The Ship's Shape

It ain't majestic, but it floats

After the mimosa binge, er, press conference, Erik Lewis, a fireplug-shape guy in his fifties who was more of a working stiff than P.R. type (he was actually the guy in charge of Royal Caribbean's new building and design), took everyone on a walking tour of the ship. He showed off the 880-foot-long vessel's new amenities and explained the details: All of the work had been completed during a 28-day frenzy while the ship was dry-docked in Freeport. This was the ship's first sail since the renovations.

Lewis slowly guided us around the new Majesty, past a steel-and-red-leather-trimmed Johnny Rockets restaurant, a jazzed-up teen disco decorated in purple and gold, a Latin-themed club named Boleros, and an ivory and light wood spa-gym offering spinning classes. An entire restaurant — The Windjammer — was torn down and rebuilt to look like an upscale mall food court, Lewis explained. He mostly droned on about the construction details and admitted that he wasn't used to ferrying the media around. "I haven't tasted the pizza yet," he remarked as we passed by a one-ton pizza oven imported from Italy.

After the tour we were all ferried to CocoCay. Onshore there was more food, more booze, and a few canned activities (snorkeling, parasailing, sunbathing) on the sugar sand beach. After a few hours and a few drinks, we got back on the Majesty and prepared for dinner in the Starlight Dining Room. Travel agents occupied most of the tables, while the 26 media people and their guests were corralled in the back of the room, shoveling in the free escargots and prime rib. Nearly all of the reporters said they "loved" the ship (although one freelancer said he wished the designers had used bolder colors while decorating).

Most passengers on the junket were middle-aged or older, content to sip a cocktail from a chaise lounge on deck, go to bed early, and get up soon after dawn for the breakfast buffet. They didn't want to talk about Representative Shays' bill that requires reporting of crime, the company's financial situation, or the nefarious events that had unfolded on past cruises.

"I was kind of surprised when I closed down the bar last night," said James, a lanky engineer from London. With blond-gray hair and blue eyes, he looked a bit like a senior Steve McQueen. He was one of the contractors on the refurbishment. On the second night of the cruise, he sat at the bar in Boleros, the Latin-themed club, drinking a whiskey sour and counting the hours until he could go home to the United Kingdom. A band played "Oye Como Va," as an ice sculpture of a horse rotated on a lit pedestal nestled on a buffet table.

Despite his tales of flying around the world to refurbish multimillion-dollar yachts and cruise ships, James didn't give off a party animal vibe — he chatted about London's traffic woes and how he gave up his car five years ago.

The travel agents, however, bought the sales pitch. "I love the new ship," gushed a large woman in her sixties who was backing out of a glass elevator in a motorized wheelchair. The chair beep-beep-beeped as it moved backward; she had posted a sticker that said "American by birth, Texan by the grace of God" on the scooter's back bumper.

Neither she nor William Moseley, a Maryland man who is organizing a smooth jazz cruise, seemed to know, or care, about past criticism. "I had no idea," he said, while sitting in the redone Viking Crown Lounge, with its low lighting and view of the ship's bow. A Harry Connick, Jr. version of "Mack the Knife" played softly in the background. "It's a great ship."

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