(Pack a lunch – this is really long!!!)
Who we are My name is Robin and I'm a cruise-aholic. [Hi, Robin.] I've been on 4 cruises in two years, this is my first on RCCL. This one was with my son, Dan, 18, who has been away in his first year of college so this was our chance to reconnect. I also hoped he'd also find some nice kids his own age to hang out with (and he did). We were on a budget (college expenses and all) but knew we could have a good time on a short cruise without breaking the bank.
Impressions of the ship I'd been advised to have low expectations because of the age of the Majesty, but I thought this was a beautiful “classic” ship. It lacked some of the amenities of the newer, larger ships, but I liked the layout --people forward; stuff aft. We had one of the forward-most cabins on 4 (we really got our exercise walking!) which was small even by cruise-ship standards. They made the maximum use of the space, however and it was just fine for the price. There was no hall traffic by our room, but the anchors must have been just on the other side of the cabin wall. (Suffice it to say, we didn't have to ask if we had reached ports.)
The weather was a little cool and there was no solarium. I didn't notice any deck chair saving but the chairs were not that comfortable. Not all had footrests. They were an older style with webbing and where quite narrow. I guess cruisers have gotten larger over the years.
The two identical back-to-back small pools didn't look particularly inviting. At first, I thought the water was brownish, but realized it was due to the brown marble wading area around the slightly deeper pool. Poor choice of color.
The lounges/theaters were lovely with good sight lines and I never had a problem finding a good seat even if I arrived late. TV had an odd assortment of movies and sitcoms plus ESPN and the deuce but I didn't see sports on other than soccer even though we are in the middle of college basketball March Madness. The cinema seemed particularly under-utilized for a very nice space. They had a different movie each day (shown 3 times each)-- Being Julia, Sideways, Friday Night Lights and Shrek 2. In other words, the DVDs most popular at your local rental store. I never had time to see one all the way through but it was an interesting thing to do when waiting for something.
Passenger makeup -- This is the beginning of the spring break season and there were more young adults than I expected. Most were with a parent or slightly older sibling, but I did wonder how some of them got around the minimum age restrictions per room since the ratio of younger adults to older adults didn't seem quite right. I didn't notice any misbehavior, but my son pointed out that I was asleep by midnight or so, so I may have missed it. There were also 43 honeymooning couples and both the other couples at our table were celebrating anniversaries (10th and 25th). I saw about a dozen kids in the children's program. This was the first cruise for almost everyone I talked to.
Dress was mostly on the very casual side. Lots of jeans/shorts in the dining room for dinner. I'm not a person who cares, but I saw some people dressed to the nines for every dinner who seemed bewildered. They stood out more than the overly casual majority. Formal night felt like Prom with very wide participation. (We did the “casual alternative”at the Windjammer and even there, people were dressed nicely.)
Entertainment -- CD was Warren a sweet baby-faced person who seemed to go way out of his way not to offend anyone. I'd give him a solid B. The singers/dancers were some of the best I've seen on a ship and the Beat Goes On was the best show I saw. (I'm not a fan of Disco so the second show – Boogie Wonderland—though good wasn't quite my cup of tea.) Phil Tag, the comedian was OK, but I swear I saw another comedian on a different ship do the same ship-related material. The gaucho and “impressionistic singer” were just plain odd.
Day by day -- Pre-embarkation day. We flew in a day early (to Ft. Lauderdale) and chose to splurge a little with a night at an “Art Deco” hotel in South Beach. Used Tri-County for shared ride and waited only a few minutes to get several parties together for the trip. We stayed at the Park Central on Ocean Drive and the location was perfect! We had a 5th floor room, which I would suggest because of the partial ocean view (as opposed to some of the lower level rooms that look out at a brick wall). The price (we paid $169 for 2 extremely comfy beds) includes beach chairs (but not umbrella) at the beach across the way, but after trying that, we preferred the small but beautifully landscaped pool.
We had lunch at Johnny Rockets (the waiter actually asked what “youze guyz want for lunch today”) on the sidewalk while we watched the “car show” pass by us. (My son said he never saw so many incredible cars in one place before!). For dinner, we continued the “pub crawl” on Collins and Ocean which is a true experience. We were too tired from the early morning flight (Song – excellent!) to stay up too late so it was more of a pub wander than a pub crawl.
Day 1 – Embarkation Day -- Up around 9, got some pastry from a nearby shop and coffee from the lobby and ate on the rooftop terrace. Perfect! Taxi to the port was $17. We got there at about 11:30 and boarding had just begun. Only waited a couple minutes at the Seapass card station. Room was open, but largely ready. Met our steward and asked for robes, which he was able to locate (tipped him extra immediately for that). Dropped our carry on bag with no valuables in it so we didn't have to drag it to lunch (kept our real valuables with us in my purse). Our other bags arrived at about 2pm.
Lunch at Windjammer was ready – roast beef carving station, hot dogs and seafood paella with a variety of salads. Yummy! Thanks to all who pointed out there there are two “stations” to the Windjammer, one farther back than the other – it was always less crowded than the forward one.
Muster drill was well organized and there was ample time afterward to get the life jackets back to the room before sail-away. Names/cabin numbers were checked. Late comers had to do a “walk of shame” down the passage in front of the assembled masses and there weren't too many of them.(Deck 10 and 11 passengers get to assemble in a lounge instead of on the deck.)
We had Main dinner seating at 6 so we had to hurry to get ready after sail-away. We were at a table for 6 with two couples celebrating milestone anniversaries. They were a delight!
A digression about food I wish I could remember exactly what I ate for dinner, but I don't. It was all good. Compared to the food on other lines, I thought the dinner portions were quite large. I never once considered ordering two entries and rarely finished everything on my plate (though I never missed dessert!).
We did two breakfasts in the Windjammer (quick easy, but lukewarm except for the omelets) and two in the Mikado dining room (good conversation and excellent Eggs Benedict). Other than the Eggs Benedict (the best I've ever had – eggs were cooked perfectly) my favorite was waffles with strawberry sauce and (real) whipped cream. And bacon. This ship must go through a ton of bacon.... It was a good week for pineapple, cantaloupe and kiwi, too.
We didn't tend to eat lunch on the ship because we had late breakfasts and early dinners but we did have room service once for a snack. It wasn't during meal hours so we went with the limited menu. (There's a TV channel that tells you what you can order other than what's on the room menu and the hours that the special items are available.) The nachos just hit the spot and the fruit plate was also very good.
The best meal in general was the BBQ on Coco Cay. The ribs and the mac and cheese were outstanding.
I slept through the Chocolate buffet on day 3 (which I heard was beautiful!), but did make the midnight sale-away party in Nassau. A little too crowded for me, but I had some good pasta.
Back to the regular program Day 2 -- Nassau -- Our original plans were to taxi to Cable Beach to the Wyndam for the morning, return to the port area in the afternoon and go to Atlantis in the early evening skipping formal night in the process. I think I had decided to do this because so many people had told me that Nassau was not a pleasant place to be. I found it no worse than any other Caribbean port. We could see that Senior Frogs and the British Colonial Hilton were side by side from the ship and decided that it might be easier skip the taxi ride and just spend the day there instead. I knew the BCH had a $15 pp day pass available. (A similar excursion from the ship to the Wyndam is $44 including transportation and a $10 gambling voucher but we didn't want to be locked into a specific time to leave or pay double for the transportation, nor did we want to be kicked out of the Cable Beach hotel pool areas.) I was comfortable allowing my son to go to Senior Frogs while I relaxed on the beach/pool at the BCH, so for us, this was the better option.
Around 3 we wandered back through the Straw Market and the port area. The Straw Market was too claustrophobic for me, but the rest of the shops were moderately interesting. There is also some shops in the area of the port that we never got to see – they looked better than the Straw Market.
After a rest and a room service snack, we took a shared taxi for $4 pp to Atlantis at about dusk. We wandered about where we could and it was certainly very grand. I was surprised to find that the beach areas were closed down already but we didn't get close enough to the pools to see if they were open. If we were a party of four, a “room” at the Comfort Inn would have been worth it, but with only the two of us, it wasn't. The casino itself was very small (but we come from the land of Foxwoods and the Mohegan Sun) and my son came out $27 richer than he went in.
Then it was back to the ship and a quick snack at the Windjammer to tide us over until the sail-away party at midnight.
All in all, a busy, fun and relatively inexpensive day!
Day 3 --Coco Cay -- We made it even though the day was very cool (low 70's) and rain threatened all day. Our plans were for me to go over early and for my son to sleep in (late nights at On Your Toes) and meet me at about noon at the BBQ. I was hoping to snorkel (brought everything but fins and vest) but the water was too cold to be inviting. Instead I had a great time walking along the beaches (best area is beyond the area where you can get the kayaks) and lounging in a hammock. We headed back around 3 and spent the rest of the day with ship activities – but I don't exactly remember what. (I was somewhat disappointed in the lack of variety of ship activities compared to other cruises I've been on, but I always found something to do.)
I was delighted to find that the Quest was offered at 10:30 pm and hoped that my son would participate. He did with his newfound friends and all I can say is, I never thought he'd look so good in a purple bra. (For you newbies, the Quest cannot be described, only experienced. You will not believe what people will do for even the possibility of winning a key-chain!) Talk about mother/son bonding! We will laugh about this forever!
Day 4 -- Key West -- Docking was delayed due to a strong head wind so immigration didn't start until 9:30 am. Took less than 5 minutes to go through but there were about a dozen people who didn't get it and had to be paged once. We were allowed to go off the ship at about 11:40. We wandered into town and got tickets for the Conch Train. This kept us busy until around 2 (there's one “potty stop” midway) when we walked up Duval and got some snacks and did a little shopping. We happened across two of the ship's shopping raffles on our way, but didn't win either one.
Then it was back to the ship for one last dinner and a show. We put our tips on the seapass account and received our vouchers for the envelopes only minutes before dinnertime began. We added some extra to our vouchers, but only a few dollars because I felt our dinner service was good, but not great. (I don't consider this part of the “service,” but the waiters lip-sync after dinner rather than sing, and seem terribly ill at ease about it. It's not like Carnival, where they really get into it and invite you to sing/dance too. If they are not going to do it well, I'd rather they didn't do it at all.)
Going home day -- The seas the last night were quite rough and I had a hard time sleeping. We pulled into port at about 5:30 am and our color was called before we got to breakfast at the dining room at 7:30. We departed about 8:30 and only had to pick up our bags and drop off the customs form with the agent (since we had cleared immigration the day before).
We had reserved a car with Alamo since we had a 7pm flight from Ft. Lauderdale and needed something to do with our luggage. This turned out to be the perfect solution. We drove up to Hollywood Beach and found a little beach community with on-street parking ($1 an hour), shady trees on the beach, bathrooms and a little festival going on with music (in French) and line dancing. It was a wonderful place to spend the day and was only about 15 minutes from the drop off at the airport rental car center. It was the best $26 we spent. (My $10 faux pashima from the ship became our beach blanket and we had packed a couple small beach towels.) There was also a little park a bit further up A1A that we didn't see until we left that also would have been nice, but I had forgotten to pack my map.
Too soon, it was time to go back to the airport and fly home to 6 inches of snow. Talk about getting back to reality!
We had a great time and have already started a savings plan so we can do this again next year!!! And we have a new “to do” list for next year of the things we didn't have time to do!
Let me know if you have any questions.