Most people plan their vacations by choosing a destination they’d like to go to, then working around what ships and lines are operating in that area. I tend to work the other way around: I like to pick my ship or my cruise line first, then go wherever they’re sailing. It’s a neat way to travel because it can really get you to explore some destinations and places that you may otherwise never have considered.

A passenger aboard Holland America’s Veendam gazes out from his balcony. Photo © Aaron Saunders

Still, there remains a very, very long list of ships I would love to sail onboard, and it only seems to grow every year!  So today, I thought I’d share with you four of the “classic” (and I use that term loosely) cruise ships that are on my “must-sail” list – and a few of them may surprise you!

Majesty of the Seas

Along with her sisters, Majesty of the Seas arguably set off the newbuild race that dominated the next twenty years. Photo courtesy of Royal Caribbean.

Sail it before she’s gone: with Sovereign of the Seas transferred to Spain’s Pullmantur and Monarch of the Seas scheduled to depart from the Royal Caribbean fleet next spring, the clock is most definitely ticking for the 1992-built Majesty of the Seas.

So why do I want to sail aboard her? Call it the nostalgia factor. She was, at one time, one of the largest and most trendsetting ships afloat, and along with her sisters she helped to define Royal Caribbean like no other vessels had up until that point. In fact, she’s arguably the foundation for the line’s later successes, which led up to the mammoth Oasis and Allure of the Seas.

The Mikado Restaurant aboard Majesty of the Seas underwent a major refurbishment a few years ago. Photo courtesy of Royal Caribbean.

Today, Majesty of the Seas operates three and four-day jaunts to the Bahamas out of Miami, satisfying thousands of cruisers each week, some of who are undoubtedly new to cruising and Royal Caribbean, while others are seasoned cruisers looking for that quick getaway. But the enormous ship with the sheer white hull and turquoise accent lines has always fascinated me.

Miami’s a long way to travel, but I’m hoping to work a quick jaunt aboard her into my plans for next year’s Cruise Shipping Miami convention. After all, when in Rome…

Carnival Destiny…er, Sunshine

Carnival Destiny in Grand Turk, soon to be known as Carnival Sunshine. Regardless of her name, she’s ushered in a new era for Carnival – twice. Photo courtesy of Carnival Cruise Lines

I’ll admit it: although I’ve spent nearly 200 days at sea, I’ve never sailed with Carnival. Not once. I can already hear the collective “gasp!” rising from cyberspace. But unlike nearly every other travel journalist who’s currently on the biggest and newest vessel in the fleet, Carnival Breeze, I’ve got my sights set on something a little more classic: the 1996-built Carnival Destiny.

Arguably as successful for Carnival as the introduction of the Fantasy (now Carnival Fantasy) was in 1990, Carnival Destiny really put the line on the map by offering more amenities than ever before and spawning what is arguably the line’s most successful ship design to-date.

Next year, though, Carnival Destiny will re-invent herself again for Carnival when she undergoes a massive refurbishment process that will be the largest ever performed in the history of the company – and this is a cruise line that is no stranger to large refit projects. Coming in at $155-million dollars, it’s also one of the most expensive; a refit so dramatic that when she emerges from shipyard to begin her Mediterranean season, she’ll sport a new name: Carnival Sunshine.

There’s just one problem: I can’t figure out if I’d rather sail her pre or post-refit!

Louis Cristal

Louis Cristal has a very storied history. Did you know she used to be a Baltic ferry? Photo courtesy of Louis Cruises

Intimately sized and perhaps most notable for her short stint as NCL’s Leeward in the late 1990’s, Louis Cristal finally found a stable home in 2007 with Louis Cruises sailing the beautiful blue seas of the Mediterranean.

It’s a good thing, too: this sleek, modern little cruise ship was actually built in 1980 as the Viking Saga, running cruise-ferry operations between Stockholm and Turku. But the Louis Cristal of today bears no resemblance to the ship she started out as. Between 1990 and 2007, she: burned out completely as Sally Albatross; was scrapped down to her keel and rebuilt; ran aground and partially sank in 1994; was refloated, refurbished, and subsequently passed through three separate owners before being purchased by Louis Cruises.

So why do I want to sail a ship with such a checkered history? Simply because Louis has taken great care of this little gem of a ship, which still boasts a number of features from her NCL days along with her decidedly Scandinavian interior design.

She’s got personality, she’s got class, and she definitely has a story to tell.


Fred. Olsen’s Braemar began her life for Crown Cruise Line as their Crown Dynasty. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Originally constructed in 1993 for the now-defunct Crown Cruise Line, Fred. Olsen’s Braemar entered service as Crown Dynasty before short stints with both Cunard and Norwegian Cruise Line. In 2001, she found a new home in the UK with Fred. Olsen, who stretched this sleek little ship in 2009 by inserting a new midsection filled with new staterooms, public rooms and open decks.

I remember seeing her in Alaska in 1998 as the Norwegian Dynasty and thinking, “that’s a cool little ship.”  And indeed she is: she features a stunning, multi-story atrium located near her stern that spans the height of most of the ship’s upper decks, along with multiple lounges, bars, and a full-sized production theatre. Her tastefully-tapered aft decks have been frequently photographed in trade magazines and publications on cruising, and Fred. Olsen added a new Observation Lounge above her navigation bridge during the 2009 refit.

Of course, there are plenty of other ships on my cruising bucket list – these are just a few of the “classic” ships I have my eyes on, constructed back in the days when “megaship” meant 80,000 tons!

From the Deck Chair will return tomorrow!


3 Responses to Four Classic Ships I’d Like to Sail Aboard

  1. Cat says:

    A good case you have made for these ships. I’m particularly interested in Majesty of the Seas now! Regarding the Destiny/Sunshine – I say go before because you can always go again once she’s been renamed but you won’t ever know what it was like before if you don’t. That would be my decision logic anyway. 🙂 Having said that, you can always go on the ships that were inspired by Destiny as they are VERY similar other than decor. OK, enough of my two cents. Looking forward to reading about your future adventures on any/all of these ships.

    • Aaron Saunders says:

      Great point, Cat! Then again, perhaps I’ll just have to sail aboard them all eventually 😉

  2. Oh, the Majesty of the Seas! My husband and I sailed aboard her in 1994 for our honeymoon (after having taken our very first cruise on the Monarch in 1992). They were/are both beautiful ships — amazingly sleek for such (at the time) huge vessels. Our favorite spot aboard was the intimate Art Deco inspired Champagne Bar, tucked in an out of the way corner of deck 5. We rarely saw anyone else there, except for the ship’s officers (always a good sign!). I know the ship has gone through several refits since then, and it looks like the Champagne Bar doesn’t exist anymore, but it made such an impression that after 20 years of cruising it’s still my all time favorite public room on any cruise ship.

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