seemed to only have a phonetic understanding of the songs she was singing (my dad swears it is the same woman on every cruise we've been on).
As for daily activities, these seemed more sparse than I remember in the past. There were a few trivias, but other activities such as scapbooking have switched into pay events. There was actually a progressive trivia, but it was held during the Diamond event each night.
rown and Anchor
I'm always interested to look at the current state of the loyalty program. I haven't cruised since March, and the coupon books are definitely a step up from what they were then. Majesty had a Diamond event each night in the Viking Crown was was only lightly attended on the 3-night and decently attended on the 4-night. I don't necesarrily think that room is quite make for socialization and most seemed to keep to their own groups. We recived chocolate-covered strawberries in our cabin for both cruises as well as robes. On the 3-day, the welcome back party was held in between dinner seatings. On the 4-day, it was held in the morning before arrival in Nassau. The LA seemed pleasant and of course spent the time talking up the RCCL credit card and the Allure.
The B2B process was fairly simple (at least in theory). On our last evening of the 3-night cruise, we received evelopes in our stateroom with our new keys (unfortunately they messed this up and gave us the wrong keys) along with directions for the next morning. Since we were moving cabins, we packed, then put the luggage tags for the next cruise on our bags. These were left in the cabin on debarkation morning and then moved to the new cabin by the room steward. We ate breakfast in the main dining room, then since we had no plans for getting off the ship, were directed to the library on deck 4 by 9:30 AM. We waiter there with the other B2Bers until a little after 10 when the ship was finally cleared. A crew member came by and checked us off of his list. We were then lined up, taken off the ship to a customs agent waiting to take our declaration forms. We were then led back on the ship (with officers welcoming us back), had security photos take with our new cards, and then were let go to do as we wished. We headed to the pool deck and read/talked until passengers started boarding at 11:30. When we made it to our cabins at 1 PM, we were given a nice letter thanking us for staying along with a fruit basket and a bottle of champagne.
While the Majesty shows her age, she is more than adequate for a week's worth of relaxation and entertainment. Besides the tiny cabins, you would be hard pressed to be bored on the ship unless you can only be satisfied with Voyager or Oasis-class offerings. The best part of the smaller ship is the crew who all seem to know each other, and their seeming happiness makes it a happier ship. There's definitely more new cruisers and hard-drinkers on these short cruises, espeically the 3-nighter, but I didn't notice an above-average level of obnoxious behavior. People seemed to be having fun (at least until it came time to settle the bill). For a reasonable price (and sometimes dirt cheap), you get quite a lot, meet new people, and can spend a few days doing only what you want to. Sounds good to me.