Flying north for winter

Majestic

Majestic Princess
Reg. London, 144,216 gt, 3,560 passengers maximum. (will it feel crowded?)

There comes a time when winter is all too much as one grows older . . . and older. A few months ago I started to check where to go or what to do, for part of our Sydney winter. Being a wimp, I consider late May is the start of the colder period, so any time after mid May would be fine, after all summer is December, January & February and Autumn is March, April and May, but late May is winter!

I wanted something ‘different’ without too much work i.e changing hotels, bus trips,  or too many plane changes, so once again it came down to cruising.

Maureen & I like cruising, and having sailed in –

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Island Princess – Reg. London, 92,000 gt, 2200 passengers (never felt crowded)

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Diamond Princess – Reg. London, 115,875 gt, 2670 passengers (never felt crowded)

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Dawn Princess – Reg. Bermuda, 77,441 gt, 1998 passengers (never felt crowded)

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Azamara Quest – Reg. Valetta, Malta, 30,277 gt, 686 passengers (never felt crowded)

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Pacific Jewel – Reg. London, 69,845 gt, 2014 passengers (did feel crowded at times)

so could I find something different?

I clicked on various global travel & cruise sites and in the end I went back to Princess Cruises’ web site and found a positioning cruise from Rome (the port is Civitavecchia, about 80 to 90 kms from the city of Rome) to Shanghai in China.

Majestic Princess is the latest vessel of Princess Cruises and is the newest of the ‘Royal’ class of vessels, the others being Regal & Royal Princess.

A new vessel, positioning cruise, sailing through the Suez Canal (which Maureen has not yet experienced), and then sailing down the Red Sea and in to the Persian Gulf, followed by India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia and finally, for us, Singapore where we leave the ship to fly home.

The ship carries on to China, via various Asian ports, to be based in Shanghai so as to focus on the Chinese market. She carries two names one in English and the other in Chinese script 盛世公主号, which means Grand World or Grand Spirit.

The price was right for the twenty-eight day cruise, and she would do about six weeks cruising around the Mediterranean as ‘shake-down’ cruises, before the positioning cruise.
All being well, by the time we join the Majestic Princess the ‘crinkles’ of a new ship, and a ‘new’ crew would have been worked through, so that the little problems after leaving dry dock (there are nearly always problems) had been fixed. The comments / complaints from the first group of passengers would point to any major problems.

royal-class-deluxe-balcony-1600I paid a little extra for a larger balcony, because we spend our quiet afternoons at sea reading, or in my case trying to write. I do enjoy watching the sun come up, or set, over the sea, and the balcony is a big plus for us.

the-seawalk-1-1600It is the first cruise ship to have a glass walk over the ocean, so I’ll be interested in this experience.

piazza-1-1600The Atrium, as well as a meeting place is also used as a village square (Piazza) for acts, music & dancing etc.

princess-theater-1-1600No idea how many people the theater seats.

The above four pictures are from various Princess Cruises’ online brochures.

I have since found out that they do not have a Crooners Bar, which was a favourite of ours on all of the other Princess vessels. Crooners was just right for a 5.00 pm quiet drink with a piano player doing requests.

DSC04087rCrooners Bar Requests ??

DSC03896Crooners Bar Island Princess

The Majestic Princess doesn’t have a Wheelhouse Bar or Explorers Bar – each bar on other Princess ships has a different ambiance, but I have been told that they do have karaoke bars, so I’ll have to find a quiet spot elsewhere :-o)
With such a large Atrium I doubt that it will be a problem – Crooners under another name?

Apparently all signage on the ship is in two language English & Chinese and all announcements are made in both languages.

The ship sails from Barcelona to Shanghai for the fifty six night cruise, departing Barcelona 14th May 2017. We join her in Rome (17th May) and leave in Singapore, so hopefully I’ll have plenty of pictures to post when blogging.

A roam around a ship

Checking in for our cruise was very easy – after checking -in  we didn’t have to wait to board even though we had been warned that a wait would be required, but were told to pass through emigration and security and to board immediately.
On entering our cabin (state room to be PC) we realised that it was much smaller than the same cabin on the previous Princess Cruise vessels. We’d booked a balcony cabin, and the balcony area was the smallest that we had experienced, but they still managed to squeeze in two chairs & a tiny round table.

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The storage area for our clothes was smaller than the other Princess ships, and even smaller then the Pacific Jewel, where we had an inside cabin.

Once we unpacked we realised that instead of placing our suitcases in the hanging part of the ‘wardrobe’ area we were able to stow them out of sight under our bed. Even though the area for our clothes was smaller, we were able to unpack completely and stow all our clothes and bits and pieces out of sight. Our shoes went under the bed along with my laptop & briefcase and Maureen’s carry – on bag, so all in all the sudden shock of ‘smallness’ was soon fixed.
The ship is well maintained and crew members can be seen constantly painting and touching up various areas. All the staff that we come in contact with were friendly and helpful.

Thirteen nights of having everything done for us – wonderful.

dsc07541rGoodbye Sydney – we sailed at 4.00 pm so I was able to photograph the sun setting over Australia.

I thought a few pictures of the Dawn Princess might help for those considering a Princess Line cruise.

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The Atrium, or heart of the ship for passengers.

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The pictures above and the one below are of the Vista Lounge and Bar, which is near the stern, it is a large bar with a small stage, which is used by various acts in the evening or lectures during the day, or an afternoon of quizzes when at sea.

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dsc07532rMagnum Bar – very quiet, and quite small.

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Wheelhouse Bar – quiet around 5.00 pm, but jumping by 8.00 pm with live music and dancing.

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The Riviera Bar near the pools.

There are other outdoor bars, but we didn’t use them.

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Not all that clear, but the water in the pool is overflowing as the ship’s movement causes a slight pitching, which in turn causes the water to rush to one end and then back to the other end.

dsc07562rThis picture gives a better idea of the ‘surge’.

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The Crooners Bar; a lime & soda for Maureen and a Guinness for me. On each of the Princess vessels in which we have sailed, the Crooners Bar is always a favourite, because of the staff and the live music which is never too loud so that you have to shout. The Crooners Bar on the Dawn Princess is the largest Crooners Bar that we have experienced, much larger than the Island or the Diamond Princess.
One of the bar staff in the Dawn Princess was a Scouse (from Liverpool UK) and he came from the next suburb to where Maureen lived as a child. The barman spends nine months cruising and then goes home to Liverpool, for a couple of months.

Each evening at 9.00 pm Paul Burton would sit in the Crooners Bar and play jazz on the piano & sing songs of yesteryear – he was perfect for the ambiance of this particular bar. I bought his CD, Live in London.

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If you fancied a night club there was always Jammers – a little too noisy for me  . . .

dsc07528rOur dining room was called the Venetian dining room – picture taken from the entrance.

 Unlike other ships where we had ‘any time dining’ i.e you fronted up and you entered the dining room if it was before 10.30 pm, but sometimes you had to queue due to demand etc. We used to arrive around 6.30 to 6.45 pm and didn’t have a problem. On the Dawn Princess, we had been allocated 5.30 pm dining, which was a little early for us, but we got used to the timings and adjusted lunch to fit . . . This also meant that we had the same passengers on the same table each evening with the same stewards. The passengers were not a problem, because we soon got to know each other. The wine waiter was preemptive because he used to put a glass of white wine down in front of me when I sat down & placed the ‘chit’ next to me side plate for signing. That was ‘service’ with a smile.
The following comments are only my opinion as to why they have fixed dining times on Australian based vessels.
Australian based Princess Cruise ships do not charge a daily gratuity. On ships that leave Australia and do not return to an Australia port at the end of the voyage, the gratuity is charged at approximately $12 USD a day per person. The gratuity is split amongst the face to face staff and the backroom staff that the passenger never meets or comes in contact with, but is still offering a service.
This allows for any time dining – you can have a dedicated booked time if you wish, but most people just turn up and wait a short while if the dining room is busy.

Because of the culture in Australia of not to tip unless they receive service above and beyond the expected service level for the price charged, the cruise companies have, I think, built in the gratuity in to the cruise price, but then encourages tipping of your cabin steward and your dining steward, hence the need to have set dining times so that you are served by the same steward & wine steward for the whole voyage, and you then feel ‘pressured’ to leave a tip at the end.
Overall I would prefer to pay the daily rate and not have the inconvenience of working out the required amount to tip the various staff. If the service is not up to scratch you can have the ‘compulsory’ gratuity removed from your account, so the pressure is still on the staff member to deliver a good service. I just add the daily rate to the overall cost of the cruise so as to compare apples with apples – at least the backroom staff receive something for their work, whereas only tipping the waiter one never knows if this is shared.

dsc07873rA general view of the dining room.

 On the Dawn Princess, they had two main dining rooms and four specialised dining rooms (extra cost for each of the specialised dining rooms). The pictures below are to indicate the standard for our dining room.

dsc08284rMain course evening dish for Maureen – lobster.

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and for me Beef Wellington – it was thick and just melted in the mouth – perfect.

The two Kiwis shown in the first photograph at the entrance to the dining room is because we celebrated Waitangi Day, 6th February, which is a national holiday in NZ, being the day that a treaty was signed between the British and the Maori people in 1840.

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The Atrium was decorated in Maori motifs.

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If a formal style of dining is not to your ‘taste’ (excuse the pun) you can dine in the Horizon Court for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Dress code is casual, whereas long pants for men are required in the Vincentian dining room in the evening, even for none formal evenings.

On the 14th February I realized when we went for breakfast that it was Valentine’s Day  . . .

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The Horizon Court is buffet style for each meal. Stewards are on hand to offer various drinks. As one would expect the buffet offered a wide choice of food from Asian through to standard western. It was very easy to over eat due to a great collection of puddings, cakes and jellies.
My lunchtime choice, after a morning of sightseeing, was always a light salad and cheese and biscuits with a glass of wine. Knowing that dinner was at 5.30 pm to 6.00 pm one had to be circumspect with earlier meals.

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The above picture, and the one below, shows the Inside of the buffet area at the start of breakfast on a sea day (nobody rushes on a sea day)– everyone is required to wash their hands via a squirt of disinfectant from an automatic dispenser. A staff member stands near the machine and greets the passenger. If you forget to use the machine you are reminded politely by this person. Not a problem really if we are all to be free of stomach upsets.

Breakfast at 7.00 am – passenger custom just starting to build.

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Hot food from steaks to eggs cooked to order. Bacon cooked ‘American’ style or English style.
American bacon being cooked until it is a brittle streak with little meat and a danger when cut with a knife. Pieces of bacon shoot across the table or ping all over the place. Eating it with fingers is the only way to protect your neighbour.
The English bacon has more meat, so I tried both at the same time. Ever the diplomat.

I weighed myself on our return and I’d put on just over a kilo, which I will lose. It is very easy to put on weight on a cruise, so one has to be careful not to over eat – not having that second piece of cake brings tears to my eyes. . . . .