Life on the High Seas At-sea fare's a mere fraction of the fun, first-timer discovers

February 21, 1993|By Ed Waldman | Ed Waldman,Staff Writer

First of all, you don't have to eat like a pig.

That was my big fear when my wife and I decided to celebrate our 10th anniversary with a three-night cruise on Majesty Cruise Line's brand-new Royal Majesty. We had never been on a cruise, but had heard that they are non-stop caloric blitzkriegs.

In fact, the food was quite good. And quite plentiful. But there was so much else to do (including doing 20 minutes of Nordic Track in the ship's well-stocked workout room) that we didn't feel as if we needed to go to breakfast, lunch, tea time, pizza time, dinner and the midnight buffet or even order free room service at 3 a.m. to get our money's worth.

Instead, we gambled. We went to the nightclubs on the ship. We walked around Nassau, where the ship was docked. We went to Royal Island, a private island the cruise line rents for its passengers for the day, and swam in the clear blue warm water and lay on the beach. We saw a Vegas-style show (complete with "tasteful nudity") at Merv Griffin's Paradise Island Hotel and Casino. And then we gambled a little more.

The gambling on the ship was better than the gambling at Merv's place -- and we won money at both casinos. The Majesty's dealers seemed to be having a good time. They talked with the players and made the game more fun. It probably didn't hurt that we didn't have to wait more than five minutes for a seat at one of the ship's five $5 minimum tables.

The ship's dealers even helped novices (or people who played that way) with strategy: "Splitting jacks? Splitting jacks? Are you sure you want to do that?" Or, "Yes, you should double down on 10 when I have a 6 showing."

One of the dealers, an attractive, 22-year-old blond from Denmark, even smiled through a fair amount of flirting from two guys who had too many drinks with little paper umbrellas in them.

The dealers weren't the only employees on the ship to be helpful. When a mix-up put us in a cabin with two single beds -- not the best way to celebrate your 10th anniversary -- I complained, politely but firmly, to one of the assistant pursers. About a half-hour after we left the dock, we were moved to a cabin with a double bed.

The Royal Majesty, which sailed its maiden voyage Sept. 18, carries 1,056 passengers on three- and four-night cruises out of Miami. The three-night cruises spend one night in Nassau and two nights at sea, and the four-night cruises spend one night in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, one in Key West, Fla., and two at sea.

My wife and I didn't waste a moment during our stay in Nassau.

The area around the dock is filled with the usual tourist-type shops, selling perfume, jewelry and liquor. We found the prices to be not much better than at the Mall in Columbia. At the straw market, which is also within walking distance of the dock, we at least found some things that we couldn't buy at home. And in the great tradition of island vacations, we found ourselves haggling with shop owners for less than $1.

Private island

Later that morning, along with about 500 others from the Majesty, we took a tender headed toward Royal Island. The 35-minute boat ride deposited us on a private island that, we discovered on a long walk, actually could accommodate people from two cruise ships (Royal Majesty passengers had maroon towels, passengers from the other ship had blue). Lunch on the island was a cookout, with hot dogs, hamburgers, ribs, corn on the cob, baked beans and cole slaw.

Three hours in the sun and sand was enough for our Casper-the-Friendly-Ghost bodies, so we hopped the first of two tenders back to the Majesty (the second left two hours later).

We got back to the ship just in time for my wife's manicure appointment. That's when I took advantage of the workout room. There were no machines to work stomach muscles, which I found to be curious, since that's what most of the passengers really needed.

Our cabin had a color television, but the reception was one of the bugs that needs to be worked out on the ship. The movies ("Thelma and Louise," "Hook," "Far and Away") were often unwatchable. More often than not, what was scheduled on one of the five channels was not what was actually on.

In addition to the TV and the bed, our cabin had a small desk with three small drawers, a chair and a small closet with three more small drawers. Also in the closet was a safe, which was locked and unlocked with the credit card we were issued when embarking (that's cruise-speak for getting on). The Majesty, like many cruise ships, runs a cashless society, and the credit card is used to pay for everything on board, except gambling. At the end of the cruise, we were presented with an itemized bill, which was charged directly to our Visa card.

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