Kumudini Hettiarachchi boards the ‘super-luxury’ M.V. Majestic Princess that stopped over in Colombo Port on her 49-day maiden voyage from Rome to Shanghai Cosseted in the lap of luxury, leisure and pleasure are not in a five-star or even a seven-star hotel overlooking sun-kissed beaches — but on the high seas. Luxury and comfort in [...]


On a wave of luxury


Kumudini Hettiarachchi boards the ‘super-luxury’ M.V. Majestic Princess that stopped over in Colombo Port on her 49-day maiden voyage from Rome to Shanghai

Cosseted in the lap of luxury, leisure and pleasure are not in a five-star or even a seven-star hotel overlooking sun-kissed beaches — but on the high seas.

Luxury and comfort in all their forms are provided to guests who have sought a “sea-going” vacation and boarded the ‘super-luxury’ M.V. Majestic Princess sedately cruising along the ‘Silk Sea Route’ on her 49-day maiden voyage from Rome in Italy to Shanghai in China.

All glitter and glamour: The grand Piazza Atrium. Pix by Amila Gamage

This luxury passenger vessel, the latest addition to Princess Cruises which is headquartered in Santa Clarita, California, United States of America – was built in the Fincantieri shipyard in Monfalcone, Itlay. It is the first vessel in the fleet to feature the brand-new Seawitch livery design at the bow, with hair flowing towards the stern. The company is inextricably-linked with sea-going vacations to exotic destinations such as Alaska.

On Monday, Majestic Princess sailed regally into the Colombo Harbour, docking for just over 12 hours during her maiden call here, allowing a group of media personnel to get a glimpse of its grandeur, courtesy of the Worldlink Travel Group, which has represented Princess Cruises in Sri Lanka for 16 years.

Met by ‘entertainer’ Auron at the gangway, to be escorted around Majestic Princess with brief explanations peppered with lots of jokes, we see some of its passengers with large umbrellas or wide-brimmed hats disembarking for a stroll around the harbour and the street market just beyond the ship.

Earlier most of us have gazed in wonder at the sheer size of the Majestic Princess, getting a distinct feeling of what the Lilliputians would have felt on seeing Gulliver sprawled before them. To put it simply, this cruise ship is huge – with a passenger capacity of 3,560. While its tonnage is 143,000, it is 1,083’ in length; 224’ in height; and 126’ in breadth.
With 19 decks, it has 1,780 guest cabins including 36 suites with private balconies and in keeping with current thinking, 38 cabins which are wheelchair-accessible.

As one ‘embarks’ onto the ship, there is a lobby where guest registrations are done. A medical centre catches the eye, as also machines where currencies may be changed.

Our next stop, the ‘Piazza Atrium’, is the very heartbeat of the ship, with lots of glitter and glamour and guests, in twos and threes, lounging around over cups of coffee.

The street market at the Colombo Harbour with the Majestic Princess in the background

Our tour includes the large cinema, where not only current movies are screened but also the Water Colour Fantasy dubbed an ‘industry-first’ in which a dazzling water and light show is presented and the Princess Live interactive studio where celebrities, flown in for the night, perform. One of the many swimming pools has above it the largest outdoor screen at sea where guests can watch movies under the stars.

No one has been left out of the picture, with the Youth and Teen Centre catering to different age-groups with special programmes being dished out by edutainment experts.

For shopaholics, duty-free boutiques with sparkling jewellery, designer accessories, leather items, name-brand cosmetics, souvenirs and much more are spread across 1,100sqm, while workaholics can walk into the internet café. A large room also doubles up as a casino at night and a chess or mahjong playing area during the day.

For the art lover, there is a gallery of beautiful paintings, while for the adventure-lover, certainly not for the feint-hearted, it is not walking the plank but ambling with adrenalin-pumping up and down the Seawalk, a glass-bottomed walkway jutting 8.5m from the ship’s side at a height of 39m over the ocean. Just looking down, while the ship is anchored gave sea-legs to many a journalist.

Be it a snack or casual or fine dining, the gourmet, meanwhile, can tuck into the spread at 20 restaurants and bars. While there are two Michelin-star chefs on board, Deck 16 boasts of the ‘World Fresh Marketplace’ with diverse food counters inclusive of a specialty ‘East meets West’ street food counter along 130 metres.

An art gallery for art enthusiasts

The jewel in the restaurant crown, however, is the Chef’s Table Lumiere which encompasses a galley tour, champagne toast and multi-course dinner served at the Table Lumiere built of tigers’ eyes marble and enclosed by a ‘curtain of light’.

For us, lunch is served in the Café Grill with a delicious starter of either red-snapper or pasta; a main of trout or tenderloin beef both with exquisite flavours; and a delectable French dessert, chocolate souffle with vanilla custard sauce.

A couple living in retirement in Florida who have travelled the land and the sea across the globe pay tribute to the ultra efficient staff, all of 1,346, and are quick to comment on the ‘room service’ where cabins are spic and span and the laundry is fresh and crisp.

Just imagining the behind-the-scene advance-planning, purchasing, stocking and delivery of service leaves us reeling.
As we disembark to get back to our routine lives, the guests who had left the ship are straggling back.

Once aboard, they will head for Penang and onwards with the final destination of Shanghai, taking with them exceptional voyage memories.

Beatles treat for guests
“I wanna hold your hand.”
The eve before our visit, the guests had a pleasant treat. Making sure they get the best of entertainment, staff had flown in the Beatles Tribute band all the way from Australia.
“It was a great performance,” noted Worldlink Travel Group Chairman & MD Ahintha Amerasinghe, who was on board. With many in the over-50 age group, guests must surely have been holding hands with their spouses and singing along with the Beatles favourite ‘I wanna hold your hand’.
Another surprise was the appearance of 72-year-old Pete Best, known as the original member and first drummer of the Beatles from 1960 to 1962. Born in the south Indian city of Madras (now Chennai), Best moved to Liverpool and was invited by the Beatles to join them in August 1960. He was eventually replaced by Ringo Starr in August 1962.
“He was interviewed by the cruise director in one of our theatres and it was quite exciting when he explained how he was ‘thrown out’ by the Beatles,” said one of the animators on board.

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