CruiseMates' Readers Cruise Reviews

Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines Majesty of the Seas by scooter Bahamas December 24, 2001

I had never considered taking a Christmas cruise due to the higher price and the number of families since I am single. However, rates had plummeted so drastically in October it would cost more to stay home for the holidays. At a $65. per diem for a single outside cabin I jumped at the chance. Fortunately my travel agent knows this ship very well and had me placed in a perfectly situated cabin (5088) which is midship with only cabins above and below, so there were no noise or motion problems.

My only previous cruise with RCI was on the Vision of the Seas, probably the most beautiful ship I have cruised on. The ship had wonderful amenities, excellent service, an activities program like no other ship I had been on and one of the worst buffets I have eaten at. I wondered how the Majesty would rate after such a wonderful cruise (wonderful after I avoided the Windjammer Cafe). It helped for me to know that even though RCI's marketing is now aimed to flaunt their Voyager class ships, I wouldn't be finding these features aboard the Majesty. No skating rinks, rock-climbing walls, Johnny Rocket's, multi-tiered dining room, spacious cabins, etc. To some this might be perceived as "false advertising" but I firmly believe that you have to do your homework when you book your vacations and know what exactly you will be getting for your buck. Turns out I still got a big bang out for mine.

I flew to Miami the previous evening and stayed at the Quality Inn & Suites by the airport for $45. The place was just okay but it had free transportation from the airport and they offered shuttle service to the ship for $8. So for one overnight it was fine. We were picked up at 11am and arrived at the ship in 15 minutes. Boarding hadn't begun yet but the new terminal has a hall with plenty of seats. This also allowed for those passengers who hadn't completed their documents to do so. In under 15 minutes, the boarding procedure began which was very quick. After security we walked down a long corridor to the check-in hall and I went immediately up to a counter. I boarded the ship and although we were told that the cabins wouldn't be ready until after 1:30pm I decided to check my cabin out anyway. The ship had been beautifully decorated for the holidays, including a gingerbread village and Santa riding his sleigh, complete with reindeer. I would later discover lots of Christmas trees throughout the ship as well. My cabin was ready for occupancy. Yes, it was small but it was clean, attractive and very comfortable (I found myself spending more time in there than usual. I attribute this to the post-holiday need to recharge my batteries and was more interested in rest than activities). It was than adequate for one person. The mattresses must have been fairly new. The only objections to the cabin were the lack of a safe and the need to use a separate card to open the cabin door (instead of one card to serve as your onboard charge, boarding and room key card). On the positive side, there was a hairdryer and it was not attached to the wall. It was a small portable one and came with a notice advising that if you wished to take it they would add the price to your onboard charge (i.e. you take it, you pay for it.subtle, eh?). Since the ship is almost 10 years old and Royal Caribbean has made major strides on improving the design of their ships since the Majesty's debut, it really isn't fair to complain now about what's already been corrected. However, certain amenities could be added, such as the ones I already mention about the cabin. A staff member told me that the ship will undergo improvements such as refurbished cabins, so I am hoping the line is trying its best to improve the ship. My cabin steward fulfilled all of my special requests (nothing too demanding, just extra towels, hold off on turn down service until after I have my pre-dinner shower). I was greeted with some pretty amazing towel/washcloth animals, including an armadillo made from the pool towel I took back with me to take to the private island which we never got to due to choppy seas (but ship remained stable).

After dropping off my carry-on bag I proceeded to the Windjammer Cafe which is a much different set-up than on the Vision. This buffet was divided into 2 sections. One section was enclosed but could be considered "outdoors" since it was not climate controlled (i.e. no a/c) and had ceiling fans and opened windows instead. There were no tables by the pool and this was the closest you could come to eating by the pool. The actual buffet was indoors, except for desserts and meat carving which had to be set up in the middle of the dining area, due to lack of room. The buffet also had an awful odor on one side that fortunately wasn't coming from the food but was nevertheless very unpleasant (this ship had pockets of bad odors in elevators and corridors as well but I've heard about other ships having this problem as well). There were also beverage stations which would offer coffee and tea on a 24-hour basis, other beverages only available during dining hours (e.g. juice during breakfast, lemonade and fruit punch during lunch). There was also a machine that dispensed a frozen sludge that was supposed to be soft-serve ice cream. Avoid this like the plague and stick to the real ice cream served in the dining room at lunch and dinner. The indoor portion of the Windjammer Cafe was very nice and very comfortable and air-conditioned. However, many times this section was not open due to "cleaning" (what were they using, a toothbrush?). The good news about this Windjammer Cafe is that, compared with the Vision when I sailed her in 1999 had very good food and a very nice selection of salads, cold food and hot food. You could even make your own Caesar salad, complete with shaved, not powdered, Parmesan cheese. At breakfast, smoked salmon was available every day, and for some strange reason, the bacon was crispier at the Windjammer than at the dining room. Lunches were also very good and one of the best offered jumbo fried shrimp (billed as shrimp tempura, but trust me, it was fried shrimp.they even offered tartar sauce, not exactly a Japanese condiment). They also offered excellent baby lamb chops at couple of times during the cruise. There was a nice selection of desserts that were dished out by a server instead of sitting out on plates. The carved meats were nice and wasn't restricted to the infamous corned beef I've read about on other reviews of RCI in the past. Buffet hours varied every day. The day we were in Key West lunch was offered until 5 pm. Other days, after lunch there would be snacks in the late afternoon. Since the ship didn't have a barbecue or a pizzeria, some days there would be pizza or hot dogs and hamburgers. Other days it was tacos. But there was always something more than sweets offered every afternoon. Although the buffet was far from gourmet food (I wouldn't use the word cuisine here) I always managed to find more than what I should have taken, so I would have to say the Windjammer served its purpose as a casual cruise ship dining facility.

Continuing on the subject of food, the dining rooms were good. The decor doesn't compare with what RCI has now and looked more casual than a formal dining venue. Service was excellent and my head waitress, waiter and assistant waiter were all wonderful and made sure that the table was accommodated. Our waiter always made recommendations for each course. The weakest course was salad but actually their dressings were interesting choices and delicious. The other courses were all very good. Most important, meats were cooked to the desired doneness and the cuts of meat were of good quality. No lobster was offered which was a disappointment, but I had already read on web bulletin boards about this. Someone thought that for a short cruise RCI didn't have to offer it because after all the rates were lower. However, on a per diem basis you pay about the same on a 4-day or a 7-day cruise, so I don't find this acceptable. When I cruised the Carnival Victory on a 4 day cruise to Nova Scotia, there was lobster. But there was enough good stuff on the menu and my tablemates and I shared extra orders, a sign that the food was good enough to want more. Desserts were very interesting and we had some spectacular features, including a memorable box made of chocolate, filled with mousse. The breakfasts and lunches in the dining room were open seating. Breakfasts were a bit disappointing. Although the service on the last morning (the infamous "after they've already got their tips and couldn't care less" breakfast) was typical, I actually got the best breakfast I had during the cruise. Lunches were very good and different than the Windjammer offerings, so sometimes I would have a little in the dining room, a little in the Windjammer (hey, I paid for it, as someone pointed out to me). And as pointed out before, you can get good ice cream in the dining room.

Activities on the ship were plentiful. Due to not so hot weather, a lot of indoor activities, such as trivia contests, tai chi classes, cooking demonstrations, indoor games instead of pool games (including chair races in a lounge) were offered. In addition the ship has a terrific cinema, 2 stories tall with stadium seating, plush seats and excellent sound system. If only they didn't use a video projection system. This was in addition to the in-cabin films. All of the films offered were not first-run features. Instead they were the same films currently offered as pay-per-view films on cable tv. Still, I managed to see 4 films in all and on a 4 day cruise, that is a lot (I told you this cruise was about recharging my batteries). I did use the gym one morning and found the equipment to be very good. The gym was very busy (didn't the passengers know you're supposed to relax on a cruise?). They offered both steam room and sauna. My only complaint is that there were only 2 whirlpools (out by the pool) which is inadequate for a ship that holds over 2,000 passengers. Many times the water wasn't even warm and the pool attendants had to make calls to request warmer water. The whirlpools had an entire set of rules that were ignored by the passengers and also weren't enforced by the staff, which is about the same as all of the other cruise lines. I don't do Bingo, so I couldn't tell you about that, except it was there all right, as the announcements told you (they weren't too obnoxious with announcements, though). However, the art auctions were held in the atrium, which was intrusive and annoying. There are too many big lounges on this ship for the auctions to have to be held in the central meeting place of the ship. There were some additional activities for the holidays, including caroling in the Centrum and Santa Claus parading with kids and then handing out presents and taking photos.

Entertainment was good. The main show lounge has too many poles and obstructed view seats on the side. It definitely shows its age. The production shows were nothing to recommend. However, Parker, the cruise director is an accomplished singer, who opens a show like a real pro instead of just offering the same cruise ship jokes told since the year of the flood. I saw a few specialty acts, the best being "El Gaucho" from Uruguay who does combines his bolas routines with some racy humor. Other offerings were disco (with the same "Disco Inferno" night complete with "Village People" as offered on other RCI ships). A game called "Majesty Quest" that involved teams racing up to the stage after being asked to do things like have men wear bras. It worth it to see how many people are willing to make idiots of themselves.

The lounges and bars were nice. The best, of course, being the Viking Crown Lounge. You must experience (and I don't like to use that word as a verb too often) a sunset up there. On the subject of lounges I bought the Royal Cocktail card which is good for 12 drinks for a price of $39. plus 15% gratuity. They punch the card each time they use it. It isn't good for things such as premium brands, imported beer and other things, but I think it depends on the bartender as to what you'll get. Frozen drinks like pina coladas were okay. House wine by the glass at dinner was okay. Martinis made with a call brand, like Tanqueray or Beefeater were okay. A White Russian was okay first time but then when one waiter refused, the bartender also wouldn't give me another. It was well worth the price. They set up a table by the pool on the first afternoon. I had purchased 2 of the cards, but only used one, and I was able to get a credit to my onboard account for the unused one.

As I previously mentioned, we never made it to Coco Cay, the private island, due to choppy water and nasty weather. We were at sea, instead, which turned out to bore the heck out of the teens onboard who were seen hanging out on the stairwells. Nighttime was better for them since they had their own discos, etc. The only port, therefore, was Key West. I had pre-booked an excursion (Catamaran Race) but cancelled immediately when I got aboard due to the weather forecast. I got off the ship in the morning and bought tee-shirts (check out the place opposite Cap't Tony's; shirts are 4 for $10.). Then I took the shirts back to the ship and used the whirlpools, which were finally empty and then sunbathed for a while before lunch. Took another walk in Key West for about an hour and that was the entire land portion of my cruise. Key West has gotten too commercial. Duval Street has become a horror. Conch Train now gets $20. per person which is pretty expensive for a 1 tour. The only thing worse would have been what happened to the Horizon that week. I overheard a woman say that the Horizon stopped at Key West twice during the cruise because they couldn't get to Progreso, Mexico. Another point about Key West, is that Immigrations comes aboard the ship and you must take your proof of citizenship with you and show it to an officer when you get off the ship. I was lucky because the line was short when I came off the ship. But by 10:30 a.m. the line was up the stairs. It seems that 10:30-11:30 is the worst time to try to get off the ship. The same is supposed to hold true for Coco Cay. You have to either get off early or wait til after lunch or so.

Disembarkation was a breeze on this ship. by the time I finished breakfast in the dining room and said my good-byes, they had already called my "color", so I went back to my cabin, picked up my carry-on (they gave everyone on the ship a very nice gym bag as a Christmas gift) and walked off the ship. The terminal has luggage carousels and you proceed to the one for your luggage tag color. I got my bag in less than 5 minutes and I was on my way.

So after this critique what counts the most is if I had a good time. I had an excellent time. Most importantly, I had made friends and the people really do make a cruise, something you really can't include as a feature of the ship, just good luck. The Majesty wouldn't be a first choice for a cruise if I was looking for an upscale cruise with the latest features. But if I was looking again for a bargain cruise where I knew I'd enjoy myself, I would certainly consider her again.

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