Our Seniors group decided to do something different for New Year and booked a cruise!
We picked the newest ship in the Princess fleet – the Majestic Princess which carried us and around 3500 other passengers on a 13-day trip around New Zealand from Sydney. Some of our group had cruised before and others were first timers. All passengers are issued with a cruise card, which is used to buy items on the ship. All food (except in specialty restaurants) is included in the price of the cruise but passengers must pay for alcohol, coffee, tea, soft drinks, mocktails, fresh juices and hot chocolate.
Passengers’ cards are swiped through the tills when an item is charged to their accounts.
We stopped at Dunedin, Akaroa, Wellington. Tauranga, Auckland and the Bay of Islands as well as cruising through Fiordland. At Akaroa and the Bay of Islands passengers could only go ashore by tender boats. Passengers in wheelchairs or with mobility problems had to stay on board during these stops. We had great weather and the stops were excellent.
Beverage packages were available at a cost of $1131 per person, which included all beer, wine, cocktails, bottled water, fountain sodas, fresh juices, speciality coffees and tea, milkshakes and Red Bull energy drinks. However we all felt that we would not be indulging in around $87 of alcohol per day and decided against the purchase, As it turns out we were right as our accounts didn’t come anywhere near that amount.
Some of our group purchased the coffee package ($36 for 15 speciality coffees, unlimited brewed coffees and tea) and the soft drink package ($113 for unlimited sodas and mixers, mocktails, fresh fruit juice and hot chocolate).
Expensive. 120 minutes was offered at a price of $123.75. We chose to buy $20 NZ SIM cards and use the free wifi offered in city centres on stops. We did use the ship’s internet for the last two at-sea days at a price of $29.95. There is an internet café on board but it was very busy.
There is a large spa on board offering manicures, pedicures, waxing, massages, wraps and hairdressing services amongst others. All these services are at an additional cost. We didn’t use any of these services apart from hairdressing and at $45 for a wash and blow dry, I didn’t use it again.
Two swimming pools – one indoor and one outdoor were smaller than we expected but good fun. Add in any of the hot tubs and that makes for a relaxing day.
To work off the excess calories that inevitably come with 24-hour access to food and drink – there is a gym on the top deck. Or take the morning zumba class or the midday dance classes. Or a very short walk along the Seawalk – a small portion of deck 16 where the floor is made of glass – not suitable for those who don’t like heights!
There is an on-board casino with numerous poker machines, roulette and blackjack tables. As the last of the big spenders, I decided to take $30 worth of chips to the roulette table. I spent an interesting 20 minutes watching other passengers losing a lot of money and came out a whole $2 richer!
There are plenty of activities for children if you fancy taking a cruise with your grandchildren. Camp Discovery is the kids club; children under three must be accompanied by an adult. There is also a Teen Center that caters for older children up to 17 years.
Adult only areas:
Passengers looking for some peace and quiet are in luck -there are two adult only areas on board – the Sanctuary which offers solitude, massages and lighter meals and the Hollywood Pool Club and Conservatory. The Hollywood area was one of our favourite places on the ship – enjoying the indoor pool, the hot tub and playing board games in the Conservatory or simply reading in a cabana made for stress-free days at sea. One day we watched in amazement as a pod of dolphins played in the ship’s wake for about 20 minutes.
Passengers are unlikely to die of thirst aboard the Majestic Princess as there are bars strategically placed in all areas and just in case you can’t be bothered moving from your sun lounger there is always a waiter at hand to bring your drinks. We didn’t have any problems getting sun loungers or towels at any of the pool areas. It’s just a shame that so many of these bars close at 10pm.
There are three traditional dining rooms where passengers can eat at set times at allocated tables or just wander in when they feel hungry. We ate in the Concerto room and on the majority of evenings enjoyed the food. Concerto also hosts breakfast and high tea. The Filipino staff in the restaurants is the ship’s biggest asset. There is a Fresh marketplace on the top deck with a huge array of buffet items – cold meats, roast meats, vegetarian items, fish, fruit, cheese, sandwiches, cakes, biscuits and desserts. If you like this style of eating, I suggest you visit Fresh when the food is being put out otherwise many of the items can be dry or cold. The 24-hour International Market does a good trade, especially in the early morning where really good doughnuts are available. There is also Alfredo’s pizza and pasta restaurant that I highly recommend. A noodle bar in the pool area was popular although the food was hit or miss, an ice cream bar and a lobster bar (extra charge for lobster).
There are three speciality restaurants on board – better food at a $35 cover charge. We tried the Crown Grill steakhouse and the La Mer French restaurant which were both excellent. We didn’t try the Chinese speciality restaurant as we heard from other passengers that it wasn’t good.
A lot of high-end shops selling jewellery, watches and handbags from brands such as Cartier, Effy, Gucci and Bvlgari – also small boutiques selling Frank Lyman and Tommy Hilfiger items. We thought there was too much focus on getting passengers to buy ‘things’. If you are keen to take home an expensive souvenir, wait until the last couple of days when items are invariably reduced.
A medical centre staffed by fully qualified doctors and nurses is available.
Entertainment: Disappointing. The Majestic’s own singers and dancers put on several good shows but the imported acts such as the Australian Beatles (last seen at a free concert at Hillarys Boat Harbour) were not of the standard we expected. There is karaoke in the evening and trivia contests during the day as well as Movies under the Stars on the top deck every evening.
The resident band – Evolution was excellent. They played every evening in the piazza. The New Year celebrations lasted until 2am with the band performing above and beyond to the enjoyment of our group and many others.
Embarkation and disembarkation:
Very smooth – hardly any waiting time to get on board. Disembarkation was also handled well with groups of passengers leaving at different times. A nice surprise was a Virgin Australia desk as we disembarked. We checked in for our late flights and Virgin took our heavy luggage to the airport at a cost of $25 per person ($20 for members of a group of four or more) leaving us free to enjoy the rest of the day in Sydney.
Apart from a few quibbles with the food and entertainment, we all had a great time. Highlights included the sail-away party in Sydney, New Year’s Eve dancing and meals in the speciality restaurants as well as visiting some beautiful places in New Zealand. We all had a blast – now to decide where our next cruise will take us!
To find out more visit www.princess.com/ships-and-experience/ships/mj-majestic-princess/
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