Nov 28, 2018

Havana daydreamin’ on the Majesty of the Seas

Part One:  All aboard from Ft. Lauderdale

Most of my travels as a commoner have been, well, fairly common in nature – a little off the beaten path, perhaps, but rarely anything even remotely exotic or extravagant.  But once in a while, I think every commoner needs to take a leap forward with a more uncommon journey.  After all, few people ever become world travelers in just one trip. 

So, in an effort to cross multiple items off our collective bucket lists, last summer I booked a cruise over the week of Thanksgiving for Punky and me.  The ship was Royal Caribbean’s Majesty of the Seas.  The itinerary was Key West, Fla., and, more importantly, Havana, Cuba (the top destination on Punky’s list of places to visit).

We arrived in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., a day early of our departure date of Nov. 19.  It would definitely be an understatement to say the view from our room on the top floor of the Renaissance Hotel nearby put us in the right frame of mind.  

And although the Royal Caribbean cruise ports were farther south, just seeing a cruise ship port across the street made us all the more anxious to get on board.

It should be said that if you’ve never been on a cruise before, you learn early the art of hurry up and wait” in line.  However, when you put into perspective that every boarding involves a population of a small city trying to check in at once, you have to marvel at the overall efficiency of the process.   To Royal Caribbean’s credit, we were on board much earlier than anticipated.

We were so early, in fact, that we were able to adhere to that wise adage that you can’t drink all day unless you start in the morning.  We discovered the Schooner Bar on Deck 5 was one of the few spots on the ship open for business before noon and quickly began making the most of our pre-purchased deluxe drink packages.  Punky was pleased. 

We both opted for the specialty cocktail of the day and learned right away that whatever the cocktail of the day was, it was going to be good. 

Good enough, in fact, to try our hands at selfies.  And given my photography skills, I really should know better.

After a couple of rounds to celebrate the start of our trip, we decided to check out our cabin to see if our luggage had arrived by 1 p.m. as predicted by the Royal Caribbean staff.  Sure enough, everything was accounted for and waiting for us in the hallway.  I know a lot of people dread the cramped quarters of your typical cruise ship cabin, but I have to say ours was larger than we expected.  Sure, it was small, and we only had one electrical outlet that you couldn’t plug anything into without turning off the desk light, but Punky and I managed just fine.      

It probably helped that we had stellar service throughout the cruise by our steward who made several scheduled trips to check on us each day.  The first sign of this attention to detail was on the table when we arrived … the tickets I had pre-purchased to the Tropicana cabaret show in Havana and Day One’s itinerary.    

Just as we got settled in to our quarters, it was time for the mandatory muster drill at 3 p.m.  It was as exciting as it looks.

After we passed the muster, it was time to prepare for our first “formal” dining experience on the Majesty of the Seas.  We had been assigned the early seating in the Moonlight Dining Room on Deck 3. (The ship also has a second dining room, the Starlight, on Deck 4 – same deal, different location).  If you’re unfamiliar with cruise ship dining, expect to be assigned a table which you will share with other guests, unless you’re traveling with a large enough group to fill an entire table.  We met some nice folks from Columbus, Ohio, over the course of a couple of evenings, and the funny thing is once you dine with your new friends, you wind up seeing them everywhere else you go on the boat. 

The menu above provides a good example of what to expect.  While I found the entrees to be only slightly above average, the appetizers really stood out.  It’s also where the crew tended to get more adventurous with the menu offerings.  Some of the more memorable gems from our Moonlight Dining Room experiences included the escargot, seafood cake and lobster bisque. 

I wish I could be as complimentary about the service, and this is the only area where the service on the Majesty of the Seas left us unimpressed.  Maybe some language barriers contributed, but the wait staff simply could not get our wine orders correct no matter how often they tried.   

We concluded the first night of our cruise with some after-dinner drinks at Boleros, the ship’s Latin-themed bar/nightclub.  The bartenders were especially attentive, and the drinks relied heavily on tequila and rum. It was my kind of place, and with it situated on the same floor as our cabin, it became our regular “last call” for the duration of the cruise.   

The house band at Boleros was also very entertaining.  While I confess to never having a clue as to what they were singing, the music was always lively and energetic.  By the last night of the cruise, guests were much more likely to let go of their inhibitions and get out on the dance floor.  The occasional salsa dance lessons didn’t hurt, either, 

Looking back, we packed a lot into Day One, and we probably made the same mistake many first-time cruisers make of trying to do too much too soon.  Fortunately, Day Two was a scheduled day at sea and all about relaxing before our first scheduled port of call in Key West, Fla. 

To be continued …

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