Alt Text!

Majesty of the Seas

Royal Caribbean sold two smaller cruise ships with enormous legacies

In:
23Dec2020

It's still hard to believe we will say goodbye to Majesty of the Seas and Empress of the Seas.

Royal Caribbean announced last week it had sold two cruise ships signaling the end of an era for ships that had blazed a trail for the cruise line.

While eclipsed by larger ships these days, when both ships debuted in the early 1990s, they set the tone for the entire cruise industry with their new onboard amenities and enticing itineraries.

In announcing their departure, Royal Caribbean International President and CEO Michael Bayley said these vessels "made indelible marks on the cruise industry," and many cruise fans and cruise executives are mourning the loss of these epic ships.

To commemorate the role both ships played in taking Royal Caribbean from a somewhat still upstart cruise line into a new era of cruise vacations, I offer this look back at what made each ship special.

Empress of the Seas instant impact

Empress of the Seas (then known as Nordic Empress) joined Royal Caribbean first in 1990, and was the result of Royal Caribbean acquiring Admiral Cruises in 1988. 

More importantly, Empress was designed for the short cruise market, which is a concept that did not exist at the time. Most cruises were a week long, but Royal Caribbean wanted a tempting choice for consumers who were looking for weekend getaways to the Bahamas.

Raimund Gschaider is Royal Caribbean's Vice President of Hotel Operations today, but in 1991 he was the restaurant manager on Nordic Empress and he remembers vividly the immediate impact Empress had on the cruise market when she debuted.

"When she hit the market, she was it. It was just such a vibrant, such a party, such an exciting time to be for cruising in general."

While Empress was initially designed for short Bahamian cruises, she quickly became a hit anywhere Royal Caribbean sent her, offering cruises from Port Canaveral, San Juan and even New York.

Mr. Gschaider recalls how different a cruise to Bermuda was on Empress because of the fact she was small enough to visit the city of St. George's.

"St. George's has this really nice, very small harbor. And you get in and the entrance, it's literally you can touch either side, the rocks on either side when the ship goes in and you're in a very different part of Bermuda."

Read moreRoyal Caribbean and fans say goodbye to two cruise ships

A trio of icons with Majesty of the Seas

Just like Empress, Majesty of the Seas and her sister Sovereign Class ships had an immediate impact on the cruise industry as well.

Known as the first "mega ships", Majesty of the Seas was the last of three Sovereign Class vessels to be built and Ken Rush, Royal Caribbean's Director of Entertainment Activities & Media Operations always felt the public areas on Majesty were a big hit with guests.

"When they built the Sovereign class and these three sisters, the Majesty, I have a lot of fond memories about it because I love the layout," Rush said as he looked back on Majesty. "These ships really gave us ideas for our future ships. We learned a lot from those ships."

Majesty of the Seas had the iconic Centrum area with glass elevators, sweeping staircases and fountains in marble pools, which was a brand new idea for the time. The ship's theater was significantly larger than on other ships, which meant the production shows brought an entirely new kind of entertainment to cruising.

Mr. Gschaider thinks ships like Majesty set the pace for the cruise line going forward, "The Majesty...certainly took cruising to a new level in the early nineties and set up Royal Caribbean."

Another first for Majesty of the Seas which was the first cruise ship to introduce the concept of a full ship charter, which has since become so important to Royal Caribbean's bottom line.

Read moreA last look at Royal Caribbean's Majesty of the Seas

Trailblazing throughout their lifetime

Certainly both ships established their legacy early in the 1990s when they debuted, but their firsts were not limited to the last decade of the 20th century.  Empress and Majesty of the Seas also hold the distinction of being the only two ships to ever visit Cuba.

Empress of the Seas was brought back to Royal Caribbean after being a part of Pullmantur Cruises, and her sailings to Cuba brought about a new chapter in Caribbean cruising.

Shortly thereafter, Majesty of the Seas would also offer cruises to Cuba and for a short period of time, were the hottest cruise ticket around.

Mr. Gschaider believes the foresight to design and build cruise ships like Majesty and Empress were so important for their longevity, "Those ships have such good structure and layout and bones."

"Kudos to our executives, who have the vision to build ships with an extremely long lifespan and who can go for one or two cycles of revitalization and amplification and have the flexibility to take them into the next decade without losing a step."

Mr. Rush agreed that the viability of both ships is incredible, "The reason why these ships stay as great as they are is because of the onboard maintenance. It's just it's amazing how we keep it so fresh all the time."

Final months

After Cuba was no longer an option for American cruise lines, both ships were left without an obvious role in a world of giant cruise ships.

Majesty of the Seas was moved arround a bit, but ended her career with Royal Caribbean offering cruises from New Orleans.

Mr. Rush thinks cruises from the "Big Easy" were a great fit for Majesty, "We did Mardi Gras on board and the guests were just over the moon about it. So it is a shame that it's gone because that was a great run and a great time for all of our guests."

With Empress of the Seas, Royal Caribbean looked to try something completely different and offer more intimate and longer sailings to places most other ships in the fleet never visited, including voyages down the St. Lawrence River in Canada and a return to Bermuda.

Unfortunately, plans for both ships were cut short when the cruise industry shut down in March due to the global health crisis.

In the months since, Empress and Majesty were the subject of different rumors and speculation that they would be sold to generate much-needed cash flow. In fact, Empress of the Seas was falsely reported at least two times as being sold earlier in 2020.

The ships have been sold to an undisclosed party, based in Asia-Pacific, that will release details for future sailings at a later time.

Both Mr. Rush and Mr. Gschaider shared their memories of both ships, and what they think stands out about each vessel. Listen to episode 386 of our interview with Ken Rush and Raimund Gschaider in its entirety below.

Be sure to subscribe to the RoyalCaribbeanBlog Podcast at Apple PodcastsTuneIn, and Stitcher.

A last look at Royal Caribbean's Majesty of the Seas

In:
17Dec2020

Royal Caribbean announced it has sold Majesty of the Seas to an undisclosed party, based in Asia-Pacific and will depart the fleet later this month.

Having been a part of Royal Caribbean's fleet since 1992, Majesty of the Seas has been a favorite for many and will be missed.

In her honor, here are some photos of Majesty of the Seas from around the ship to enjoy one last look back.

All photos are credit to Royal Caribbean.

Pool deck on Majesty of the Seas.

Schooner Bar.

A Touch of Class Champagne Bar.

Spa treatment room.

Lounge.

Wagon Lounge.

Windjammer Cafe.

Starlight dining room.

Viking Crown Lounge.

Inside Stateroom.

Oceanview stateroom.

Grand Suite stateroom.

Oceanview stateroom.

Majesty of the Seas off the coast of CocoCay.

Panorama of the pool deck.


Centrum.

Adventure Ocean playroom.

Voyagers room in Adventure Ocean.

Aquanauts room in Adventure Ocean.

Chorus Theater.

Boutique shops in the Centrum.

Cafe Lattetudes.

Baleros Lounge.

Royal Casino.

Fitness Center.

Hair salon.

Spa sitting room.

Library room.

Living room teen club.

Fuel nightclub.

Reception desk.

Sports deck with rock climbing wall.

Royal Caribbean and fans say goodbye to two cruise ships

In:
17Dec2020

For over nine months, Royal Caribbean was able to side step selling any of its cruise ships, but that has come to an end.

On Wednesday, Royal Caribbean announced it has agreed to sell two of its cruise ships, Majesty of the Seas and Empress of the Seas, and while perhaps not terribly surprising, it was nonetheless a sad moment for many cruise fans.

Most cruisers expected this to happen at some time, with Majesty of the Seas having almost been sold once before and both ships losing their primary purpose with Cuba cruises unavailable until further notice.

In a world where cruise ships have gotten bigger and bigger, Majesty and Empress represented a different age of cruising, even if in their heyday, they were big ships for the time.

Empress of the Seas

Empress of the Seas was perhaps the last vestige of Royal Caribbean's roots.  She was actually ordered by Admiral Cruises prior to Royal Caribbean merging with the company. She was originally named Nordic Empress and was the final Royal Caribbean ship whose name did not end with "of the Seas" until a name change in 2004.

Empress had the distinction of being designed specifically for the short cruise market, with 3- and 4-night cruises her primary focus.   

Her inaugural sailings were short cruises to the Bahamas, and later was combined with 3- and 4-night cruises from San Juan, Puerto Rico.

After Royal Caribbean sold Song of America, Nordic Empress took over that itinerary and began sailing from Cape Liberty to Bermuda.

Interestingly, this is not the first time Empress of the Seas has departed Royal Caribbean's fleet. In 2008, she left Royal Caribbean to become part of subsidiary Pullmantur Cruises.

In 2016, Empress of the Seas came back to Royal Caribbean for the primary purpose of offering cruises to Cuba. She underwent a a massive refurbishment that totaled $50 million.

Majesty of the Seas

The last of the Sovereign Class cruise ships, Majesty of the Seas began service in 1992 and managed to remain in Royal Caribbean's fleet well after her sister ships were transferred out.

Majesty has sailed a variety of routes in the Caribbean, having sailed from many homeports to different destinations.  Most often, she sailed from somewhere in Florida and offered short cruises to the Bahamas and Caribbean.

Just like Empress of the Seas, Majesty of the Seas was able to cruise longer with Royal Caribbean because of Cuba.

Originally, Royal Caribbean announced in 2014 that it would move Majesty to Pullmantur Cruises, but a year later, the cruise line changed those plans and announced Majesty would stay in the fleet.

Like Empress, Majesty underwent a massive refurbishment to add new features and bring the ship up to the standards of the rest of the fleet.

Majesty became the second of Royal Caribbean's ships to visit Cuba.

Saying goodbyes

Almost as soon as Royal Caribbean made the announcement, cruise fans took to social media to offer their goodbyes to two beloved cruise ships.

In fact, Royal Caribbean executives were among the first to bid farewell to both ships.

Royal Caribbean International President and CEO Michael Bayley was vocal in his admiration and sorrow following the decision to sell both ships, "Saying goodbye to these two beloved ships is a major moment in Royal Caribbean’s history – one that is difficult but necessary."

Hundreds of comments began pouring in from Royal Caribbean cruise fans on the RoyalCaribbeanBlog Facebook page to share their memories and despair that these ships are leaving.

Pamela Caughman loved the smaller size of these cruise ships, "I have sailed multiple times on both ships. the Empress was one of my favorite small ships. I had dinner with the captain once on her. For me she was the perfect size for short sailings."

Chris Fritz thought the crew were among the best he encountered, "Very friendly staff and great community feel to the ship. I looked forward to sailing her again. I guess not now. She'll be missed."

Joe Willis got started with cruising on Majesty of the Seas, "Majesty was the first ship we cruised on 3 years ago. Because of Majesty, we realized our love of cruises."

Royal Caribbean has sold Majesty of the Seas and Empress of the Seas

In:
16Dec2020

Royal Caribbean has sold its two oldest cruise ships, Majesty of the Seas and Empress of the Seas.

The cruise line announced both ships have been sold, and will depart the fleet later this month.

It appears the ships have been sold, but not scrapped.  Royal Caribbean says they now belong to an undisclosed party, based in Asia-Pacific, that will release details for future sailings at a later time.

Royal Caribbean International President and CEO Michael Bayley lamented the loss of these classic ships, and their impact on the company.

"Empress and Majesty of the Seas made indelible marks on the cruise industry with their revolutionary design and size. Touted as the cruise industry’s most groundbreaking ships when they were introduced, they continued to make history throughout their more than three decades of service."

"Saying goodbye to these two beloved ships is a major moment in Royal Caribbean’s history – one that is difficult but necessary. With plans for new, innovative ships to join our fleet in the upcoming years, we look forward to our guests and crew continuing to make new memories with us."

Royal Caribbean said guests who had cruises booked on either vessel will be contacted with their options for rebooking or cancellation.

Majesty of the Seas was the last Sovereign Class cruise ship left in Royal Caribbean's fleet, and joined the fleet in 1992. She started off with 7-night Western Caribbean cruises from Miami, and has offered Caribbean cruises of various lengths and destinations ever since.

Empress of the Seas was even older than Majesty, having launched in 1990.  She was literally one-of-a-kind, having been the only ship of her type to be built.  

Empress was designed for 3- and 4-night cruises to the Bahamas from Miami.

Empress also made history as the first cruise ship to sail out of Cape Liberty in Bayonne, New Jersey when Royal Caribbean opened the terminal in 2004.

Empress of the Seas left the fleet, and then rejoined it to offer cruises to Cuba in 2017.

Gone but not forgotten

The news that Empress and Majesty are departing the fleet is not completely unexpected.  Both ships had been the subject of rumors almost since the global shutdown began.

Even before this year, the role of both ships was rather ambiguous following Cuba not being available to U.S. cruise lines any longer.

While many other cruise lines were selling off old ships, Royal Caribbean Group had not pulled that lever, although they never ruled out the possibility of selling ships.

Royal Caribbean Group executive vice president and Chief Financial Officer Jason Liberty told investors in October, "We're being very opportunistic about the situation." Furthermore, selling a ship would make sense only if a particular cruise ship "does not fit strategically" within the brand.

Vicki Freed, Royal Caribbean's Senior Vice President, Sales, Trade Support and Service, shared her thoughts on the departure of these vessels on Facebook, "Through the years, Empress and Majesty have created incredible memories for so many of our guests and crew members."

"As our fleet evolves, decisions like these pave the way for the introduction of new and reimagined innovative ships."

Michael Bayley also took to Facebook to say goodbye to both ships, "No doubt, they will be dearly missed – they may be small, but their lasting impact is mighty."

Mr. Bayley also confirmed the crew members that had been assigned to these ships will find work on other ships, "Rest assured, there is no need to worry about our extraordinary crew members. They are still part of the Royal Caribbean family and will be reassigned to other ships once we are back to sailing again."

Photos: Majesty & Jewel of the Seas in Southampton

In:
05Jun2020

Two Royal Caribbean ships have been in Southampton over the last few days repatriating crew from the UK and Europe.

    

Jack's Cruise Blog shared photos with us of these great ships in port, while crew members were disembarking and getting charter flights home.

Jewel of the Seas had crew members from Allure of the Seas that were transferred onboard prior to Allure beginning her dry dock while the two ships were in Gibraltar. 

   

Both ships came from The Bahamas to Southampton in an effort to repatriate more of the cruise.

Majesty of the Seas forced out of Gulfport, Mississippi

In:
03Apr2020

Royal Caribbean's Majesty of the Seas had been waiting out the coronavirus shutdown in the Port of Gulfport, Mississippi, but the ship has been instructed to depart on Friday.

Fox10 reports the Port of Gulfport has ordered all cruise ships docked there to leave after Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves’ ordered a shelter-in-place order that will go in effect at 5 p.m. on Friday and last until 8 a.m. on April 20. 

Majesty of the Seas is one of four cruise ships docked in Gulfport, along with Carnival Glory, Carnival Valor, and Carnival Freedom.

Until the threat of Coronavirus is gone, the Port of Gulfport will continue to support the efforts in limiting the spread of the virus while also maintaining essential operations, the news release states. 

Majesty of the Seas to sail from New Orleans in 2020

In:
09Jul2019

Royal Caribbean will offer winter sailings from New Orleans on Majesty of the Seas in 2020. 

Following the recent ban of U.S. cruises to Cuba, Majesty of the Seas has been redeployed to New Orleans between January and April 2020. 

Majesty of the Seas will sail 7 night sailings primarily to the Bahamas and Perfect Day at CocoCay, along with one Western Caribbean itinerary.  

You can view the full list of itineraries here.

Cruises from New Orleans on board Majesty are now open to book for itineraries departing through April 2020. Sailings departing from May 2020 through April 2021 will be open to book the week of July 22, 2019. 

Spotted: 5 drink card on Majesty of the Seas

In:
21Jun2019

We found a new kind of drink card option that allows guests to buy five, instead of ten, drinks per card.

RoyalCaribbeanBlog reader Jane Treppa sent us this phot of the 5 Drinks Savings Card for $35 on Majesty of the Seas.

Guests can pay one price for 5 drinks at any onboard, bar, restaurant and lounge that is valid for the purchase of most beers, glasses of wine and cocktails, as well as fountain sodas, specialty coffee and fresh juices. Essentially, it covers the same beverages that the Deluxe Beverage Package does. 

The reason why drink cards are an intriguing offer is because you can share a drink card with other guests, whereas the drink package benefits are not shareable.  Moreover, if one adult purchases the drink card, other adults in the same stateroom do not have to purchase a drink card as well.

Drink cards are a tool that Royal Caribbean uses on select sailings to help spur drink purchases. There is no way to know in advance if or when a drink card would be offered. The decision of a drink card to offer, if any, is made by the ship.

Royal Caribbean cancels all scheduled visits to Cuba

In:
05Jun2019

Royal Caribbean announced today, it will replace all Cuban ports that were scheduled for its ships to visit with alternative ports due to new U.S. government regulations that prohibit travel from the U.S. to Cuba by cruise ship.

The two ships that were offering cruises to Cuba, Majesty of the Seas and Empress of the Seas, have had alternative ports secured.

In addition, Royal Caribbean is offering the option of guests on affected sailings remaining on the cruise and receiving a 50% refund, or they can cancel their cruise and receive a full refund.

Royal Caribbean issued a statement elaborating on the nature of the changes made, "In response to the U.S. government’s policy change imposing immediate restrictions on cruise ship travel between the U.S. and Cuba, we are informing our guests of revised itineraries for a limited number of sailings with Cuban port calls.

All 2019 sailings on the Majesty of the Seas and Empress of the Seas will have alternative ports in the Caribbean.  Guests will have the option to cancel their current booking for a full refund, or to keep their sailing date with a new itinerary and receive a 50 percent refund.

We are working on alternate itineraries for 2020 sailings and will share those details with guests and travel partners as they become available. We appreciate our guests’ patience and flexibility as we adjust to accommodate the new regulation."

Scheduled 2020 sailings on both Majesty of the Seas and Empress of the seas are still in the process of being worked on to find alternative ports, and Royal Caribbean estimates it will communicate those changes within the next week.

The United States Treasury Department announced yesterday new regulations that will end group travel to Cuba for “people to people” educational purposes and prohibiting visits to the island via cruise ships.

Pages