CruiseMates' Readers Cruise Reviews


Norwegian Cruise Line Norwegian Majesty by J. Stanford Eastern Canada October 25, 2008

We took a one week cruise from Philadelphia up the Atlantic coast to St. John, Halifax, Bar Harbor, Boston and back to Philly.

Check in and boarding in Philly was simple and quick. It helped that we arrived at the dock about 4.5 hours prior to scheduled departure. As usual, the state rooms were not ready when we boarded and we were directed to the buffet on deck 10 for lunch.

The buffet lunch could only be described as something like the happy hour spread in a third rate hotel bar. Very few unappetizing choices, dried out in appearance, as though it had been sitting on a steam table for hours, even though we were there shortly after serving commenced. An alcove used for serving salad and cold cut sandwiches looked a bit more promising, but the bread was so dried out that it crumbled when you bit into it -- it was crouton-like. The tomatoes were green, the lettuce wilty. We thought that this was a small snack bar, but it proved to be the main buffet restaurant on the ship, and the offerings did not get any better after that.

A typical breakfast experience went something like this: We would arrive at the buffet around 9 a.m. There are serving lines at both entrances to the buffet area, but the second one was always closed or closing when we arrived. The one that was open was usually out of one or more items. Sometimes we could not find a single working ice machine, and it was not uncommon for them to be out of coffee. Orange juice from the machine was warm, but the coffee was cold. The only really good food item on the ship was the French toast, but occasionally they were out of that as well, and they were stingy with the syrup. Breakfast sausages were served cold one morning. It appeared they had not plugged in the steam table. Eggs are powdered and tasteless. Fruit tended to be over or under ripe and tasteless or mushy. None of the desserts ever looked appealing. I tried a piece of cake one night, but it was dried out and tasteless.

We tried room service a couple of times. The room service menu says to allow 30 minutes for delivery, but the first time (around 8:30 the second night out), it took 2 hours. When it arrived the sandwiches were not accompanied by the coleslaw and pickle that was promised. The potato chips looked as though they had been gone over with a rolling pin and were stale. Soup arrived luke warm with stale crackers. Milk was far from cold. The hoagie roll was very stale and crumbly (crouton texture). A personal sized pepperoni pizza arrived with *one* single piece of pepperoni on the whole pizza.

We ate in the Seven Seas dining room on the night they advertised lobster. The service was excellent, and the presentation pleasant, but the food was not particularly good. The fruit plate consisted of green papaya, over ripe mushy mango, and 2 frozen strawberries. The linguini was nicely cooked (as contrasted with the pasta from the pasta bar which managed to be simultaneously sticky and gummy and dry). The seafood, however, was overcooked and tough and rubbery -- what little there was of it. The dinner rolls with the seafood meal were the only good bread we got on the whole cruise, though, and the coffee was way better than any other we were served on the cruise (albeit in a demitasse cup with no refills). The ice cream had ice crystals in it but the butterscotch sauce was nice.

The last night out, we tried room service again, and that night, the service arrived in 20 minutes. The chips were fresher, and the sandwich not bad. The cheesecake was odd, though -- dry and crumbly in texture. Coffee was hot. Still no coleslaw and pickle with the sandwiches.

I don't know if other cruise lines do this, but Norwegian charges for Coke and other carbonated soft drinks as though they were bar items. That would have been a minor annoyance if the food had been good otherwise, but as it was, it felt like adding insult to injury.

There is a 24 hour pizza and burger joint on the fan tail. In the afternoon on port days when the shore excursions return to ship, there were long lines there for those who missed their lunch. The pizza oven had room for 4 pizzas, but they seemed to limit themselves to baking 1 pizza at a time, which disappeared the moment they put it on the bar. The pizza was quite tasty, but they were very skimpy with the pepperonis. Some slices didn't have a single piece. Why they didn't make pizza faster, I don't know. They made a pretty decent 8 oz hamburger, but on cold days, the steam table did not keep the patties warm long enough to put the fixings on it. French fries were usually cold and limp.

So, between the rough seas and the bad food, I lost 5 lbs on this cruise. Not a bad thing, I suppose, but not what we paid for.

Now, about the cabins. We were originally assigned an interior stateroom on deck six, on one of the hallways that runs across the ship laterally, connecting the starboard and port sides. We were pretty far forward, and the ship's motion is more noticeable there. The seas were rough, high winds and 12 foot waves, so there was much pitching and tossing about. I have never been sea sick before, but I was on this cruise. No announcement was ever made that sea sickness pills were available from customer relations (the mid-ships "crossroads" on deck 5). My husband had the thought to ask about them, and they provided him with a handful of meclizine packets, and I found they worked wonders, but I wouldn't have had to suffer for a full day if I had just known they were available upon request. Next time, I'll be sure to bring my own supply.

Our original stateroom was larger than on our previous cruise, but it appeared that all of the staterooms on the Majesty were larger than the cheapest accommodations on our previous ship. I assume a design decision was made on the newer ships to downsize doorways and make the cabins as small as possible on the low end in order to fit more staterooms in the same sized ship. The Majesty does have that bit of extra space in her favor.

I booked this cruise online, and I was careful to choose a class of stateroom that had a double bed (instead of two twins) since this cruise was a second honeymoon. However, when we opened the door to our stateroom, lo and behold, there were two twin beds. I immediately called guest relations, but they informed me that our room was not able to be converted, and there was nothing they could do. However, I filled out a guest comment card and dropped it off down there later that day. The next day, they called and said they had found a room for us on deck 8. It had a large square window, but the view was occluded by one of the life boats. The room was about the same size as the one on deck six, but instead of two twin beds, there was one double bed, arranged with one side of it against the wall under the window, very awkward to get in and out of for the person sleeping against the wall. But at least hubby and I were in the same bed.

And speaking of beds -- they were the most uncomfortable beds I have slept in, maybe ever. Very, very lumpy mattresses. Deep depressions where previous sleepers had worn out a groove, a high ridge in the middle where no one could sleep. Even though we were technically in the same bed, we might as well have stayed in the two twins. Both of us were in great back pain after the first night from the beds.

The beds were made up with some of the ugliest, roughest, grungiest looking bed spreads I have ever seen in a hotel setting. Underneath the ugly spreads are much nicer white duvets. White is not a very practical color for a bed cover when there is nowhere else to sit, but it was much more aesthetically pleasing than those ugly, ugly bed spreads.

We are not smokers, and we found it difficult to stay out of the way of the cigarette and cigar smoke. While most of the public areas of the ship are posted as non smoking areas, either there are violators, or the ventilation system allows smoke to "leak" from one area of the ship to another. We noticed strong smoke smells in and around the stairwells and elevators. On deck 10, the entire aft port side is a smoking section, and the wind carried the smoke across and around the deck.

We got some troubling overhead noise in our cabin on deck 8, but not on deck 6. It sounded like there was someone up there pacing all night. On previous cruises, we had not noticed this type of noise. Still the staterooms were quieter than most hotel rooms, but noisier than on the newer ships.

Ours was the last northern heading cruise of the season, and the weather was quite variable. In the 60s when we left Philly, it grew cold and very windy. The (tiny) pools and hot tubs were drained at times. The ship was unable to drop anchor in Bar Harbor so the shore excursions there were canceled. The access to the main buffet is from outdoors on deck 10, and there were times when entering that way was downright dangerous. The decks were wet, and the wind and waves so strong that you couldn't walk a straight line, plus you needed a winter coat to stand the cold. The open air serving lines resulted in frozen dishes and the immediate chilling of any hot food you put on them.

On the day we should have been in Bar Harbor, but spent at sea instead, they had been scheduled to show a movie in the Fireworks Lounge. A small crowd assembled to watch the movie, but no one showed up to start it. After half an hour, a ship's officer happened by and noticed all the people sitting patiently in the lounge and asked why we were there. "We came for the movie," we said. "Well," he said, "Since our plans changed and we aren't in port, we canceled the movie." A collective "Awwwwwwwww!" went up from the group. Someone said that that made no sense, since the cancellation of the shore excursions meant there were *more* people with nothing to do that afternoon, not less. He grudgingly agreed to try to find someone and see if the movie might be started after all. In the end it was, but the staff member who started it made it abundantly clear that he resented having to do so. It all seemed very strange, since the movie was available and the space had not been scheduled for any other activity that afternoon.

We did not attend any of the shows. None of it sounded all that entertaining, although some of our fellow diners told us we had missed a few good ones. We observed in the casino but it seemed a glum place. No sounds of delight from anyone winning anything. We decided not to feed the machines.

The in room satellite TV had very few channels that could sustain a signal long enough to watch a full program. This was understandable on the rainy windy nights, but it wasn't much better on days when the weather was clear.

The service on the ship was lackluster to say the least. Most of the service staff projected a decided "who cares?" attitude. We did have a cheery, personable room steward, but the wait staff bordered on surly.

On the day that we were moved from the deck 6 to deck 8, I was very ill with sea sickness. When the porter walked us down with our baggage, we discovered that our key card did not work. The porter did not offer to fix the problem, so my husband went back to deck 5 to get it corrected. He left me, feeling very ill, in the hallway with our bags. He returned with cards that still didn't work. He left again, and returned yet a third time with cards that *still* didn't work. During all this time, at least six employees passed me in the hallway, and not one of them stopped to ask what the problem was, or if they could help, or offered to let me into our room. Finally, a security officer came by who was able to reprogram our room lock and let us in. That lock misbehaved off and on for the rest of the cruise though.

So, on balance, I cannot recommend the Majesty. It is an old ship, although not inherently unattractive. But it desperately needs new mattresses in the staterooms. It needs decent food, and it needs to shape up in the service department. If those improvements were made, it could make for a comfortable cruise, but as it is, my advice would have to be: Choose a newer ship in the NCL fleet.

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