After taking six one-week cruises and wishing for another couple of days when we returned, we took the plunge and booked a 13-day repositioning cruise from Miami to Boston (via Aruba, Curacao, St. Thomas, Tortola and Bermuda) on the Norwegian Majesty on April 21, 2003. With all the extra days at sea between ports we felt as if we had been on a vacation rather than a hectic cruise.
We used our Air Miles to book a round trip between Toronto and Boston with an overnight stay before the cruise. We then added NCL's one-way air from Boston to Miami. NCL chartered two Boeing 727s from Falcon Air Express leaving Logan International Airport at 9:00 and 10:30am. We were booked on the later flight. Arriving at the airport before 8am, an NCL rep sent us to a waiting area until the early flight had finished booking in. The early arrivals were sent into line first and we were assigned seats at the front of the plane. Airport check-in was very well organized. We met and talked with two other couples we met on the internet in the airport before the flight. Both flights were 30-50 minutes late leaving the airport. Upon arrival in Miami we were met by NCL reps who divided us into groups for buses to take us to the ship. Being a charter flight with all passengers going to the same destination allowed NCL to transfer our luggage directly from the plane to the ship without the inconvenience of claiming it first. Check-in at the pier was very quick since we used the non-US line (no waiting).
Before boarding we had a personal meeting with the ship's doctor. On the bus to the ship we were given SARS questionnaires to complete. Having flown out of Toronto and living in Ontario we had to answer YES to two of the questions. The doctor asked us a couple of questions about our health and then passed us to board. We arrived at our cabin 7 minutes before lifeboat drill. The ship's departure was delayed for two hours waiting for luggage to be delivered from the charter flight, a late arriving couple and a medical problem.
We had a superior inside cabin, 4117, on the Biscayne Deck forward. At ~140 sq ft and designed for four (two upper berths) it is was comfortable with two dressers, a table, storage box (capable of holding a bar fridge) and plenty of closet space. The beds were slightly smaller than twin beds. We found our cabin steward, Leonardo, and had him put the beds together and put on a queen size comforter. Standard cabins, inside and outside, are much smaller at 108sq ft and only one dresser. You have to be a bit of a contortionist to climb over your partner when the beds are put together. I would not recommend cabins on decks 3 and 4 aft as there is a noticeable vibration from the engines. More on this later.
The Norwegian Majesty has five dining rooms for dinner. The Seven Seas dining room is the largest and also the noisiest. On deck 5 aft, the tables for eight at the back windows are the noisiest with the ship's engines running. Ask for a table on the sides. On a couple of occasions the engines to the shafts were changed resulting in a very considerable vibration in the dining room. We preferred to eat in the Four Seasons dining room on deck 5 midships. The room was quieter and less prone to rolling and vibrations. Avoid the captain's table for 12 as it is set between two serving stations and too large to converse will all your dinner guests. If you are willing to share a table, there was rarely a wait for dinner. Otherwise, expect a 10-20 minute wait depending on the time. Le Bistro will hold more than 50 people. However, the opening onto the hall between the two dining rooms makes you feel like you are in a fish bowl. Our favourite restaurant was the Pasta Café in the Royal Observatory, deck 9 forward. This was the perfect place for a quiet dinner for two or to share an evening with another couple. The room is quiet and came complete with a pianist to add to the romantic atmosphere. You must make reservations for the Pasta Café but there is no charge. The buffet on deck 10 is relatively small for the size of the ship, being designed before the extension. Overflow from the daytime dining area on deck 10 forward is the Royal Observatory on deck 9 forward.
The quality of the food in the dining rooms was good. There was a new menu for all 13 days of the cruise. Lobster is served at the Captain's Farewell dinner. Le Bistro was fine, but we found the beef tournedos in the dining room every bit as good as the filet mignon. Meals in the Pasta Café were good but short on meat or seafood. The extremely limited menu has only two pasta selections and many days these were both vegetarian. Check out the menu each morning before booking. We did a sail away BBQ and seafood buffet one evening and remembered why we hadn't had a buffet dinner for 5 cruises. The food was not hot as it was transported from the main kitchens five decks below and the quality quite pedestrian. It's OK if you like to pile up your plate, but I prefer the dining rooms with more balanced meals. We did not eat at the outdoors pizza and hamburger station on deck 10 aft nor did we order room service.
The Palace Theater is not designed for elaborate performances. Being only one deck high with a relatively low ceiling and a small stage, it limited the types of productions that could be performed. A new production company came aboard to replace the old one half way through the cruise. The new company's Broadway performance was fresh and entertaining. The old troupe, while entertaining, was not sharp and needed a break. NCL brought in a continual stream of entertainers for the cruise. Singers, comedians, magicians and jugglers: something for everyone. Most would give two performances in the Palace Theater and then an encore performance the next night. Then it was off the ship.
The ship lacks most of the sports facilities found on larger ships. The exercise room is small with a couple of treadmills, Life Step and weight training equipment. There is no basketball nor shuffleboard. The sports coordinator, Kristine Gacula, was a treasure. Working alone she ran up to 10 activities a day. She got to know all the regulars as we needed 30 punches over 13 days to earn a t-shirt. Prizes were awarded for the golf putting and sports trivia tournaments.
One plus for the Majesty is the availability of deck chairs on the Promenade Deck. It was an ideal location to get out of the sun and read a book or just relax.
On Aruba we booked the Sail Aruba tour on the Mi Dushi (my sweetheart). We were taken to Palm Beach and then tendered to the 80ft sailing ketch. We were welcomed with fruit and a continental breakfast. There was premium bar service with a variety of fruit juices, soda mixed drinks and beer, try the toxic waste. Most of the mixes were low alcohol and could be topped up with your favourite alcohol. The crew made sure that everyone stayed well hydrated in the hot sun. There were three stops for snorkeling, including the wreck of the Antilla. The surf and turf or mixed grill lunch were as good as anything we had on the ship. This is a day of being pampered and not a booze cruise. Be sure to bring your sunscreen as there is little shade.
We toured the rest of the islands on our own. We saw the Seaquarium in Curacao, an island tour and swim at Sapphire Beach with Godfrey Tours in St. Thomas, Brewers Bay for swimming and snorkeling in Tortola. On Bermuda we went to the Crystal Caves and Perfumery and Fort St. Catherine.
NCL's freestyle cruising makes disembarkation easy. You can leave your remaining luggage in your cabin while you go for breakfast. You can stay in your cabin until disembarkation or use any of the public rooms. We went to the Palace Theater where there was lots of room to relax. When it was time to leave the halls were not crowded as we've seen on other cruise lines.
Overall I give NCL high marks for making the cruise an enjoyable experience. Very reasonable cost (less than the cost of a hotel room), good food and entertainment made this a cruise to remember. We would definitely do another repositioning cruise.