I’m pleased to share the details of my recent cruise aboard Royal Caribbean’s Majesty of the Seas with you.  This was my 5th cruise aboard Majesty, so she’s obviously a favorite ship of mine.  While not the biggest or equipped with most bells and whistles, she’s still a wonderful ship. What is lacking in gadgets and surfing machines is made up for in spirit and great service.  Majesty’s 4-night itinerary is a favorite of mine because it includes a stop in Key West, which is just about my favorite place on the planet!  This particular cruise was a gift to our mothers for Mother’s Day, and as it turned out, a much needed respite from work for Mrs MJ on Travel and I.  We got our mothers on the ship, and they pretty much did their own thing from there.  We shared a dinner table each night to swap stories about our daily exploits, but other than that, we all pretty much did our own thing.

Administrative Items

We booked this cruise while aboard our last Royal Caribbean cruise.  The benefits of booking onboard can include special discounts and onboard credit (OBC) that can be used for spending while aboard the ship….or in the case of Mrs MJ on Travel and I, defrayment of huge bar expenses.  🙂  Additionally, your travel agent (if you have one) receives full credit for the cruise.  We do have a travel agent, Michelle, of McCabe World Travel in McLean, Virginia.  McCabe is a Virtuoso travel agency, and if  you are going to use a travel agent, I suggest you find a Virtuoso agent near you.  I don’t necessarily need the services of a travel agent for a simple cruise like this one, but I like working with an agent, and building a relationship with them.  Working together over time, they’ll get to know your specific needs and wants for all kinds of trips which is beneficial.

We traveled to Miami the day before our cruise aboard Delta Air Lines, and our pre-cruise hotel of choice was the Conrad Miami.  I will post a separate review of the hotel.  And with that…let’s get to the cruise.

Embarkation Day

Our day began with a workout in the hotel gym followed by coffee.  I’d planned on a 10:45am departure from the hotel to get us to the port at exactly 11am.  My experience with other Majesty cruises is that the ship typically begins boarding in the 11 to 11:30am timeframe even though your cruise documents indicate not to arrive before 1:30pm.  Taxis are plentiful at the Conrad, but Mrs MJ on Travel and I wanted to do something special for our mothers, so I booked an SUV with Carey International so we could all travel together to the ship in style.  As usual, Carey was waiting for us when we went downstairs at 10:45am on the button.  Our driver loaded up the Lincoln Navigator with our mothers’ huge bags and our carry ons and off we went.

The Conrad is not far from the port at all, but with traffic, construction, and the driver proceeding at just the right speed for a little sightseeing on our part, we arrived in front of the Royal Caribbean terminal at the Port of Miami at 11am on the dot.  We unloaded our bags, tipped the porter, and headed inside.  Several of our fellow cruisers were already arriving, and it seemed a few stragglers from the prior cruise were still lurking around too.  Entering the terminal you get an initial document and passport check, and then proceed upstairs for security, and then check in.

Check in is a pretty uncomplicated affair.  The counters are roped off by your stateroom deck with a dedicated check in for suite guests as well as Royal Caribbean’s top tier (Platinum and higher) Crown & Anchor Society members.  Since we’re Diamond, we headed for that line, and were queued up at the desk to be processed within 2 minutes.  After scanning our passports, verifying the credit card number we’d provided for our onboard charges, and giving us the usual welcome speech, we were on our way.  The time was 11:25am, and the ship wasn’t quite ready to board.  So for only the second time in 20 cruises, we had to wait a little while to get on the ship.  Fortunately, they were seating top tier Crown & Anchor members in their own area right by the escalator to the ship, and at 12:10pm, boarding commenced.  We were among the very first to board.

Staterooms typically aren’t available until 1:00pm, so in keeping with tradition, we went straight to the Windjammer buffet for lunch.  It was nice being onboard before so many others because we didn’t have to struggle to find a seat, which made for a more pleasant and leisurely lunch.  By the time we were done, our staterooms were ready so we were able to drop off our carry on bags and then head straight to the pool, which again…wasn’t yet crowded due to our being among the first to board.  We were able to stake out prime real estate near the pool.  (Note: Our stateroom was a standard oceanview, 5026, on deck 5.  No pictures due to technical difficulties but have no complaints about it.  Feel free to comment to the blog if you have a question.)

 

Majesty’s Viking Crown Lounge

 

A shot of the American Airlines Arena from aboard Majesty
A shot of Majesty’s pool area from above

After a solid several hours of pool time, and the required muster drill, it was time for sail away.  Majesty departs Miami at 4:30pm, and we slackened the ropes and cast off right on time.  The ship was moored in such a way that we would have to sail forward into the turning basin, turn the ship around, and then sail out, but this only adds a few minutes, and frankly, affords you some nice views of Miami.

 

Sail away
Sail away from Miami – May 9, 2011

 

Fisher Island on sail away from Miami – May 9, 2011

And with that, we were out on some of the smoothest seas I’ve experienced in a while, and on our way to Nassau.  The evening went on with the Diamond/Diamond Plus/Pinnacle evening event which was held in the Viking Crown lounge each night from 5pm to 8:30pm.  We enjoy the opportunity to socialize with our fellow cruisers, and I won’t lie….a little free wine doesn’t hurt either!  Here’s a shot from the Viking Crown on the first evening of our cruise.

 

Sun setting behind us as Majesty sails towards Nassau

Day 2 – Nassau

Frankly, we’ve been to Nassau more times than I can think of, and we did not intend to get off the ship.  That said, we did make a quick run into town for some incidental purchases and then headed back to the ship where we spent most of the day.  If you’ve never been to Nassau, it’s certainly worth checking out.  Take a water taxi over to Atlantis, visit Senor Frogs, or hit one of the ship’s excursions for a little snorkeling if that’s your thing.  Nothing against Nassau, we just wanted to spend the majority of our time on the ship unwinding, and that we did.  Mrs MJ on Travel and I had a couples massage booked at 1pm, and then I went for a hot shave treatment before stepping out for formal evening.  I did get an interesting picture from the Viking Crown during our evening Diamond event though.

 

Sunset from high above Nassau Harbor

Day 3 – Coco Cay

I really like Royal Caribbean’s private Bahamian paradise, Coco Cay.  The beach is beautiful, the water is bathlike, and the Coco Loco’s aren’t half bad either.  🙂  There were 2 ships tendered at Coco Cay during our last visit, and that made things a bit crowded.  But today, it was just us, and if you keep walking past the first cluster of activities, you can find some nice semi-private beach and a chair.  Did I mention that the water was warm?  🙂

 

Coco Cay

As great as the beach was, one thing we really enjoyed was the private top tier Crown & Anchor event which was held on Coco Cay.  Usually these events are held onboard the ship, and I thought hosting the party on the private island was an especially nice touch.  The weather could not have been better!  The top tier event is a brief opportunity to mingle with the ship’s officers, the loyalty ambassador, and your fellow cruises.  Royal Caribbean provides appropriate adult beverages and some light snacks too.

The highlight of the event, if not the cruise, was the opportunity to actually meet Royal Caribbean “super cruiser,” Mario Salcedo.  If you haven’t heard of Mario, he is the person with the most Royal Caribbean cruises, well north of 300 by this point, if not 400.  He was an extremely gracious person and a joy to talk to.  He was half way through a month of sailing aboard Majesty.  When I first greeted him, I told him he was my hero!  Now you know why!

 

Mario Salcedo and Marshall Jackson on Coco Cay – May 11, 2011

Day 4 – Key West

Key West really is my favorite spot.  I love it…everything about it.  It’s laid back attitude, it’s foreign country within the USA vibe, and everything else about the Conch Republic.  It is the place at the top of my list for retiring to, or moving to when I move the lottery and retire early!  🙂  So I was very excited to be returning to Key West aboard Majesty of the Seas.  It’s the last stop of the cruise, but the first port of entry into the USA when coming from the Bahamas on this trip, so there is a Customs procedure to contend with.  Fortunately for this visit, only non-USA passport holders had to visit personally with Customs.  When I did this cruise 7 years ago, everyone had to present themselves for clearance.  I understand that the procedure varies, and sometimes Customs wants to see everyone, but not today, and we were off the ship in short order once Customs “blessed” everyone to exit.

Mrs MJ on Travel and I have a routine for when we are in Key West on a cruise.  First, we head straight to the Cuban Coffee Queen for a Cafe Con Leche.  The Cuban Coffee Queen is just far enough away to not attract a throng of our fellow cruisers (at least not first thing) which makes it kind of nice.  After a great caffeine boost, then it’s time to head just around the corner to the Half Shell Raw Bar.  Based on the name, you might be able to guess what we ordered.  Not just one, but ultimately 2 dozen oysters and an order of conch fritters.  By the way, it’s my concerted opinion that the conch fritters at the Half Shell are better than those served at Key West favorite, Sloppy Joe’s.  But don’t let that stop you from trying them at both spots!  🙂

The Cuban Coffee Queen
The Half Shell Raw Bar

After appropriate fortification, we made our way over to Duval Street for a little shopping.  We also ran into our mothers, who yes, were still cruising with us!  🙂  After spending a little money at the Margaritaville Store and Coach, we made our way back down Duval for our obligatory “Duval Crawl.”  I won’t bore you with all the details of our debauchery (which I made sure to tweet about), but suffice it to say we made the best of our short day on Key West.  And of course, we made it to the perennial Key West favorites, Sloppy Joe’s and Hog’s Breath.

 

After that, it was time to head back to the ship for our 6pm sail away.  I found myself wishing we could spend 2 days here and just skip Nassau, but what can I say?  I had a great time!  Here are a few shots departing Key West.

Key West sail away – May 12, 2011
Sunset Key – May 12, 2011

Soon, Key West was just a memory, and Majesty was cruising towards her homeport of Miami.  Sadly, our cruise was coming to an end.

Day 5 – Disembarkation in Miami

I woke up early on Friday morning, around 5:30am.  I peered out the window to see the lights of Miami on the horizon and Majesty lining up with the channel to enter the Port of Miami.  We held on to our bags overnight as we intended to take advantage of the Crown & Anchor priority departure and carry our things off.  It’s a lot more fun to sleep just a tiny bit later and not have to deal with dragging your things off, but we had booked the early Delta nonstop from MIA back to DCA which departs at 10:35am.  That’s a little earlier than I would recommend for inexperienced cruisers, and I’d never book it if we weren’t carrying off our own luggage.

By 6:30 am or so, we were docking at Royal Caribbean’s Miami terminal and taking advantage of the continental breakfast provided for top tier Crown & Anchor members.  The route of exit from Majesty is on deck 4 through the dining room.  RCL thoughtfully sets up the top tier departure lounge at the exit of the dining room adjacent to the gangway to ensure we get off the ship first followed by other express departure participants who carry their own bags off the ship.  At approximately 7am, we were advised that we could leave the ship.  Being among the first 10 customers off the ship, Customs was easy, and at 7:15am, we were in a cab headed towards the airport.  By 7:35am, we had checked in with Delta, cleared security, and were headed towards Delta’s very beautiful Sky Club at MIA!  Unbelievably fast!

Summary

Another great show by Royal Caribbean.  Majesty of the Seas is the second oldest ship in the fleet, but she’s obviously well maintained and loved by her crew.  Service was terrific throughout our trip.  Dining room service and food were uniformly excellent.  In future reviews I’ll try to do a better job with taking pictures of food and noting the menus, but having done this cruise so many times, it just didn’t interest me this trip.  We had an excellent cruise.  The opportunity for a few days away from work were appreciated and I’d do this same cruise again in a hot minute.  If you love cruising, you’ll love Majesty of the Seas.  I know I do.