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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

The Impact of Frozen and Friends

Frozen cruises. Now there’s an oxymoron. With the exception of adventurous expeditions to the Poles, cruises are generally for warm-weather people. Lie on the Disney ship-Frozendeck, swim in the pool, sit in the moonlight on the balcony. None of these things works on a “frozen cruise.”

Unless it’s Disney.

Everybody knows Frozen, the movie…while we did hear a movie critic claim she had never heard “Do You Want To Build A Snowman?” Perhaps she doesn’t get out much. So okay, almost everybody has heard of Frozen…the movie, the music, the characters. To the surprise of no one, Frozen characters are going on Disney ships.

Anna and ElsaNo  dates yet, but one Florida travel agency is reporting that Princess Anna and Queen Elsa will be making appearances on three of Disney’s four ships: the Magic, the Wonder and the Fantasy. It will be on cruises to the Caribbean and — here’s another shocker — Alaska.

Disney, meanwhile, is reporting that for the first time it will be cruising to Scotland, Iceland and Norway, the animated “country” that was the movie’s set…and the impact Frozen Norwayon the real Norway has been nothing short of astounding. Disney is implementing guided tours called “A Full Frozen Package” that include fjord visits, trout fishing and a visit to Bergen. Since the movie’s release, traffic to the VisitNorway website has tripled, traffic is up 52 per cent on Norwegian Air Shuttle, searches for Norwegian flights are up 153 per cent and hotel bookings are up 37 per cent.

Frozenmania is widespread. We know people who like everything Frozen.

In a manner of speaking, that is.

Today at portsandbows.com: Copenhagen’s copious attractions

Carnival Splendor
7 nights
September 13, 2014
New York (return): Boston, Portland, Saint John, Halifax
Inside: $409
Cost per day: $58

The Captain's 'Norwegian' wife

They met on a cruise ship, as many captains and their mates for life do. She was from Trinidad and Tobago. He was from Norway. Not exactly the blueprint for a match made in heaven…or even the Western Hemisphere.

"Sorry if I'm getting carried away," says Captain Tore Grimstad, whose ship is Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas, "but she is special."

He wasn't talking about his ship, which is special. He was talking about his wife, Lisa.

"She is as Norwegian as anyone — she speaks such beautiful Norwegian, even a dialect that I have, that people when they see her and have spoken to her on the telephone, you see the chin drop to the chest," he laughs, which he does a lot. "They say to her: 'You don't look like one of us…but you speak like a local!'"

They have been married 17 years now and their 15-year-old daughter, Anna, is being raised on the island as her father was. It's near Alesund, in western Norway, and is Capt. Torecalled Gurskoy/Hareid-Landet…actually two islands linked by a recently constructed underground tunnel. She and her mom have the man of the house at home every 10 weeks, for two and a half months between his Allure assignments.

Sometimes, they get to sail with him.

Sailing on another Royal Caribbean ship, Sovereign of the Seas, is where this trans-oceanic romance began. Tore was Chief Officer, Lisa worked in housekeeping. He took her home to Norway, then left on a contract at sea.

"I left her there and when came home four months later, I was blown away with all the words she knew, and the phrases," he says with pride. "She is musical. She's just good with languages. She already spoke a few languages from Trinidad. English is the mother tongue. A bit of Spanish….a bit of what they call gibberish…Creole, Patois. When she came to Norway, she immediately applied for work….got a job as a scaffolder in a shipyard. That little woman, she is amazing…climbing on the scaffolding on the outside the ships. She's a bit petite, so they sent her down in tanks to clean the inside so she was thrown right in there and nobody spoke English. She just had to learn Norwegian."

Language and scaffolding are only two of the things his wife learned in Norway. Her husband explains:

"They told her the scaffolding was to diminish but they needed truck drivers. So here she was, pregnant and driving a huge truck!"

Lisa took five years off after Anna's birth but today she still works in a shipyard.

"Now she's dealing a lot with customer sales and service," he says, "but she made a lot of sacrifices."

On the 10-week periods when they're together, the Grimstads spend a lot of time outdoors.

""I'm a dinosaur," he laughs. "I love to hike in nature…backpack…and when we say camping in the wilderness, it's real. Even midwinter, it's slightly cold but we do it."

Typical, you might say, for a Norwegian. For Lisa, that's nothing new.

Today at Phil Reimer's portsandbows.com: Christening the AmaSonata

Celebrity Reflection
15 nights
October 17, 2014
RomeFunchalSt. KittsSt. MaartenLabadeeMiami
Inside $849
Cost per day: $56

When the Bailiff Seizes a Ship…Action!

So you forget that your credit card has been replaced on an account for which there is an automatic charge. Or the tax bill that came in the mail is misplaced, forgotten and not paid. Things happen.

Eventually, you pay the bill. It usually only takes a reminder, and you're probably going to get dinged a penalty. More than anything, you're embarrassed.

Imagine how Royal Caribbean feels.

When cruise ships are in ports, they pay pilot fees. When Independence of the Seas was in a Norwegian port (that's Norwegian as in country, not cruise line) called Alesund, somehow it ran up a tab for pilot fees. This was in 2013 and the tab became 600,000 krone…about $101,000. That's part of a shortage of 7.6 million krone ($1.2 million) that a variety of ships/lines owe the Norwegian Coastal Association.

Last week, the NCA got Royal Caribbean's attention by having the local bailiff seize the ship.

Well, that's embarrassing.

Once the bailiff was on board, the ship's captain called the cruise-line headquarters. The bill was paid. In less than an hour.

Maybe the dominoes are smaller, as they say, but is there anybody around who doesn't know the feeling?

Today at Phil Reimer's portsandbows.com: 'Exotic' itineraries from Princess Cruises

Norwegian Jade
10 nights
December 3, 2014
Rome (return): OlympiaAthensEphesusIstanbulNaples
Inside: $499
Cost per day: $49

This Captain a 'Man' of the Seas

Upon reflection, Henrik Loy knows he was born to be at sea. In the 34 years between that day and the one when he became one of the youngest cruise ship captains in history — with Royal Caribbean — every step of his journey re-affirmed that belief.

Captain Loy was conscious of his place in the world at an early age, in his hometown of Bergen, Norway.

"Bergen is a busy cruise port, and you could see and smell the ocean from our house," he explains. "I was always going into town in the summer and watching ships come and go. It was always a part of me."

When he was five, one of the ships that came to Bergen was the SS Norway. On cruise ships, there's rarely a Norwegian who doesn't have a remembrance, and a feeling, for this grand old ship.

"This was before the security restrictions so we were able to go on board," Loy says. "It took an eternity to walk from one end to the other and, for me, it was a spark that came alive quite early. We had relatives who lived up the fjords and we had to travel there by boat. It was so beautiful and I could stand out on deck all day, all the time."

By the time he was 17, Henrik Loy had made a career decision. At 18, during his final year of high school, he concurrently studied at Bergen Maritime School while others his age had evenings, weekends and holidays for fun adventures. At 19, he graduated from maritime school when most aspiring seafarers would be halfway there. At 20, he served his mandatory year of military, with the Coast Guard.

"I couldn't wait," he says. "After being with the Coast Guard, then I really knew it was in my blood. I spent another two years at maritime college and there was a lot of studying, a lot of sacrifice, but I was just so passionate I wanted to learn it all. I was intrigued. I just enjoyed it. I never felt like it was hard, hideous work, so I didn't struggle. I scored very high."

Armed with his Master Mariner degree, he was ready, but Royal Caribbean didn't exactly come calling. What followed was something of a fluke.

In de-briefing from the intense final exam with a classmate, Loy was preparing to take the summer off and apply somewhere — he knew not where — in the fall. On the day of the last exam, his classmate asked if Henrik had applied at Royal Caribbean. He said no. Well, said his friend, everyone has applied there so do it…right now.

So Henrik Loy called the same number his friend had called. A hiring agent in Oslo, Ola Morken, answered. After the applicant explained who he was, what his credentials were and that he was ready to work, what Morken said went something like this:

"Thank goodness! We need a man right now and I just opened my drawer and was staring at a huge pile of applications, which I was dreading to go through. Why don't you catch a train and come here tomorrow?"

Loy did. He was hired on the spot and began a five-month contract on the then-new Enchantment of the Seas.

"I was flying," he said. "At 10:30 that morning, I met my sister for a beer. I would never drink a beer at 10:30. But I believe in coincidences like that. I instantly get a feeling I am on the right path. To me, those are signals. I didn't even have an application but it was meant to be. It landed in my lap."

The coincidences weren't over yet.

When his five months ended on Enchantment, Loy went home to wait for his next assignment. Nobody called. Finally, coincidentally, he called Royal Caribbean's agent.

"I'm still here," he said. "Do you have anything for me?"

The response was: "Didn't you know? We have a flight for you this afternoon and you will join Monarch of the Seas in Barbados tomorrow."

These days, having been on eight ships "of the Seas" Captain Henrik can laugh about that mini panic attack.

"Somehow," he says, "that message never reached me."

Because it did, he has now spent 16 years with Royal Caribbean. In 2010, he was first commissioned as a captain at the age of 34, and among Royal Caribbean captains only Patrick Dahlgren became a captain at an earlier age. This year, Captain Loy completed a contract on Explorer of the Seas.

One day…QuantumAllureOasis?

More on that, and a personal look at this most personable Norwegian, tomorrow.

Holland America Veendam
7 nights
September 7, 2013
BostonBar HarborHalifaxSydneyCharlottetownQuebec City
Inside: $529
Cost per day: $75

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