Jeff and Deb Woodard
Occupation:Director of Finance
Number of Cruises: 11
Cruise Line: Royal Caribbean
Ship: Majesty of the Seas
Sailing Date: January 30th, 2006
Royal Caribbean Cruise Line
Majesty of the Seas Cruise Review
Jeff and Deb
Hello - My wife and I cruised on Royal Caribbean's Majesty of the Seas from January 30th to February 2nd, 2006. This short four-night cruise was our 11th RCCL cruise (that makes us Diamond Crown and Anchor members); we departed out of Miami and visited Nassau-Bahamas, Cococay (private RCCL island, in the Bahamas) and Key West-FL. We are 34 and 39 years old; I am a Finance Director, my wife is a Realtor. My wife earned this cruise by selling a certain amount of real estate in 2005; so the airfare and tickets were paid for by her company. They booked us in an outside 'porthole' stateroom on deck 2, (this was quite different as we normally book suites on deck 10, and we prefer 7 night cruises, but, hey, the price was right!)
As I said, this was our 11th RCCL cruise - we like Royal Caribbean very much, they have always taken great care of us and we are loyal to them. We go into every cruise with a great attitude, we understand that sometimes things out of anyone's control happen (i.e. weather, simple mistakes - we are all human, the fact that people have a variety of tastes, etc…) - we know we are going to have a good time. In fact, our biggest pet peeve is cruisers that are so arrogant they don't think rules apply to them, or so inept to think everything should be 'free', all the time. That being said, we had a wonderful time and following are some remarks to pass along about this cruise.
Embarkation. Per normal we arrived in Miami the day before the cruise, stayed at a no frills Crowne Plaza the night before, and had transportation get us to the Port of Miami at 10:30 AM. We always arrange our own airfare and ground transportation - we have found the prices much better and far less crowded. Being Diamond Crown and Anchor members, we were immediately taken to the Chairman's Club lounge while the RCCL staff prepared to check everyone in. Our hope was to upgrade to a higher deck, bigger cabin, but we quickly found out that over 1/2 of the ship was chartered by members of a Mexican pharmaceutical company - the ship was completely full, so no upgrade. We got checked in and issued our Seapass cards about 11:15 and boarded Majesty at 11:40 - for the first time ever, we were the first ones to board - that was fun.
The Ship - Majesty of the Seas is an older ship, the cabins are smaller but functional. Our deck 2 stateroom simply had a desk and chair, a relatively spacious closet and the 2 beds pushed together horizontally against the outside 'porthole' wall. The bathroom had a stand up shower, a sink/mirror area and the toilet. We brought one medium suitcase and one large suitcase, both easily fit under the beds. While Majesty was beginning to show some signs of age - she was very well maintained, continually being cleaned and painted. The pool area was clean, as were the lounges, shops, dining rooms and casino. The biggest change we saw was Majesty no longer had the rugs in the elevators that showed the days of the week (they were changed daily), they are all now hardwood floors.
The Dining rooms and the Food - we ate Main Seating dinner (another first for us) on the upper level of the main dining room. I have been hearing people whine about the quality of RCCL's food for the past 10 years and it could not be further from the truth. All food in the main dining room was excellent, if something was not to your taste, you simply requested something else. The breads and appetizers were wonderful, the soups were some of the best I've ever had, the salads were good, the entrees were delicious and the desserts were excellent! We ate breakfast and lunch in the Windjammer - some of the food is buffet style, some is cooked to order - it was all very good. There is also a pizza station and room service - again, all good. I did the math on this once and it showed over 150 food options per day, and there are people who say its all no good - who has the problem here?!!?! We are now unsure of what seating we will do on the next cruise, we both felt there is no way we'd care for the first (main) seating, but it did give us much more time at night to take advantage of shipboard activities. The 4 day cruise has 1 formal night (day 2) and 3 casual nights (The 7 day cruises have 2 formal nights). Dress codes are 'suggested'; however, shorts, bathing suits, bare feet/sandals and tank tops are not permitted in the main dining room for dinner.
The Bars - we are not huge drinkers but do enjoy our frozen drinks as we are in the tropics! The drinks were always consistent, my wife would alternate alcoholic and virgin drinks and she liked them both. One tip - the bartenders/bar servers are told to push the souvenir RCCL glasses, they are an extra charge and nothing all that special. We always ask for our drinks in a regular glass, we also avoid the pre-made drinks the bar servers carry around, we have found them to be not as good due to the melting and separation of alcohol. We strongly recommend the soda package if you plan on drinking any amount of coke/diet coke or sprite. It is about $6 a day for those unlimited drinks. It is easy to buy one package for 2 people and just share, the bar tenders don't care, they often gave us 2 diet cokes for the one sticker. We enjoyed the pool bars and the Viking Crown lounge very much. We don't care for the Schooner as it always seems to be very smoky. The casino bar was surprisingly not that busy, nor that smoky. As usual there were bar servers present at all the activities to take care of your beverage needs - all were very nice and polite even if you didn't order anything - the gratuities were automatically added on to the drink prices.
On board activities - we are not sun worshipers. We have very fair skin and burn easily; so, while we enjoy the sun, we have to be careful. Overall, there are less on-board activities on the shorter cruises, possibly because there is no sea day. Each day has a port stop - and shipboard activities are greatly reduced while in port. That being said, all of the standard activities were offered - Bingo, karaoke, name-that-tune, trivia challenges, the obnoxious art auction, the Quest game, the Love and Marriage game, Captain's reception, fitness classes, the production shows, the rock climbing wall, line dance classes, various types of live music, the late night club DJs and so on. Pick what you like and enjoy!
Ports of call:
Nassau - we were at Nassau on day 2 from 8 AM to midnight. We've been to Nassau many times and it hasn't changed much. The straw market is very crowded, if you show the slightest interested in anything the sellers become very aggressive, but, there are some bargains to be found if you want to play the game. We did the rainbow reef snorkeling shore excursion - the ride through the harbor was nice but the snorkeling sight was very rough. The visibility was good, and there were some nice looking fish to be seen, but with the rough waves and the strong currents it wasn't that enjoyable. We have taken the Yellow Bird party boat excursion before and it has been fun. Many people went to check out the Atlantis hotel/resort/casino/aquarium - we heard various reports, some enjoyed it some not so much. We didn't do any shopping in Nassau - the deals aren't nearly has good as they used to be. I doubt we'll get off the ship next time we're in Nassau. Be advised you need your Sea Pass AND a photo ID to get on and off the ship in Nassau.
Cococay - the private RCCL Island (day 3, 8 AM to 4 PM). We were at Cococay 4 or so years back and it was being renovated, so it wasn't much to see. I am happy to say that the renovations are finished and were a huge success! The beaches are clean and beautiful. The main snorkeling inlet has been dredged so it has a sandy bottom as far out as you can touch. There are plenty of beach chairs, a mini-straw market (laid out very nicely), clean restrooms, places to eat and drink and a nature trail. We snorkeled here as well and it was much better than Nassau. The airplane wreck site is very nice - lots of fish, the staged shipwreck was nothing special. There is also deep water (40-50 foot depths) snorkeling. This was incredible. We swam out over the shelf where the depth went from 10 feet to hundreds of feet very quickly. It was here 3 giant eagle rays swam directly beneath us - they were 8 feet across with 15 foot tails - it was an incredible sight to see. There is a lunch served on Cococay - while we did not stay for it we heard it was good (we prefer to eat in the comfort of the ship).
Key West (day 4, 9:30 AM to 6 PM). Bottom line - we love Key West!! All passengers have to present themselves to US Customs before leaving the ship to go ashore in Key West. This process has greatly improved - once you are cleared by Customs (they stamp your Sea Pass card) you can go ashore immediately. In the past the entire ship had to be cleared before anyone could go ashore - this always caused delays. We got off the ship early and headed for Duval Street and (per normal) opened up Sloppy Joe's Bar. There is nothing quite like lunch, live music and adult beverages at Sloppy Joe's at 10:30 AM. We also visited Hog's Breath Saloon and several of the street corner jewelry shops. Local Color is a jewelry shop very near Sloppy Joe's - we have been buying earrings, toe rings, bracelets, necklaces and anklets from there for over 10 years, the merchandise and the prices are first rate - we highly recommend it. We also recommend the street corner jewelry shop diagonally across the street from Sloppy Joe's. We bought some bigger/thicker pieces there, which are somewhat hard to find elsewhere. Although we weren't able to stay for the nightly Sunset Celebration on Mallory Square this time, we still highly recommend catching it if you can - we have found some of the best hand made crafts and souvenirs there! You also need a photo ID plus you Sea Pass card to get back on the ship after visiting Key West.
A note on shore excursions. I hear all the time that people can find a better rate booking on their own than a RCCL shore excursion. While this is sometimes true (and I stress 'sometimes'), we always book through RCCL for piece of mind - if something goes wrong on a RCCL booked shore excursion, the ship will wait for you. I hear at least once per cruise that someone booked a taxi tour of the island, or a fishing trip, or a trip to the beach on the other side of the island, for something like $10 less than the RCCL excursion, and they got stranded because the ship left without them. It happened on the cruise from Nassau, the group arranged for a taxi to pick them up, and it never showed up, the group had to pay for a flight to Key West, missing Cococay entirely, to catch up to the ship. Just keep that in mind when you are deciding what to do in port.
The Casino. We get asked about the Ship's casino more often than I would have thought, so I'll throw out a couple observations here. Majesty's casino is somewhat small, only a dozen or so tables but lots of slots and video poker machines. We enjoy playing at the tables when it is not super busy, so we would like to see more tables and less slots machines. The table games consist of craps, roulette, various forms black jack (single deck, let it ride, wheel of fortune), Caribbean stud poker and 3 card poker. All card games have minimums of $5 to $25. It has been our experience that the nice thing about cruise ship casinos is the friendliness of the dealers and most other players. It is not a hard core gambling environment like Las Vegas; it is much friendlier; the dealers help you, which make it relaxed and fun. The best time to go to the casino is during the shows. Most passengers like to go to the shows, which leaves the casino (and many other areas of the ship) virtually deserted.
Speaking of the shows - they are popular, but not with us. We have not been to a production show since the one we walked out of on our first cruise. There is an opening night show by the cruise staff, a comedian or 2, maybe an animal act or acrobats or a plate spinner, a headliner and a good-bye show. Don't get me wrong, these are wildly popular with the passengers, but they are just not appealing or entertaining to us. We use the time to go to other places on board while they aren't crowded. The shows are almost all replayed on the ship's closed circuit TV too if you think you missed something!
Photos. Royal Caribbean loves to take your picture! From when you first board to the last dinner you are fair game to have your picture taken! Our advice here is to not buy your pictures until the last day - that way you can look over all of the pictures taken over the entire cruise and pick what you like best, as opposed to picking something and buying it on day 2 only to find out you took a better picture on day 4, but don't want them both.
Cruise Compass. Every day the Cruise Compass is published and delivered to your cabin. This tells you all of the activities, eating options, entertainment, bar hours and gift shop/casino hours for the day. We suggest you keep one of these with you so you can refer to it throughout the day - they are very helpful. We have all of the Cruise Compasses from our Cruise - if anyone would like to see them, feel free to contact me.
Connection options to the outside world. We did take our laptop and we were disappointed to find out that Majesty did not offer the Cyber Cabin option for internet access. There is the normal RCCL online internet café and a Wi-Fi package, both at 50 cents per minute. And, the ship satellite capabilities did allow for cell phone and data transmissions (GPRS) while at sea for most service providers - this was a first. I have a Blackberry/cell phone through Cingular and I had a signal everywhere except Cococay - and that may have been due to a shipboard problem as the internet café was down for a while then too.
Perks. We are Diamond members of the Crown and Anchor society. This entitled us to priority boarding onto the ship as well as a private party (for Platinum and Diamond members) where we could talk with some of the Ship's officers and enjoy complimentary food and drink (we continually bring down the average age of this party). We were also given RCCL robes to use for the duration of the cruise, a gift from RCCL (this time it was a nice Majesty of the Seas tote bag) and the Diamond version of the Ultimate Value Booklet. This consisted of free photos, complimentary drinks, casino credits, gift shop discounts, wine discounts as well as discounts for the spa, coffee and Ben & Jerry's ice cream. RCCL also sends various 'thank you' surprises like fresh covered strawberries, fruit basket and champagne during the cruise. We also had a private debarkation lounge in the Library with a continental breakfast. It is a very nice perk that we appreciate and enjoy.
Debarkation was relatively painless. We were staying over an extra day, so even though we had the ability for white luggage tags (first one to depart the ship) we didn't use them and slept in an extra hour and enjoyed a pleasant continental breakfast in the aforementioned private departure lounge. Once our color was called, we waited about 10 minutes then strolled back down to deck 5 and left the ship all in less than 10 minutes. We collected our luggage in about 15 minutes and made it through Customs in another 5 minutes. We were outside on the curb hailing a taxi a couple minutes later.
What to pack, two words - don't over pack. This was a four night cruise and we saw couples with 5 and 6 large suitcases plus carry-ons and garment bags. When you are new at this, it is very easy to over pack; it’s best to plan your clothes by day - we figure a daytime outfit and an evening outfit, plus a couple extra pieces, just in case. This system has worked very well for us over the last 10 cruises, so feel free to contact us if you'd like any further opinions/information.
Parting thoughts - again, we very much enjoyed this cruise, as we knew we would. I only have one minor disappointment on this trip, and it was really nobody's fault - the Purser's desk was busier than I have ever seen on any cruise, presumably because there we so many passengers that were part of the large charter group that had no credit and had to settle their SeaPass accounts daily, in cash, at the Purser's desk. The only other disappointment was the passengers that just "don't get it" - they seem mad all the time, at everything - those types of ultra self absorbed people I can do without. Everything was as close to perfect as you can get, including the staff, the food, the services, the activities, the cleanliness of the ship and so on.
Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions about cruising Royal Caribbean, no mater if I touched on the topic in the review or not (we have also cruised on many other RCCL ships). I'm sure its obvious by now, we love to cruise and like helping other people to enjoy it as well. Looking forward to hearing from anyone who wants to chat.
Jeff and Deb