964 days between drinks

At last Australia opened the border to cruise ships and the first Princess vessel to visit Sydney was the Majestic Princess. She had sailed from Vancouver via Los Angeles, Tahiti and New Zealand to be based in Sydney for the southern summer.
Maureen and I had sailed in this ship in 2017 from Rome (Civitavecchia is the port for Rome) to Singapore.
In 2017 she had been ‘fitted out’ for the Chinese market because it was intended that the Majestic would be based in China.
She was based in China until Covid arrived in 2019/20 when the global cruise industry shut down.
Our memory of the Rome to Singapore cruise was not a hundred percent positive for various reasons, so we boarded the vessel on the 20th October of this year wondering what if anything had changed.

Princess marketed the cruise well and offered various incentives to join the ships for an eleven-night cruise to Cairns and back calling at various places of interest. The price we right so we bought a mini-suit, which included free drinks, free wi-fi, and onboard currency. The above shows the mini-suit and in the bathroom, we had a shower over a bath. We never felt cramped.

The above is the view from our balcony the day we boarded.

The main public area of the ship – the Atrium.

The ambiance of the whole ship had changed since our first trip in 2017 and in our opinion for the better. Additional bars had been added in various parts of the ship, so the bar areas were not as crowded as 2017 and it was easy to find a seat.

The Wake Bar overlooking the stern – not at all crowded.

                                       Part of the outside swimming area –

Other end of the pool area – note the large screen for those who were doing various Eastern exercises in the morning. The screen was used all day to show films or sporting matches and there were plenty of stewards to help with the drinks.

Princess has a new ‘system’ – the Medallion – which is free to all passengers. It is circular and has a code embedded in the unit.
The ship has its own ‘internet’ and if you use the Medallion with your mobile phone linked to the ship’s system you can order a drink via your phone,  (I think you click on a picture) the steward will know who you are and where you are even if you move from the location of the order.
We did not use our phones on board.
I kept the Medallion unit in my pocket and as I approached a bar I would be greeted by name and asked for my order.

The above picture show what the barman would see as you approached the bar for a drink – I think the left computer, and the images on the left of that computer – the second one down is your truly.
When you sign into the system (before boarding) you add a recent photograph of just your face and this comes up on the bar person’s computer screen. It worked well and helped breakdown any barriers with the staff.
A big plus for us was that as we approached the door of our cabin it unlocked for us to enter – and when we left in the morning for breakfast the cabin steward would be aware that the cabin was empty and available for cleaning.
The cabin would be cleaned while we were at breakfast regardless of the time that we left. We only saw the cabin steward once one morning as he was finishing placing clean towels in the bathroom, because we had returned early.
The system was efficient.
The unit does not have any personal information on it, nor does it indicate your cabin number, so if you lose it, it will not be a problem, the desk staff just replace the unit.
At the end of the voyage the unit stays with you as it is used to disembark from the ship and it is yours to keep if you wish. The unit can be used as a fridge magnet. The units are free to all passengers.
I kept my unit in my right pocket because I have a pacemaker and had read that the unit (being magnetic) should not be too close to the pace maker. It was not a problem carrying the unit in my pocket.The ship also had an indoor pool with controlled air temperatures – never too hot never too cold.

                                                  Vines Bar – our favourite
We would be at this bar for a drink before dinner. The staff were from the Philippine and their skill at mixing various drinks was very entertaining and they never had any cocktail left over when they had finished – the measures were always just right.

After we had seen a show, we would drop into the Crown Grill Bar

The dining room that we used most nights-  as we entered the Maitre d‘ always asked if we were willing to share a table – sometimes we asked for a table for two because we wished to see a show and we knew it would be popular, so we wanted a fast meal.
Most nights we agreed to share up to six, from experience anymore and one could not hear everyone.
Six was just right and we met some very funny and interesting people. Our dining companions were from Canada, various US States and of course Australians. We met one lady from Canada she was coming up to her fifty-fifth day on the ship and was due to fly home when we returned to Sydney.
On sea days we would also go to the restaurant for breakfast and lunch.
All the staff wore face masks, but passenger had the choice. We carried a face mask just in case, but never had to put it on. A few passengers wore facemasks outside of their cabins.
There had been about 100 passengers (out of 3600) who had been refused permission to land in Tahiti because they showed a positive result on arrival. If they were positive, then by the time they reached Sydney they were clean and as far as I know we did not have a single positive case of Covid.

We were late sailing and it had grown dark and most of the passengers were in various dining rooms for their evening meal, so I do not think many took part in the Sail Away deck party.
I took the above picture from our balcony around 6.00am the day after we sailed. As you see the sea was calm. and the ship was steady.

Two days later off the Queensland coast – once again a 6.00 am picture with an unusual wake. It was beautiful weather for the rest of the cruise and pleasantly warm.

Our itinerary was to be Airlie Beach, followed by Yorkeys Knob, Port Douglas, Willis Island, Brisbane, and finally home to Sydney.
I plan to do a post for each place we visited.

F & B

Food & Beverage always helps to make a holiday.

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Dining in the Symphony Dining room – breakfast, lunch or dinner. Maureen and I started having our breakfast in the restaurant, but ended up on deck sixteen at World Fresh Marketplace – the choice was larger, but each evening we had our dinner in the Symphony restaurant.

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Breakfast in the World Fresh Marketplace, which was very good with a huge choice of food from around the world. On one side, we had a darker décor (see above pic) and on the other side of the ship we had a lighter décor. (see pic below)

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The darker area concentrated on hot dishes – roasts, curries, Chinese spicy dishes, and the lighter area on ‘cool’ dishes – salads, puddings, cakes etc. It was a joy to wander around and check all the dishes, which for me made choosing what to eat, without overeating, the decision of the day.

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A colourful spread of puddings, jellies and sweets, some sugar free, others gluten free, they did their best to satisfy as many people as possible.

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A wide choice of food from around the world – hot or cold.

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Smoked salmon for breakfast or lunch . . . just help yourself.

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I had read comments on the lack of bars for such a large vessel, and the difference in the western and Chinese culture of visiting bars. As soon as we had settled in we investigated which bar was going to be our favourite. The above picture shows Bellini’s, which concentrates on Champagne.

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Or was it the Fountain Pool Bar, near the pool area.

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Seaview Bar near the pool was popular, particularly on hot days.

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Sitting at the bar we could watch the passing desert as we moved gently along the Suez Canal.

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For those who are TT, a fruit and veg bar- drinks produced by blending / crushing various fruits & vegetables.
But, for us The Piazza Bar replaced the Crooner’s Bar on other ships.

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Maureen & our friends at the Piazza Bar for a pre-dinner drink.

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Same bar area of the Piazza bar

This bar was close to the main ‘entertaining’ area of the dance floor, which was also used as a centre of offbeat entertaining.

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Specialty acts

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Jazz band

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The female acrobat returned a few nights later with a double wheel.

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Plus of course we could dance or in my case crush Maureen’s feet.

Another popular bar was the Wake Bar

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This was a favourite place for many to have their breakfast – the World Fresh Market was just for’d of the Wake Bar, and the day could start with a Bloody Mary and fried eggs if this was to your liking.
There was a ‘day starter’ menu available at the bar if you wished for a breakfast cocktail. This menu changed to lunchtime cocktail menus around 11.00 am.

Additional bars were Crown Grill (part of a small restaurant) –

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and there was a bar inside the casino, which we didn’t use.

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I bet (excuse the pun) the casino will be popular with the Chinese during the Majestic Princess’ year long China contract.

 

Voyage of discovery

We spent most of the day of our first day at sea between Sydney and Melbourne navigating around the ship to find out where everything fitted – restaurants, bars, shopping areas etc
We had a cloudy morning, which brightened in to a blue sea and blue sky day with very good visibility. We were able to see the Bass Strait oil rigs in the distance. Unfortunately it was not warm enough to sit out on the balcony – too windy.
During our exploring we found the ‘Wake bar’ in the stern of the ship, which was closed at the time – too early, but we were able to get in and take some photographs of our wake through ‘portholes’.

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When I was at sea we had a helmsman (as against auto steering) to steer our ship, and being a first trip cadet I had to do a number of hours steering to gain my helmsman’s certificate – this was required before I could take my 2nd Mates ticket. I was required to keep the wake arrow straight. I remember my first effort, and the Captain saying to me that the war was over and it was no longer required for me to zig zag as the German submarines had been defeated . . . I did gain my helmsman’s certificate after the required number of hours of doing it correctly.

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Spiral staircase leading down to Wake bar.

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Bar area under the portholes – they look like windows, but close up they only allow light in through the ‘porthole’ area.

The Atrium was different again – and always popular.
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Last year we sailed in the Island Princess with 1960 passengers, this year on Diamond Princess there are 2,900 passengers and the difference is noticeably in many of the public areas, even though the Diamond is bigger than the Island – about 22,000 tons. Although the restaurants have not been crowded, just enough people, but the self service Horizon Restaurant always seems to be well attended.

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The British Captain, on the small Atrium balcony, giving the passengers a warm welcome.

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Once the speech was over the staff finished off the Champaign fountain.

 

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