Weekend at Sea: Cruise to Fun

Find blue water, sunshine, and warm breezes with a bargain getaway to the Caribbean.
Annette Thompson

Looking for an antidote to winter? Grab a long weekend tropical cruise out of Miami. You'll find the best rates on the oldest ships, such as Royal Caribbean's Majesty of the Seas. Cruise-goers revel in their adventure at two different ports in the Bahamas. Here's what to expect.

Friday Noon--Arrive at the dock, board ship, and find your stateroom. Once you're settled, venture to the Windjammer Café for the first meal. The buffet offers sandwiches and salads until 3:30. While you're there, find the nearby pizzeria--a great place for snacks throughout the weekend.

This is a good time to stroll around to learn the layout of the ship. The ShipShape Fitness Center and Day Spa welcomes you for a quick workout or to schedule your spa treatment (Saturday afternoon is the best time). If you need to rearrange your dinnertime preferences, introduce yourself to the maître d'. And if you haven't booked shore excursions, do that now.

5 p.m.--The deep-sounding horn marks Majesty's departure from the Port of Miami, and the calypso band and cruise director kick off the lively party poolside. As the ship motors past South Beach's skyline of hotels and condos, join in the dancing.

8:30 p.m.--Choose the late dining option, if possible, to give you more time to play onboard. Dress casual--slacks, collared shirts, skirts, or dresses (no shorts or T-shirts)--for the evening meal. The first night's dinner has a Venetian theme, and the staff will serenade you with some Italian songs before the last course. Each meal has appetizers, salad, entrée, and dessert.

10:45 p.m.--Take in the show The Beat Goes On in the Chorus Line Lounge. Talented dancers and singers recall hits of the sixties and seventies. Elsewhere on board, the disco heats up as do rooms offering bingo, Latin dancing, and karaoke. As you drift off to sleep tonight, enjoy sunny dreams, for you'll awake in paradise.

 

 

Saturday 8 a.m.--The ship's motors make no noise as Majesty rests in its Nassau berth. Take your time getting breakfast before disembarking. Dress comfortably for hot weather, and don't be surprised at a rain shower today--but it won't last long.

10 a.m.--First stop is the Straw Market, an open-air warehouse crammed with stalls of handmade wares. Hawkers try to convince you to make a deal on their handwoven purses and hats (from $10), sarongs ($10), and colorful T-shirts (four for $10). Be sure to ask the vendors if they are giving you their best prices; they expect to haggle some.

Afterward, stroll down Bay Street to browse the stores for jewelry, china, beachwear, watches, and leather sold at 20% to 50% below stateside retail. Unlike the Straw Market, prices here are not negotiable. Look for bottles of Junkanoo Punch, a citrus-flavored carbonated soda, made nearby. If you choose a lunch spot, try the conch chowder and fresh fish.

3 p.m.--Take a $6-round-trip ferry ride over to Paradise Island and the exotic Atlantis resort. Gloriously styled, the enormous buildings seem to rise up out of the bays and lagoons. Seek out the aquarium, which can be viewed from the lobby restaurant.

5 p.m.--Return to Majesty for your spa treatment. Opt for a facial ($89) or manicure and pedicure ($50). Then get dolled up for formal night.

8 p.m.--In your gown or tuxedo, arrive in the Centrum early for a portrait session at six different nautical-themed backdrops. Tonight's featured meal includes steak, chicken, or seafood; we liked the steak best.

Midnight--It's the big night shipboard, and everyone gravitates to the pools around midnight for the Sailaway Buffet. Soon a DJ spins hits and folks dance and swim to the tunes.

 

 

Sunday 8:30 a.m.--Awaken to the sun shimmering on the oh-so-blue waters near CocoCay. Ride the tender over to a paradise of palm trees and white sand. A family area sports a huge water trampoline where kids splash and play. At the far end, a secluded beach welcomes those looking to get away from the crowds. On the main beach, rows of lounge chairs beckon sunbathers. Stewards with delectable frozen rum punch come by every half hour or so. The free luncheon buffet here offers barbecue ribs, turkey burgers, hot dogs, and salads. You must be back on board by 4:30 p.m.

8:30 p.m.--Tonight's dinner is the most casual, as everyone scurries around to cram in the last activities.

Monday 7:30 a.m.--Loudspeakers throughout the ship call assigned colors for disembarking. You must be ready first thing, but your color may not be called till almost 11. Don't plan your flights out of Miami before 1 p.m., as you'll want to end your cruise just as relaxed as can be.This article is from the February 2004 issue of Southern Living. Because prices, dates, and other specifics are subject to change, please check all information to make sure it's still current before making your travel plans.

Incidentals and Tips
While rates that include meals and entertainment help, beware of extra costs. Here's what we found.
Drinks: $5 for each mixed drink or wine, $2 for each soda (Plan on $25 per person, per day.)
Portraits: $20 each
Shore excursions: $30 for a typical sightseeing tour
Tips: cabin stewards and stateroom attendants--$3.50 per day per person; assistant waiters--$2 per day per person; head waiters--left to your discretion

For more information: Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines: 1-800-722-5045 or www.royalcaribbean.com. Rates per person for a three-night Miami cruise to Nassau and CocoCay: inside cabin from $299, outside from $369. (Prices include all shipboard meals.)

This article is from the February 2004 issue of Southern Living. Because prices, dates, and other specifics are subject to change, please check all information to make sure it's still current before making your travel plans.