Norwegian Majesty September 1998 Boston to Bermuda Cruise
No offense to my cruise buddies, but after our two recent cruises on the Carnival Destiny and Galaxy, we thought the Age of Cruising as a fun experience was quickly passing. The Norwegian Majesty Boston to Bermuda has restored our faith that there are still some great, fun little cruise ships out there. We did NOT want to get off this ship in spite of our disappointment in the food.
Since the food was our only complaint, I'll get that matter out of the way first:
The food was definitely not great. This was a surprise because of all we have heard and read about how great NCL's food is supposed to be. I personally didn't have anything I couldn't eat, but it simply wasn't anything you would write a magazine article about. Equally disappointing was that there wasn't much of a variety to choose from, especially at lunch. This isn't just me complaining: it was a common complaint I heard from many other past cruisers. The soup queen, Eleanor, my wife, was disappointed in the overall quality of the soups and was particularly disappointed in the lobster bisque. She couldn't even finish the bisque. One of our group insisted that the bisque had pulverized shells in it! I have to agree with that and most everyone in our group, even the first timers, felt the same way. The waiter at our table had this you-don't-know-how-lucky-you-are-to-have-me attitude and then had the nerve to tell us how we should rate not only him but the food. I made our feelings about that clear in my comment card.
That's about the only thing on this cruise that we have to complain about and I know what a big part of a cruise food is. Everything else was so great that Eleanor and I both want to sail on this ship again. Go figure. We talked to one fellow who was a veteran cruiser and said he had been on NCL more than any other line because, among other things, he liked the food so much. He had been on this ship a number of times but this was the first time he had been on it since NCL bought her. He, too, said that he couldn't believe how poor the food and dining room service was compared to his previous NCL experience. So either we just hit the wrong cruise at the wrong time or NCL doesn't spend as much on food on this particular ship.
Now that I've gotten all of that out of my system, I'll move on to why we had such an enjoyable experience that in spite of the food we didn't want this cruise to end.
We arrived at the ship quite early because of our flight schedule we left L.A. at 11:00PM the night before. Even though we had to wait awhile to board because of a wedding party, we were still allowed to board substantially earlier than the time given in the cruise documents. All the carry-on luggage had to go through the X-ray machine, of course, but I didn't see or hear of anyone having their bags opened to check for booze. We had two bottles in my carry-on bag. In Bermuda, the ship's on-board X-ray machine was never used and I never saw or heard of anyone having any shopping bags opened to check for booze. One member of our group who is quite the beer drinker, bought several 6-packs of beer in port and no one said a word to him when he re-boarded.
When you step aboard in Boston, someone takes your bags and escorts you to your cabin. I tried to give the fellow a tip when we got to our cabin and he refused to take it. "I will be your cabin steward," he said, "That isn't necessary." What a pleasant surprise, and in our opinion, an attitude that pays off when we tipped him at the end of the cruise.
OUR ROOM (431 on Baroness Deck)
Neither of us could recall having a larger and more practically-designed "standard size" room before. Along the outside wall we had a good size dresser-drawers and a big end table between two beds. With the beds pushed together and the end table put next to the dresser, there was more than enough room for two chairs or a small 2-seat sofa and a little coffee table. We had two nice chairs but, alas, no little table which would have been handy. There was an ample size, oblong shaped window. Both the dresser and end table had nice deep drawers.
Along another wall, to the left as you walked in, there was a double closet, plenty large enough for us, which contained a safe the kind you slide a credit card through the locking mechanism to operate. Next to the closet was a good size desk/dressing table with a feature we had never seen before, a collapsible ironing board concealed in what at first looked like a drawer. Whereas it is common for ships today to warn you not to use an iron in your room because of the fire hazard, this ship actually gave you an ironing board. The board was very cleverly designed. When you pulled out what we thought was another drawer, the board popped up folded in half by a hinge. Unfolding it gave you a very rigid board at a practical height. After re-folding it, a slight push on the drawer caused the whole thing to depress back into the drawer and then into the dresser. Effortless. This was really a welcome feature since, on a cruise, we like to just give a quick press to things as we are going to wear them. There was a pull-down bed folded against one wall.
Across from the closet we had a nice-sized bathroom, but strangely there were no shelves over the sink, or anywhere else, on which to put anything. On the counter next to the sink there was a wooden tray with soaps, shampoo, conditioner and shower cap. The bathroom also had a hair dryer. Next to the bathroom there was a cabinet containing a refrigerator and narrower cabinet for bottles or whatever. The TV sat on top of this. We must be among the 12 or 15 people in the world who still haven't seen "Titanic." It was shown on the TV almost daily, sometimes twice, and I have now managed to see about the first and last 20 minutes of it.
Michael, our steward, was efficient and cheerful. We had warned him that we normally sleep late, so he shouldn't be concerned if he couldn't clean our room in the morning before he had his mid-day break. When he wasn't able to clean our room in the morning, he would slide a note of apology under the door.
The Epicurean Restaurant is at the stern on Countess Deck (5) with large bay windows across the back. Our group occupied three tables next to these windows so we had a nice view with our meals. It is quite crowded in this room, but no more so than other ship's dining rooms. We were at 2nd seating when the room was fully occupied and I don't know if the room was full for main seating. One very welcome feature in here was that there was no canned music to add to the noise and make conversation difficult. The kitchen is directly in front of the room leaving only enough room for one entry way to the dining room.
Forward of the dining room/kitchen area, and just about in the center of the ship, is Crossroads, the purser's area. There are four separate counters for the purser, credit desk, shore excursions, and group services, all forming a large circle. In the center there is a raised area with a grand piano and some seats. The ceiling is open to the casino above. I thought that arrangement would make it awfully noisy in the purser's area when the casino was open, but such was not the case. Sounds from the casino seemed hardly noticeable in Crossroads. There is a video arcade on the port side past Crossroads, a shop on the starboard side, and then the forward stairwell and elevators.
Continuing on there is a meeting room on the left, the photo shop in the center and the library and card room on the right. It was in the card room, Queen of Hearts, that we had our group cocktail party. Next, extending the width of the ship, was a very beautiful lounge, Rendezvous. At the bow is Royal Fireworks, the night club style theater. You can pass through Royal Fireworks to an outdoor observation deck.
It is so nice that on a ship of this size it is just a short walk from one end to the other.
Moving up to the next deck, Duchess, the Palace Theatre is at the stern. This is a very nice room with the stage raised just enough that almost every seat has a good view. There are just a very few seats where the view is blocked by pillars.
Forward there is a small sundries and souvenir shop on the starboard side and a very nice little piano lounge, the Polo Club, on the other side. Beyond that is the Winners' Circle casino with the opening in the floor where you can see below to the purser's area. The remainder of the deck, a little less than half, is taken up by cabins.
The next deck, Princess, is mostly cabins but also is where the gym and beauty parlor facilities are located. Behind that, at the stern is Frame 52. This is a sports bar during the day and the disco at night.
Frame 52 Sports Bar/Disco
Queen's Deck is all cabins except for the navigation bridge and a sunning area at the stern.
On Empress Deck, more cabins and the place where we spent all of our evenings, the Royal Observatory lounge with large panoramic windows across the front and both sides. This was similar to the America's Cup lounge on the Horizon but of course, on a smaller scale. There is a children's area, Kids Korner, at the stern with a splash pool.
The Majesty Deck has the pool area in the center, Viking Bar & Grill for hamburgers and hot dogs at the stern, and Cafe Royale, the buffet restaurant, forward. Above this was a very small deck, Crown Deck, which is strictly a sunning area. Whether or not there was topless sun bathing there, I don't know.
AND IN CONCLUSION . . .
Other than the Viking Serenade, which we take on 4-night cruises out of L.A. frequently, it has been a long time since we have had the opportunity to cruise on what to us is the ideal size cruise ship. When we first saw the ship at the terminal before we even got aboard, my wife said, "I know I'm going to love this cruise."
On a smaller ship like this, you quickly sense a feeling of friendliness and camaraderie among the passengers, among the crew, and between the passengers and crew. You can "feel" that the crew enjoys working on a ship of this size, both by the way they interact with the passengers and with each other. This makes a big difference to us in our enjoyment of the cruise. I think there is a tendency toward rudeness among some passengers on the big ships because some people feel like they are in a big city and show the attitude, "So what if I'm rude to you today? I'll never see you again tomorrow." It's hard for someone to get away with that attitude on a small ship. At least two-thirds of the passengers must have been Bostonians. We had never been to Boston before in our lives, but these had to be about the friendliest group of strangers that we had ever met on a cruise.
Cruise lines do not have an easy time getting volunteers from older ships to work on the new mega ships because they aren't any fun for the crew. Just as one example, on our recent cruise on Celebrity's Galaxy, we came across a cocktail waitress we had gotten to know from the Horizon. She was not a happy camper because she wasn't there voluntarily. Like a member of any big operation, she felt she was just a number on a roster. My wife and I can sense things like this on a ship and it does nothing to add to a happy experience.
As patrons of the standard-size room categories on cruises, we were overjoyed with the size of our cabin on the Norwegian Majesty. Cabin food service was superb. We left an order card on our door every night for a morning coffee delivery as a wake-up call. The coffee was always delivered at the time requested, and Room Service always phoned a few minutes ahead of time to tell me the order was on the way. Nothing like a few minutes warning so you can get your pants on. We only ordered food in our room once, some sandwiches for lunch. I was told it would be about 30 minutes but it was more like 15.
Every crew member we had occasion to meet was friendly and seemed to have a natural smile. The captain himself, Trygve Vorren, not one of his subordinates or the cruise director, made the daily announcements from the bridge. The purser didn't hide in her office, but was seen frequently walking about the ship with a smile. I never heard a single complaint from anyone regarding dealing with the purser's desk, something that seems to be a major and common complaint on the megas. The cruise director, Shannon McKee, also served as hostess. For those who don't keep abreast of such earth-shaking matters, Shannon was one of the Baywatch babes in the early days of the series. She has a staff of 13 which seemed quite large for this size ship. She was both a charming woman in her hostess role and obviously saw that everything ran smoothly in her CD role. It was never difficult to find a lounge in the evening, except in the disco of course, where you couldn't carry on a conversation without being overwhelmed by deafeningly-amplified music, because that is the way all the lounges were. That's a big plus for us.
Our favorite hang-out in the evening was the Royal Observatory, which did insist on having Karaoke, but blessedly only for one hour. Once a member of our group explained to the operator on our first evening how the machine worked, it wasn't too noisy. A nice attraction in this bar for those who like strong drinks, was that Norman the bartender didn't believe in measuring with a shot glass. Norman just tipped the bottle until he thought it was enough. Norman was having as much fun as the passengers, as was Candalaria (Candy) the cocktail waitress. I know that both picked up a substantial sum in cash tips, besides what is added to the tab, because they knew how to work a bar crowd and they earned it.
I could ramble on but I wanted to get across the point that this was just a fun ship, because of size, crew, and passenger make-up, to be on. No falling-down, obnoxious drunks. No idiots incessantly complaining. No inescapable canned music over P.A. systems. Even with what was hopefully not NCL's standard food quality, we were sorry that we discovered this ship so late. Now she is to be cut and extended and relegated to 3- and 4-night cruises out of Florida. Sad. The least NCL could have done was a Boston-L.A. repositioning cruise first. We would have been on it.
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