Majesty of the Seas - July 23 - 28, 2018Tampa to Key West and Havana Cuba
Majesty of the SeasShip Site Inspection ReportLength:880 feetLaunched:1992Capacity:2744 Passengers, 833 CrewTonnage:73,941 GTRefurbished: 2007, 2016 and Jan. 24 to Feb. 6, 2018For a 26 year old cruise ship, we thought Majesty of the Seas looked pretty good at this point. We actually still like the more compact design of this ship compared to the 120-150 gross tons that are being built today.This is one of the largest ships that will actually fit under the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. We cleared the bridge by about 6 feet at low tide on the way out from The Port of Tampa. The small ship pool was packed on the sea day but deck 7 had some shade and quiet but could have used a few more chairs.We bought an inside guarantee at the last minute and ended up in a small inside room on deck 2. It was actually a really good location on the ship as we were mid-aft but the cabin was very small (about 140 square feet). There was some engine noise in our cabin but it had a queen size bed with too hard a mattress and an average cruise cabin bathroom. Bath towels were large and plush plus the cabin steward service was pretty good.Main dining rooms on the ship were excellent. We requested and were confirmed for a table for two and lucked out for a window which was nice for 8P dinner with a late sunset. I enjoyed a good steak, decent grilled mahi mahi, a very good 8 oz prime rib and broiled lobster tail the last night. Gina had braised beef shank and a good pasta bolognese along with the fish and lobster. Caesar salads, cream of wild mushroom soup and our appetizers including a carpaccio and calamari were excellent. Royal helped us celebrate our 34th anniversary with a sparkling slice of great chocolate cake plus we had a wonderful hazelnut tart, the obligatory warm brownie with ice cream and a pretty good creme brulee Our bottles of wine ran from $29 to $42 per bottle (plus 18%) but all were excellent and priced similarly to local restaurants. The ship also had pretty good pizza and the salad bars at the buffet were good. We experienced breakfast in both the main dining room and also an 11A breakfast buffet. Both were excellent. We also had a good lunch in the Windjammer buffet one afternoon. Our waiter reviewed the next day’s breakfast procedures each night after dinner which helped since each day had a different shore schedule.Entertainment was a pleasant surprise. We had a pretty good comedian one night. The next night was Jeff Acta who was an impersonator who was a guest on America’s Got Talent. The ship also had a 70’s theme production show the last night that actually was entertaining and had decent choreography. The late night R rated comedy was very funny. We traveled with a reggae band, a rock band and a latin band who were all good and played at multiple venues on the ship.Crew service was excellent. One of the best we have experienced on a cruise ship. Our dining room waiter had 10 years experience and we felt that Royal had compensated for ship’s age by putting excellent staff onboard Majesty. With one staff member for every 3.29 clients, we always had somebody at our call when we had a question. Bars were busy but nobody had to wait, buffets were replenished and cleaned up constantly. Every time we were exiting the ship multiple officers and management were highly visible during the process. The officers and hotel managers had some great plans for queuing inside the ship (in air conditioning). We had slow debarkation, since we docked at the Naval Base in Key West and you have to be escorted through a working naval base. Many thanks to the City of Key West as the ride to and from downtown was free plus the sponge docks provided a coupon for a much appreciated free bottle of water. It took some time to clear, process visas and shoot pictures for 2700 people in Havana. Cuban officials along with the ship’s officers did a great job getting that many people cleared all in one morning. All the immigration windows were open and the ship moved us through the facility in groups. I think Cuba has the most friendly customs and security officers in the Caribbean. Ship Overall Dining Cabins ½ Crew Service
Can we still go to Cuba? YES! CUBA CRUISE F.A.Q.On my recent cruise it seemed that everybody was confused about Cuba travel rules. I will attempt to answer some of the questions asked by clients and shipmates while we were cruising down to Cuba.CAN WE STILL TRAVEL TO CUBA AFTER PRESIDENT TRUMP CHANGED THE RULES?Yes, you can still travel to Cuba as long as you follow a full time group program to learn about Cuba. This would be the group people to people general license. What Trump did was eliminate the independent people to people license.WHAT IS THE EASIEST WAY TO SATISFY THE PROVISIONS OF THE LAW?Take an official cruise line shore excursion. They are a little more expensive than the internet, but you will get priority for debarkation and board new Transtur air conditioned busses that are pulled right into street level in the terminal. If you have mobility issues, we strongly suggest taking a shore excursion from the cruise line. For 3rd party shore excursions, you have to keep records yourself (more on this later) and you will leave the ship after the official cruise line excursions so don’t schedule anything for pick up until 10A or so as it takes a while for the Cubans to clear 3000 people. If you have purchased a 3rd party excursion, you will have to meet a person with a sign in San Francisco Plaza. Our driver had to park about two blocks away so it was a little bit of a walk to where the car was parked also. WHY DOES IT SEEM LIKE I HAVE TO BUY A SHORE EXCURSION FROM THE CRUISE LINE?It is the easiest way satisfy the US rules for travel to Cuba. It is not required but you have to expect the cruise lines to sell their own products first. You will always be moved in safe vehicles and be guaranteed return to the ship on-time. 3rd party group tours do satisfy the US requirements as does the “Support of the Cuban People” line of the form but you have to be able to substantiate your contact with Cuban tourism groups or Cuban independent business people.DO THE CUBANS HAVE A LOT OF RULES FOR AMERICAN TRAVEL TO THE ISLAND?NO. They only require you to buy an entry visa. You are not allowed to purchase cigars or change US Dollars to CUC in the streets. Both must be done from official stores, hotels or cambio at the pier. You are not supposed to photograph police, military installations or pier facilities but as you can see we have pictures of the ships in port with no problem.WHAT DOCUMENTS ARE NEEDED TO TRAVEL TO CUBA?United States Citizens must have a blue passport book. It must have empty pages for stamps and not be expiring in less than six months. You will print and sign the ship’s affidavit self-certifying your reason to travel under the general license and you will have to buy a Cuban entry Visa for $75 per person.SO WHY IS THIS SO COMPLICATED AND CONFUSING?Because of the 58 year old US embargo on Cuba. The Embargo is a financial law administered by the US Department of The Treasury under a law called the Helms - Burton act. Basically, tourism is still outlawed to Cuba, but you can take a trip to learn about Cuba, go home to visit family or support independent business in Cuba. You make a self-certification as to which part of the general license you are moving under and you have to keep records of your interactions for 5 years when you return to the United States. You are currently not allowed to visit or support any entity on the Treasury Dept. OFAC list of prohibited entities. As you cannot use your credit cards in Cuba, enforcement is difficult for the US Government; to know where you went after your shore excursion but there are hotels and businesses owned by military/tourism entities that you are prohibited from visiting. Latest rules are at THIS OFAC LINK.WHAT DO I CHECK ON THE CRUISE LINE AFFIDAVIT FORM?If you are traveling with the cruise ship, check a full time excursion with the cruise line. If you have purchased a 3rd party shore excursion, you will check that block on the cruise line form. Note: you are self-certifying on the form so you can check whatever you want. On our last trip, we checked “support for the Cuban people” as we worked with small business vendors for two days which is the intent of that general license. Remember you are making an affidavit so you are swearing to whatever you check and you need to keep that form for 5 years according to US Treasury Department rules. If you were born in Cuba, you must have a Cuban passport to enter even if you are currently traveling on a US Passport. Please check directly with the Cuban Embassy in DC if you were born in Cuba as you are welcome to return.CAN WE LEAVE THE SHIP TO WANDER AROUND?Once you have satisfied the group shore excursion, you will be free to leave the ship again and again if you want to explore Havana Vieja. The restored areas of Havana are directly across the street from the ship so it is easy to wander around. The first time you depart the ship, you will surrender the $75 Cuban Visa that you purchased from the cruise line. Subsequent times you leave the ship, the immigration officer will simply search for a stamp with today’s date in your passport to show that you have already surrendered a visa.WILL MY US CREDIT CARDS WORK IN CUBA & HOW DOES CUBAN MONEY WORK?NO. US credit cards do not work in Cuba because there is no banking relationship between the countries because of the US Embargo. Cuba has Pesos and Convertible Pesos or CUCs. A CUC is worth about 25 times what a Peso is worth. The Cuban Government only gives you 87 cents CUC for every dollar you surrender at the Cambio. Change is made at the pier but also at all hotels in Havana whether you are a guest or not.IS HAVANA SAFE AND ARE THE CUBAN PEOPLE FRIENDLY?YES! We have visited Caribbean destinations for 35 years. Havana, Cuba is the safest place I have been to. This is our second trip to Havana and everybody is super friendly to Americans. We do not suggest discussing politics, systems of government or asking a lot of questions about the Cuban political system. We do suggest drinking, dancing and eating of meals at a local paladar while enjoying the vibe of Havana.