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Majesty of the Seas’ Royal History

Majesty-Matt H. Wade WC

Photo by Matt H. Wade Wikimedia Commons

Every ship has a story. Given that Majesty of the Seas carried close to three million passengers in her Royal Caribbean lifetime, it’s reasonable to assume the ship has a few thousands stories, at least.

But her story is more fascinating.

It’s about her Godmother. Her name is Sonja Haraldsen, although she became known as the Queen of Norway just over a year before the ship that would be hers made its maiden Queen Sonjavoyage. Queen Sonja became the Godmother that year (1992) and the Norwegians must have skipped protocol for the occasion because Majesty of the Seas was made in France.

It turns out that Queen Sonja, like “her” Majesty, was ahead of her time.

So smitten was her beloved, King Harald, that he told his father if he wasn’t allowed to marry this Oslo commoner, he would never marry, thereby ending the family’s rule as Norwegian royalty, since there would be no children to carry on the tradition. Harald and Sonja were allowed to wed and 23 years later she became Norway’s first “queen consort” in 53 years and the first queen to attend the swearing-in ceremony in seven decades.

Since then, she has gone other places where women of the past dared not go. She was the first queen to visit Antarctica and flew there in a Hercules transport aircraft…not exactly limousine service. Having undergone basic training and having participated in exercises, she is a Rear Admiral in the Navy and a Brigadier in the Army. An award in her name is given to schools that excel in promoting “inclusion and equality.” Over the years, promising artists and musicians, and Vietnam vets, have all been touched by her.

Today, Her Majesty is 77 and still going strong, while “her” Majesty is going to leave the Royal Caribbean fleet in the spring to join Pullmantur Cruises in Spain. The Queen has probably shaken the hands of as many people as have been on Majesty of the Seas, which was also ahead of her time.

In 1992, she and her Sovereign Class sisters — Monarch of the Seas and Sovereign of the Seas — were the biggest ships in the world when they were launched. When they’re re-united at Pullmantur, they’ll be the largest ships in the fleet of a little-known cruise line, long surpassed on the oceans by so many bigger ships that they’re now among the smallest.

That, too, is part of Majesty’s story.

Today at portsandbows.com: The rush to mine cruise gold in China

Norwegian Getaway
7 nights
January 3, 2015
Miami (return): St. MaartenSt. ThomasNassau
Inside: $499
Cost per day: $71

Changing World Of Cruise Ship Balconies

Many cruisers (including these two) will do everything possible to enjoy a balcony stateroom on a cruise. There are people, we're told, who simply won't go on a cruise if they can't get one.

How times have changed.

Once, balconies were at such a premium that they cost twice as much as an inside stateroom. Today, while they're still more expensive, they run about 25 per cent more.

Once, cruise ships had no balcony staterooms (i.e. The Love Boat or the Titanic), and the watershed date for that change was Royal Caribbean's Monarch of the Seas, which increased the number available to five per cent of the staterooms. Today's new ships are built with 65 per cent, or more.

Once, the number of balconies depended on space available on the outside decks of ships. Some of today's ships have virtual (or will have) balconies on inside cabins…and balconies that face the inside of the ship.

Next month, we'll be getting a taste of that one when we board Allure of the Seas. The balcony rooms overlooking Central Park became popular after the arrivals of Allure and its sister ship, Oasis of the Seas, and Royal Caribbean has other ships with balconies that overlook the Promenade in the heart of the ship.

Stay tuned.

Later this month, the new Regal Princess will arrive in Europe. It will have a balcony-inside ratio of 80-20.

Indeed…how times have changed!

Today at Phil Reimer's portsandbows.com: The latest in cruise news

Celebrity Summit
7 nights
July 13, 2014
Bayonne (return): King’s Wharf
Inside: $899
Cost per day: $128


New Ship: Quantum of the Seas

After quietly disposing of the Monarch of the Seas, its oldest (22 years) ship, Royal Caribbean filled the space in the stable with the much-heralded Quantum of the Seas. When it hits the water, Quantum will kick-start the seventh class of ships for the cruise line and be followed a year later by a sister called Anthem. Quantum's permanent home port will be Bayonne, NJ, to serve the growing New York market.

Launch date: November 2

Capacity: 4,905

Sister ships: None (yet)

Maiden Voyage: Southampton to Bayonne

Home Port: Bayonne, New Jersey

Ships in Royal Caribbean fleet: 22

Interesting: This new ship is being called revolutionary for its North Star, a pod at the end of a mechanical arm that extends — with up to 14 thrill-seekers in it — over the ocean at a height of 300 feet. Also unique is the chance to "sky dive" inside the RipCord by iFly, a simulator with vertical wind to keep you airborne. Quantum's not as big as the Oasis Class ships, and will carry between (according to reports) 4,180 and 4,905 passengers, who will also be introduced to a first-of-its-kind sports and entertainment complex that Royal Caribbean has branded SeaPlex. Also new, rooms with balconies for singles.

Holland America Eurodam
14 nights
March 30, 2014
Fort LauderdalePonta DelgadaCadizAlmeriaCartagenaRome
Inside: $699
Cost per day: $49

Cruise Lines Catching Up (or On)

On Friday night, a 39-year-old mother of three officiated in an NFL pre-season game. A week earlier, there was a woman at the helm of a Silversea cruise ship for the first time. These things are one day going to be old news, especially the latter.

While Sarah Thomas was the first female to be a pro football official, Margrith Ettlin (left) is — by our unofficial count — the fourth woman to be captain of a cruise ship, in her case the Silver Explorer.

The first was Karin Stahre-Jansen (below, right), who became the "master" of Royal Caribbean's Monarch of the Seas, then sailing Mexican Riviera cruises from Los Angeles. That was in 2007. Three years later, Sarah Breton became captain of P&O's Pacific Pearl, in Australia. And last month, what might be called the most traditional of cruise lines — Cunard — welcomed Captain Inger Olsen as she guided the Queen Victoria into her first port, in the Faroe Islands.

In an age when women go to war, presumably doing whatever their male counterparts are called upon to do, there is of course no reason why a woman shouldn't be qualified to be in charge of a mega-ton cruise ship. Even to the most chauvinistic of observers, it's not like she has to jump off the deck and tie up these monstrosities.

One day, it will cease to be news that a woman is a cruise ship captain, just like it has that a woman is flying a commercial airliner or driving a semi or wrestling a steer to the ground.

And that day can't come soon enough, can it?

Carnival Freedom
6 nights
September 15, 2013
Fort Lauderdale (return): Key WestGrand CaymanOcho Rios
Inside: $279
Cost per day: $46

This Time, Cruising Hit by Hurricane

Get ready for the hurricane.

Not Sandy, the "hurricane" of stories that we're going to hear from cruisers who have been stranded while trying to reach their ship, tossed around on ships, left at sea, compensated by airlines/cruise lines, not compensated by airlines/cruise lines, missed ports, missed ships, had their cruise shortened, had their cruise lengthened…

This may go down as the week that the cruise ship industry was most affected by hurricanes. One hurricane.

With at least 20% of the entire U.S. population affected by Hurricane Sandy, here's a rough re-cap of how some cruise ships were impacted (as reported by Cruise.Co, Cruise Critic and a myriad of news sources on the Internet):

• Five ships yesterday were caught in or near 30-foot seas churned by Sandy — Norwegian Jewel, Carnival Miracle, Royal Caribbean's Explorer of the Seas, Aida Luna and the Queen Mary 2 (trying vainly to escape Sandy's path as it headed east for England).

• Holland America's Eurodam had to change its departure from Fort Lauderdale to Jacksonville, bussing all its passengers over 320 miles in windy conditions.

• Disney's Fantasy finally made it to Port Canaveral with a shipload of scared and sick passengers tossed around while the Fantasy sustained damage to restaurants, bars, shops and stateroom furniture.

• One ship, Carnival Pride, was forbidden to depart from Baltimore by the U.S. Coast Guard and the cruise was canceled.

• Passengers on another Carnival ship, the Glory, were issued refunds because the Norfolk (Virginia) cruise terminal is behind a flood gate that closed on the weekend.

• Eight other Carnival ships on the East Coast were forced to delay departures or arrivals and skip or change ports for other stops, or add an extra sea day.

• Three other Norwegian ships were affected…the Gem is sitting out in calmer Atlantic waters until the hurricane passes, which could turn a 9-day cruise into 12, while the Dawn and the Sky also shuffled departures and ports.

• The Emerald Princess escaped rough seas by stopping in Port Saguenay (Quebec) instead of Bar Harbor (Maine), and three other Princess ships changed itineraries.

• Four Royal Caribbean ships — Enchantment, Jewel, Majesty and Monarch of the Seas — also changed schedules or added sea days to escape Sandy's wrath.

Blessed with modern technology, cruise ships are almost always able to escape hurricanes. This one, because of its mushrooming size and force, may turn out to be the exception. And with compensation packages reaching far into the future, not to mention far into the bank accounts of cruise lines, the effects could be felt for a long, long time.

In the days ahead, expect to hear many first-person and harrowing accounts of life on a cruise ship during a hurricane.

Celebrity Silhouette
15 nights
April 14, 2013
Fort Lauderdale, Coco Cay, San Juan, St. Maarten, Madeira, Rome
Inside: $789
Cost per day: $52

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