SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT Jennie Flaming calls Seattle home, but she used to live in Alaska. On her website, Ordinary Adventures, she writes about outdoor adventure and travel in Washington, Alaska and Western Canada. She and her husband recently took a cruise to the Mexican Riviera from Los Angeles, a fun return to the industry they met working in more than 20 years ago! This is her report.
Why did we decide to do this now?
My husband Jay and I met working in the cruise industry in Alaska in the 90s and have taken several cruises together, but it had been more than 15 years! We had the idea of taking a cruise to celebrate our 20th anniversary which was last summer, but cruises hadn’t started operating yet and we weren’t sure we were ready to do that kind of travel. Fast forward to the fall and we decided to do it! Of course, then along came omicron…
We decided to keep our plans and take the cruise despite the omicron wave and I’m so glad we decided to do it. Princess (and the rest of the industry) are taking the pandemic seriously and committed to far more safety protocols than are required other places.
We also found this cruise appealing because we were able to go to Mexico without having to fly out of the country and worry about finding testing to come home. It’s also a short flight from Seattle to LA (less than three hours) which made it seem easy and relaxing. (Alaska Air’s nonstop Anchorage-L.A. is 5 hrs., 10 min. –Scott)
I have always been a big believer in travel insurance and I would highly recommend either having travel insurance for a cruise right now or buying the travel insurance through the ship. I think it’s a really good idea in the time of the pandemic to have some type of insurance. Make sure to read the fine print to learn what is and isn’t covered related to Covid. We wanted to make sure we had protection that would cover a quarantine hotel if we needed it (we didn’t) and that was our highest priority, but it’s a bit different for everyone based on their personal circumstances and risk tolerance.
In this trip report I’ll talk about the Covid protocols on board the Majestic Princess as well as life on board the ship (cabins, balconies and of course food) as well as a review of the ports we visited and what there is to do both on the ship and in port.
What were the Covid precautions and restrictions like on the ship?
Traveling on the Majestic Princess felt very safe with the many precautions for Covid put in place by Princess Cruises.
All guests and crew must be fully vaccinated and show proof of vaccination before embarkation. This means that this time, children under 5 are not allowed on board as they are too young to be vaccinated. Some cruise lines are allowing young children but Princess is not right now. This will change as normally they have programming for young children in addition to older children and teens. In addition to being fully vaccinated, all guests must have a negative Covid test (Antigen or PCR but must be done at a clinic and processed by a lab) within 48 hours of embarkation. The crew are also tested every few days.
Masks are required in public indoor spaces like elevators, hallways and in the theater and casinos. Masks are also required for embarkation, disembarkation and in port buildings. Crew are all wearing masks at all times. On our cruise, I didn’t see anyone not wearing a mask where it was required and there wasn’t any mask drama.
They aren’t required on deck or around the pool or other spaced out outdoor spaces. Our ship was nowhere near full so there was plenty of room to spread out.
The dining room and other indoor dining areas required masks unless you’re at your table. This is the same as restaurants at home where we live so for us this wasn’t unusual. You can make reservations to have your own table or share it with others and there are plenty of dining options other than the dining room.
The ship was also spotlessly clean, with constant cleaning of surfaces and lots of hand sanitizer. They have also installed hand washing stations outside the buffet area.
A lot of people who’ve cruised before have asked me “what about the buffet????” since the buffet is a super popular place on a cruise ship, especially for breakfast and lunch. The Majestic Princess still has a buffet, but you no longer serve yourself. The crew ask you what you’d like and serve it to you. You can still try it all and have as much as you like, you just don’t self serve.
One more note about the covid protocols – while we were in port in three different towns in Mexico, mask wearing is quite strict and there are temperature check stations anytime you go indoors there.
Life on board the Majestic Princess
We absolutely loved our cruise and it was a real vacation! Cruises really are a great way to get into a different environment and not have to worry about anything once you get on board. I also love the fact that you go to different places but you only unpack once and really get settled into your cabin onboard.
Everything you need is taken care of and there’s no schedule unless you book things at a specific time like spa treatments, meal reservations or shore excursions.
Princess has a relatively new system called Mediallion which I have to say was pretty awesome. It’s a small medallion about the size of a quarter on a lanyard that you carry around with you. It serves as your ID, your room key and helps the crew find you when you order drinks through the app.
When paired with the app, you can make all the reservations you want directly from your phone, and even order room service or drinks that will be delivered to you ANYWHERE ON THE SHIP. So fun!
Make sure to take in one of the Movies Under the Stars on the upper deck above the pool. This was one of my favorite things about the ship. The deck chairs get converted to comfy loungers complete with pillows and blankets! They also do a fun light show to music in the fountain at the pool shortly after sunset and again later at night.
Look inside our balcony stateroom
The Majestic Princess is a big ship but there are lots of spaces to find solitude and we had a balcony cabin which I highly recommend. Splurging for a balcony is absolutely worth it! A balcony gives you a place to get outside that’s completely private and where you can watch the world go by as well as catching all the harbor action when you’re in port. I’ve always had non balcony cabins before (including inside cabins) but getting the balcony is SO worth it and makes it a way more amazing experience.
You can get breakfast delivered to your stateroom for free (an absolute must do in my opinion) and if you have a balcony you can enjoy it outside. It’s the best place for your morning coffee!
Our balcony cabin had plenty of room to walk around the bed as well as an actual closet with hangers (I love this!) and a small bathroom. Bathrooms on cruise ships are small, as are the showers, but they are completely workable. Our cabin also had a small refrigerator, not a mini bar but an actual fridge! It also had a small desk and a mirror with a hairdryer. There were several USB charging ports too.
We told them it was our (belated) anniversary and they surprised us with a beautiful bouquet of flowers delivered to our stateroom on the first day that we were able to enjoy for the entire trip!
How’s the food on the Majestic Princess?
The food on board the Majestic Princess was wonderful. We did not do any of the add-on specialty dining restaurants, but I’ve heard they’re excellent. The food in the main dining room is really good and you can order anything you want off the menu, which is all included. The menu changes each night with different things, so you’ll never get bored.
I highly recommend getting breakfast delivered to your stateroom at least once, it’s included and so fun, especially if you have a balcony cabin.
I also highly recommend checking out the Pizzeria and the Chopsticks noodle bar. Of course the buffet is another option that’s basically always open, and room service! The pizzeria is a great place to go on embarkation day when the buffet is always super crowded. Here you can grab a pizza and drink and settle into vacation mode before heading out to the bar at the back for a sailaway drink, my favorite tradition!
Afternoon tea is served in the dining room in the afternoon and offers delicious tea as well as cakes and pastries and fancy tea sandwiches.
What’s included and not included in the fare on the Majestic Princess?
Princess is not an all inclusive cruise, but you can make it feel like that by getting Princess Plus, which I totally recommend!
Princess Plus is $40 per day per person in addition to your fare and includes alcoholic drinks (up to 15 a day, which is a lot!) as well as unlimited other drinks like espresso drinks, mocktails, soda and smaller bottles of water. It also includes your tips for the crew and wifi. This is a really good deal and even if you don’t drink alcohol if you enjoy coffee and mocktails it’s probably still worth it. There are other beverage package options but in my opinion this is the way to go. The wifi has improved a lot and while it might not be as good as home internet, it’s pretty good.
Your cabin and most room service is already included (there are some room service food items that have an up charge, like sushi). The main dining room, pizzeria, buffet and noodle bar are also all included along with evening shows and other entertainment.
Some of the things that are not included are: transportation to and from the ship, shore excursions (tours in port), alcohol, coffee drinks (drip coffee is included), most drinks of any kind, crew tips, wifi, spa treatments and photography. Also included are quite a few movies and tv shows that you can watch on your stateroom tv. You can even binge all 10 seasons of the Love Boat if you want!
The weather along the Mexican Riviera is sunny and warm, however LA is not always sunny in the winter and it’s not that warm, especially in December and January.
The first and last sea day (first day out from LA and last day coming back) are definitely a bit chilly in the middle of winter. It was sunny both days and in the low to mid 60s. With the wind on deck it was definitely chilly. I didn’t mind that at all but it’s something to think about if you wanted to be in warm or hot weather the entire time.
Once we got down south (starting the second day) it was much warmer and sunny in the mid to upper 70s.
Despite being exposed to the entire Pacific Ocean, the ride on the ship was very smooth. There were times we could definitely feel the motion, but it was never enough to challenge your balance or feel like it was really moving. A lot of this is due to how incredibly stable large modern cruise ships like the Majestic Princess are.
The Majestic Princess also has an indoor adults only pool and lounge area, which is wonderful for those chillier sea days when you still want to be able to see what’s going outside.
Fun things to do on sea days
This 7 day cruise had three sea days plus one half sea day and a half port day in Cabo San Lucas. Lots of people worry they’ll get bored on sea days, but that is not something to worry about!
I’m someone who enjoys reading and just looking at the water, so getting bored on a ship isn’t something I have to worry about ever. If you enjoy lots of activities there are tons of things to do on the ship on sea days! Some of the things you can do include afternoon tea in the dining room, movies on the deck, hanging out by the pool or in the hot tub, sampling all the different food options, cooking classes, spa treatments, live music, ping pong, basketball, mini golf, booking a photography session with your family or friends and more. The Princess Patter is a newsletter that gets delivered to your stateroom each evening with everything that’s available to do the next day. The Majestic Princess doesn’t have some of the features that some other cruise lines have like wave pools, skating rinks and waterslides, but I love the mellow environment on the decks of this ship!
I got my hair cut at the spa which was amazing and I watched blue sky, blue water and waves out the window while a wonderful crew member did my hair. I also enjoyed watching some playoff football on the giant “Movies under the stars” deck while getting food and drinks delivered!
I also spent a lot of time in the hot tubs, which were perfect for getting outside when it was a little chilly or windy on the decks.
Exploring ports and Shore excurions
On this itinerary we went to three ports, Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan and Cabo San Lucas. The day in Cabo was short (leaving at noon) to allow enough time to sail back to LA. Puerto Vallarta and Mazatlan were all day visits.
We decided not to book any shore excursions this time, but there are some excellent tour options on this itinerary! One of my top tips for enjoying a cruise as a diy traveler is to really think about how you spend your time in port. You always have the option of exploring on your own. Exploring on your own means you can go wherever you want with the time allowed and not be on someone else’s schedule. An advantage of shore excursions is that you don’t have to think about anything, figure out how to get around or worry about getting back to the ship in time. They are both great ways to explore ports on a cruise, depending on how you like to travel and what you want to do.
Puerto Vallarta is a port with some excellent shore excursions. A fellow travel writer friend of mine recently did the same cruise and booked the all day trip for snorkeling at a boat in only beach plus lunch and a visit to the village of Yelapa, accessible only by boat. Here you can explore the village, walk to a waterfall or hang out at the beach. She loved it and I am definitely doing that one next time! There are a variety of snorkeling trips, private beach days and cultural trips that are highly rated as well. We opted to explore on our own and took a taxi to the Malecon and walked along it to the Playa Los Meurtos. We found a place with great tacos recommended by our waiter on board (another top tip – ask your waiter where to eat in port!) and enjoyed amazing tacos and a beer while people watching. It was a perfect afternoon of exploring for us before taking a taxi back to the ship.
The next day we were in Mazatlan and in my opinion Mazatlan is a fantastic port to explore on your own! It is an old city (for North America) with lots of interesting buildings and beautiful flowers everywhere.
You can get a map and follow the walking tour around town and over to the beaches and back to the ship in an hour or so. It’s a great beach to relax on with plenty of small restaurants right next to it.
There’s also a viewpoint if you’re up for a bit of a hike (you can take Uber if you don’t want to walk the whole way, or you can take a tour from the ship if you don’t want to figure out getting there on your own). I also recommend getting up early the day you arrive in Mazatlan, I loved watching the sun come up over the harbor while drinking coffee on my balcony! Pretty great way to start the day.
The last port day is a morning visit to Cabo San Lucas. Cabo is a tender port which means the ship doesn’t dock, it anchors in the harbor and then deploys the life boats to use to shuttle people to shore. Make sure you go ashore here just to get the fun small boat ride in!
Since the time in Cabo is short, it’s also a good place for a shore excurion. Last time we did this trip, we did a shore excursion snorkeling at Lover’s Beach, the iconic place to snorkel in Cabo. You can also take a boat tour without snorkeling if you prefer that, around the famous arches sticking out into the ocean and looking for whales. If you want to explore Cabo on your own, when you get off the tender shuttle you’ll definitely be in the middle of the tourist zone. If you want to get away from that and enjoy a peaceful beach with great snorkeling, head left once you get out of the pier around the naval yard to the Playa Publica (also called the cannery beach). It’s a beautiful beach and it’s super close to where you go ashore.
Playa Publica even had a wheelchair ramp and platform under the shade so wheelchair users can enjoy the beach too!
As our ship departed Cabo, we saw lots of whales and dolphins around the southern tip of Baja. I spent at least an hour watching them and it was really fun! The dolphins play and jump in the ship’s wake so I enjoyed watching them from the stern of the ship. I wished I had brought binoculars with me but that was something I completely forgot about.
Overall our trip on the Majestic Princess was a wonderful true vacation and escape from day to day life. We loved our home away from home which felt very intimate and personal even on a large ship. Even at the height of the Omicron wave, it still felt very safe thanks to the many precautions taken by the crew, the company and the industry. Add in sunny weather, ports that are fun to explore on your own on or enjoy on a shore excursion, a relatively short flight and you’ve got it made!
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