The Traveling Steve's

Welcome Aboard the (delayed) Majestic Princess in Sydney!

After traveling around Australia for the last 3 weeks, it was time to say goodbye to Sydney and board the Majestic Princess for a 9 night repositioning cruise to Auckland, with several stops in New Zealand along the way.

We received an email the morning of our departure, however, that due to bad weather and heavy winds, the cruise would be delayed in sailing, and would not leave until 11pm instead of the 4pm scheduled departure. Wow we thought – it’s a good thing Steve (DOS) checked his email or we would have showed up at the port at 10:30am and our ship would not have been there!

Actually the Celebrity Solstice was docked in our space at the Passenger Overseas Terminal, as the dock area had been closed overnight, and the Solstice could not leave until later in the morning. The notice we got from Princess was not to arrive before 7pm, which seemed rather late, but we followed the progress of both the Solstice and our ship, the Majestic throughout the day, watching via a port web cam as the ships departed and arrived respectively.

The Solstice left around 10am after having docked there unscheduled overnight, and the Majestic sailed in around noon. We figured a rough turn-around time of 4 to 6 hours (considering most ships get in around 6am and have everyone off by 10am for an 11am boarding), so we took our chances and headed to the port around 4:30pm, two and a half hours earlier than the email had suggested for the 7pm hour. Fortunately we are Hyatt Globalists and could obtain a complimentary 4pm checkout, which in this case was really helpful and could relax in our hotel, have lunch, take a short nap etc, rather than wait for hours at the port.

We checked out a bit before 4pm, and got help with our luggage. The “Bellman” was actually a petite woman and her eyes showed amazement when she saw all our luggage! Not wanting her to strain her back or otherwise cause injury DOS assisted with packing the cart, saying he had been doing this all across Australia, and had a certain order to put things on, which is true.

We then headed to the Sydney Cruise Port via pre-arranged transportation we had setup. The driver, Doorman and DOS all helped load up the large vehicle, and we were on our way, the short distance to the cruise port.

Once we arrived at the port around 4:30pm, we were surprised to see so many people already lined up outdoors to check-in. Unbelievably there were no porters or carts to assist with our luggage, and the bag check-in area was not curbside like every other port we’ve ever been to; rather it was set back from the taxi/uber drop off point, and on the other side of the long line, next to the terminal area. Whose bright idea was that we grumbled , as we could only maneuver our luggage a few steps at a time, stopping and going back a few feet to get the rest of the luggage. Go, stop, retrieve, repeat . . .. Fortunately as we were causing a bit of a backup (and had a wheelchair which we had to use to hold some of the luggage) some nice people in line assisted us until we got to the drop off point for our baggage.

Once we dropped off our baggage and got in one of several lines; it was quite confusing as there were in-transit passengers (who were staying on from the previous cruise, but had to debark and re-check in again) for two of the lines, along with a regular line for newly boarding passengers, and one line not really marked. Most people were just getting in the first and shortest line they saw, as we did, but we were quickly waved over to a handicap line, and from there everything went very smoothly.

Princess Cruises now uses the Medallion device, which you can wear in a neck strap by default, or like we did a few cruises back, when we purchased a wrist band that is much more practical. The Medallion acts as your room key, charging key for shipboard purchases, drinks, specialty dining etc, and was especially useful here at check-in as we didn’t have to wait in line. We were huddled together in the handicap section with a handful of other guests, but were greeted individually by a port employee who verified our passports, visas etc, and then retrieved our Medallions for us (normally they are mailed to us a couple weeks prior, but we had been out of the country over a month at this point so we requested we pick them up at the ship embarkation day).

We were then escorted to an elevator, and down the long corridor to the shipboard entrance. It was just after 5pm, and with the exception of the baggage drop fiasco, the port of Sydney was very organized with plenty of staff to assist everyone. I’ll give them a pass on the baggage check-in, as it had been a long and chaotic day for the port workers, juggling two delayed ships and mostly likely improvised check-in places while they hurried passengers and thousands of bags on and off the two ships.

Once we got to the ship entranceway, a Princess crew member (they actually had a team of crew members assisting handicap guests throughout the voyage) escorted us to our room, Suite 727 on Dolphin Deck in the far aft of the ship. While they’re not for everyone (due to the motion and sometimes engine vibration) we especially like the aft cabins for the unobstructed views of the wake they offer from the back of the ship, and are generally much quieter with no extra foot traffic of people going by your room.

We had a nice suite, with a separate living room, complimentary minibar setup, huge bathroom with tub, and bedroom area with lots of storage space, and a sliding door to the balcony. The highlight for us (and why we like the Aft cabins) however is the huge aft-facing balcony, which depending on the ship and layout is much larger than the standard balconies. There are 2 sliding doors to the balcony; one in the bedroom and another in the living room. Unfortunately for us, the first 3 sea days we could not use the balcony due to the very rough seas, although once we reached New Zealand it was smooth sailing.

One of two large closets for clothes in the bedroom area.
Huge bathroom with separate shower and tub, and sink and vanity area here, and also in the enclosed toilet area to the left.

We got settled into our cabin fairly quickly, and went up to the Concierge Lounge (for Suite guests) and met our Concierge, Darko, who warmly welcomed us aboard, and explained the amenities of the lounge and full suites (not mini-suites) in general. (Tip: free laundry service and breakfast in one of the specialty restaurants each day, complimentary hors dourves and drinks from 4:30 – 6:30 daily, priority tenders, etc). We have the Premier Drink package, but it’s still nice to have a drink or two in the Concierge Lounge with other guests in a more intimate and quiet setting. They even had a couple special nights with themed parties such as on Formal Night and an Australian/New Zealand night which was a lot of fun.

Later we stopped by the aft pool bar area as we were exploring the ship. We met Tim, a man traveling alone from Tennessee who was on the last sailing from Sydney, and was staying on the ship all the way to Vancouver. He filled us in about the ship’s last sailing, and how they drifted around a bit in the morning waiting to dock in Sydney due to the weather delay (it had been quite rough he said over the last couple days), and unfortunately they were expecting 38 foot waves once the ship was sailing out into open waters later that night. (Boy was he sure accurate with his weather forecast; we didn’t realize it, but there were three days of rough sailing ahead!).

I don’t remember the number of passengers he said were going all the way to Vancouver or Seattle on this sailing, but it seemed like 3/4 of the ship at least, judging by the number of people we would later meet on this cruise; we met very few people getting off in Auckland.

The passenger mix was mostly Americans and Canadians, as many were sailing home rather than flying back to their respective country. Steve (DOS) and I were only taking the 9 day journey to Auckland, having canceled the full 30 -33 day voyage to Vancouver and on to Seattle due to my mobility issues and our already extended land trip to Australia and Qatar. We did meet several Australians who were mostly taking just the 9 day cruise to New Zealand, and then flying home from there.

We had dinner the first night at the specialty restaurant, The Crown Grille, Princess Cruise’s top steakhouse restaurant which is on most of their ships. This Crown Grille aboard the Majestic was especially nice from the food to seating arrangement and decor, but especially the friendly service from our waiter Michael. We would return to Crown Grille for two other nights on this cruise, and specifically asked for Michael each time; he and the team working with him were top notch!

The ship sailed at the revised sailing schedule of 11pm, and after dinner we headed up on the pool deck and had a drink while we (and many others) enjoyed watching the nighttime views of sailing past the Opera House with downtown Sydney and the Harbor Bridge all lit up. We were actually glad to have been delayed a few hours, or we would have not gotten to see this spectacular nighttime view of Sydney Harbor, Circular Quay, and the Harbor Bridge.

After the ship got on its way, we headed back to the room as it had been a long first day of the cruise, with the delayed boarding and late night sailing. One disadvantage of the Aft cabins is, it is a LONG walk to the back of the ship, especially if you’re in the main or front part of the ship!

So This concludes the first day of the cruise, and our departure from Australia. But hang on tight, “It’s going to be a bumpy ride ahead!”

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