I really don’t understand the number of negative reviews at all, on a sparkling brand new ship with a memorable sail-away to match. Our trip was fantastic. We’re Ruby on Princess but I can’t imagine that made much difference in the ... Read More
I really don’t understand the number of negative reviews at all, on a sparkling brand new ship with a memorable sail-away to match. Our trip was fantastic. We’re Ruby on Princess but I can’t imagine that made much difference in the great way we were treated (really doesn’t take much to get Ruby status). Here’s our story.
On March 31 my wife and I happen to celebrate the same birthday so with low airfares to Europe from the US we decided to treat ourselves to a few days in Italy. Kind of by accident we happened to find the preview voyage of the Majestic Princess, departing March 31 (good timing!) and because we had limited time, the four-night sailing Trieste to Rome was the perfect cruise for us. Because it was a preview cruise, kind of the maiden voyage before the maiden voyage, like the soft opening of a restaurant) it was not listed on all the usual cruise sites, or it would appear and then quickly disappear. One of the invited travel agents on board told us the preview cruise was purposely kept about two-thirds full to give the ship and the crew a good practice run but not strain everything to the limits of capacity.
Let me get the two negatives out of the way first because they’re relatively small given the cruise overall. First, as another reviewer said, the muster drill was ridiculously long. We sat in the photo gallery (our assembly point) for nearly an hour. They really need to correct that. The only reason it got seriously annoying at the time was because the City of Trieste was making a big splash over this maiden departure and we almost missed some of the sail-away. They need to get the muster drill down to normal times or passengers are going to get angry. Second, the first night lining up for the main, set-time dining room was kind of a traffic disaster. We had second seating so perhaps the first wave didn’t leave when they were supposed to and caused the traffic jam, but the entry area to the dining room is much too small and turned into a sardine can for 75 people. People got very crabby and the traffic flow was badly handled. Our room cards also listed a dining room that didn’t exist on Majestic Princess – the Pacific Moon, which is on Diamond Princess I think. Oh well, it’s a preview cruise to work out the bugs. By the second night they had it pretty much squared away. Well okay, here’s kind of a third negative. We were a party of four (in two mini-suites on Deck 15). When we booked weeks prior we asked for traditional, late seating, table for eight because to us meeting new people is part of the fun of cruising. Shortly before dinner we got a letter in our rooms telling us the assignment had been changed to a table of four. It all worked out because our table for four was placed very close to another table of four with two delightful British couples and we hit it off very well. That was a stroke of good luck, but had we not gotten lucky, sitting by ourselves at dinner every night would have been very disappointing.
Okay, on to the good stuff. The ship was beautiful. Pristine clean, our room had never been used, everything was brand new and smelled brand new. The ship was so new they didn’t have time to clean the serial number markers off the panes of glass on our balconies (they wiped off with a damp cloth, no big deal, in fact it was kind of cool and we took a photo). We had rooms 409 and 411 on Deck 15, the Marina Deck. Those are mini-suite rooms with larger, angled balconies, starboard side, directly under the Skywalk. At first I thought they made a horrible design mistake and no woman should ever walk the Skywalk with a skirt on, but the design angle and the frosted portions of the glass floor avoided any “indiscreet” scenery looking upward from our balcony to the Skywalk. It was a little noisy though, with the occasional scream as people reacted to looking through the glass floor to the water far below, but sliding our door closed sealed out the noise. The booking information online said the 409/411 balconies could not be joined, but that wasn’t true. It does take a special key/wrench to open the balcony divider, but Joseph our cabin steward opened the divider for us and our travel companions and my wife and I shared our two large balconies the whole time.
The bathroom was convenient and worked well. Excellent shower volume and pressure. The room color and décor was very nice, reminded me a little of the Queen Mary 2. USB ports next to the bed. US electrical outlets were available. Deck 16 is food and pools, so Deck 15 was a very convenient place to be. It was one of the nicest rooms we’ve ever had.
Check-in and boarding was easy, took about 20 minutes overall. The City of Trieste made a huge splash for the departure. A large band played on a balcony of the cruise terminal, they shot off a huge array of daytime fireworks, it looked like a couple thousand people lined the pier and waterfront to wave the ship goodbye, and two really commercial marine fireboats shot water geysers into the air. Bands on board were playing, the water jet and light display on Deck 16 was shooting, Chinese acrobats were performing – and the ship’s horn played the first few notes from the Love Boat television theme. Maybe that’s something other Princess ships can do lately too, but we had never heard a Princess ship do that before. Yes, it was kind of cheesy but still great fun. The sail-away was just a blast.
The buffet food on Deck 16 was very good in every way. Even the regular coffee was tolerable, and of course cruise ship coffee is usually dreadful, except for the coffee bars at an extra charge. Our evening meals in the dining room were excellent every single night, and our two servers were delightful. Funny, friendly, highly competent, and gave us very good recommendations every night. Despite the automatic gratuity the cruise lines added some years ago, we still follow the old habit of giving tip envelopes on the last night, and our dining room servers were worth every penny of the extra tips. The dining room meals were top notch.
Unlike many other ships we’ve been on, Majestic Princess uses the main atrium as an additional performance and gathering space every evening. Between dinner and other activities and the fun in the main atrium, we never had time to see any of the theater shows. They had live music and dancing in the atrium every night and one night they had a huge balloon drop (1200 balloons?). It was classy, pretty, energetic, and we had a great time in every way. I don’t know why other ships don’t use their grand central space the same way. It’s a beautiful thing to see all the glittering, dancing people under the glass art pieces and chandeliers from the marble staircases and tiers above.
Some random notes: One of our favorite spaces was the lounge at the Crown Grille, kind of Princess’ version of a Morton’s Steakhouse with lots of mahogany. The lounge ensemble (vocal, piano, sax, drums, bass and occasional flute) was very good, we really enjoyed it. Another favorite spot was as far aft as you can go on Deck 7, to watch the wake. You can’t walk all the way around the aft end to the other side, but either starboard or port aft, it’s a beautiful view. Beautiful spot. The “Wake View Bar” on Deck 16 was also a beautiful spot. On other ships the constant photo-taking by ship’s staff to sell you pictures can be annoying, but that was never an issue on Majestic. Majestic does have an internet room (three terminals) and “library” but the library is tiny. I have more books at home and I’m not Bill Gates, but then with tablets maybe paper books are largely obsolete, even at sea. Internet service is ridiculously slow and expensive as usual, but what else is new. Except for a once-daily email check, we try to unplug on cruises. Port of call – the only one we had was Kotor/Montenegro. The dawn sail into the fjord was spectacular, just thrilling. If you ever sail into Kotor at the crack of dawn, set your alarm clock and go up on deck, it’s not to be missed in life. The city – well, it was interesting. We also took a shore excursion to the ancient seaside town of Budva. That too was interesting. The sales people (almost all young women) in Kotor did get a little pushy, but oh well. You did still get a subtle vibe that Montenegro had been hammered by very hard times, but they’re gradually recovering.
We were on board for four days and still didn’t see the whole ship, even though we purposely explored a lot. It was a great pleasure. I thought I was an exclusive Cunard snob lately, but Princess did so well on the Majestic that Princess is a very close contender now. We had a great time.
P.S. I don’t think the other reviewer who mentioned a fall and death on the preview voyage was correct. We did hear a medical alert call once during the cruise, but we saw nothing in the news or the online cruise-death reporting sites about a fatal accident. Last note, do the cruise line's transfer from Civitavecchia. We tried to save a few dollars and do our down thing, but by the time we got through with the hassle and expense of two bus trips (dockside, to the marine terminal bus station, to the train station, then the train, then a cab from Rome's Termini station to the hotel), we actually spent more than Princess was charging for the transfers. Read Less