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BH2359

Age: 64

Occupation:Music Researcher

Number of Cruises: 15

Cruise Line: Imperial Majesty

Ship: Regal Empress

Sailing Date: June 7th, 2005

Itinerary: Nassau, Bahamas

Preamble:
It is not fair to judge the Regal Empress against the other newer cruise ships. The Empress is a real ocean liner, built in 1953, and still sailing its two-day excursions from Fort Lauderdale to Nassau and back all year around.

There are no rock climbing walls, no skating rinks, and most of the bells and whistles of the modern day cruise ships are absent, but the Regal Empress does retain its class as one of those classic ocean liners who plied the Atlantic during the days of trans-Atlantic sea travel.

I use the analogy of a 1950's automobile versus a 2005 car. The 1950's was sturdier built, had better lines (no fins on a ship, however!), and was used as a utility vehicle to get from point A to point B. The 2005 was built for comfort and convenience, with all the modern accessories and glitz to keep the most inexperienced landlubber happy.

There were two reviews of this ship posted here recently, one entirely negative, one entirely positive. How can that be? With no disrespect intended for either poster, I printed out both of those reviews and took them with me on my recent cruise on the Regal Empress. I discovered that both reviewers were basically correct in their reviews of the ship and I will try to give my opinions on what I experienced.

Yes, the ship is old. My object was to sail on her and try to experience what it was like, 50 years ago, to travel the Atlantic on a 600 foot ocean liner.

This was our 14th cruise so I’ve had some experience on the newer cruise ships. However, three of those 14 cruises were on the classic S.S. Norway, so we’ve now had four cruises on classic ocean liners.

Please bear in mind that I’m from the “Go with the flow” school of thinking. Unless something is terribly wrong, we try to make the best of it considering it is probably something that we can not change ourselves. For that reason, our review will most likely be more positive than negative, although we did experience both ends of the spectrum on this cruise.

Embarkation: We had to visit six different places in two rooms in order to register. As previously stated, there were no porters outside for your luggage as you checked your luggage inside at the third stop. The woman at the first stop (to check your paperwork) was very rude, the person at the second stop was almost as bad. The personnel got much better quickly as we traveled from spot to spot. All in all, it took us about 25 minutes to actually get on board. By the way, we did not smell any diesel fumes while boarding or on board.

Cabin:
As soon as we walked on board, a crew member in white gloves did actually yank our carry-on luggage from us and proceed to show us to our cabin. We had booked the best inside we could find - cabin S6B on Sun deck. This would have been a first class inside cabin back in the 1950s. It was small as “larger” cabins go but met our needs. Yes, the bathroom was the smallest we’ve ever encountered and the shower was actually laughable. Imagine a triangle four feet across at the base and two feet deep. That was the space allowed with the curtain closed. Yes, the water would run on the floor. There was more storage space than we needed for the two-day cruise. We did not notice any white ceiling panels with black screws.

Both of the other reviewers mentioned above were in cabins on the two lowest decks (Decks A & B) where there were watertight doors, very narrow hallways, and, I presume, the worst of cabins. Our cabin on Sun Deck served us well. The queen-sized bed was hard, primarily because the mattress was positioned on a wooden shelf below, there was no box spring. The medicine cabinet was very small also.

The air conditioning was very cold but there was no thermostat to control the temperature. You opened and closed the one overhead vent to allow more or less cooled air into the cabin. This worked fine except when the vent was partially closed, you could hear the roar of air flow that did disturb you if watching television or trying to sleep.

The Much of the ship retains the 1950s decor if you know where to look. I’ve never seen so much nice wood throughout, from the outside decking to the walls in some of the public rooms, to most of the walls in the hallways. Yes, the ship is “chopped up” because of the old class system it sailed under back then. Signage was incomplete in areas and we did find ourselves backtracking often to find what we were looking for. However, as this was a rather small ship, we didn’t have that much walking to do.

The elevators were the smallest I’ve ever seen, capacity was five! They worked fairly fast once they got to the floor where you were. We did walk a lot, most public areas were within a deck or two or where we were.

The back of the ship with the pool and hot tubs was always crowded. I never saw any available deck chairs (most weren’t being saved, they had people in them), and the pool and hot tubs were crowded with kids. No way an adult would be able to get into either of the large hot tubs.

That first evening, we had an incident that is talked about a lot of these boards. We were on Sun Deck walking towards to the back when a security person RAN past us. As we approached the pool area, a number of staff and security had surrounded the pool. It seemed that a toddler had “pooped” in the pool and it was about to be drained and scrubbed clean. So, because of one parent’s inconsideration, the rest of us were denied the use of the pool that evening (couldn’t have gotten into it anyway because of all the kids).

I disagree about the lack of public toilets on this ship, there were ladies and men’s rooms everywhere. We never had a problem finding one.

We had a special treat on this ship. I had written earlier to the captain and requested a few things as I was a fan of the classic ocean liner. The information desk called me later that first night and said that an appointment had been set up for the next afternoon so we might visit several “off limit” areas. We were escorted by Jorge, a staff officer, to the officer’s dining room which was the old first class dining room and retained much of the decor of that era, including the etchings on the wall. We also went to the locked conference room that used to be the ship’s library. This room has not changed from 1953 and was absolutely beautiful with its chandelier, mahogany walls, inlaid panels, and so on. We were also taken to the bridge for a tour there and saw the original wooden steering wheel that we were told was still functional. It was locked in place but could actually be used if necessary. We were “allowed” to have pictures taken steering the ship. We then met the captain who graciously signed the several pictures of the original Olympia I had brought with me (I gave him copies for himself).

Staff:
All in all, the staff worked very hard to make sure we were pleased and had a good voyage. Our cabin steward, Ernie, was probably the best cabin steward we’ve had in our 14 cruises. Very helpful, always with a smile, and always calling my wife and I by our proper names. Although tips were automatically placed on your bill, we did give him an extra tip.

Our dining room waiter was very efficient but slow. We were almost the last table to leave each night. One of the reasons was if you ordered two entrees, he’d bring one and wait till you finished, then bring the other. On every other ship we’ve been on, both would come at the same time so you’d finish with the others.

We ate lunch in the dining room and encountered a waiter (Idalio - Portugal) who has been with the ship for twenty years. Talk about fast and efficient! He was all of that and more.

The staff at the information desk (Purser’s desk) was also quite friendly and helpful, always with a smile, as was the housekeeping manager whom we got to know fairly well.

There were only two areas where the staff received a “poor” from us on the comment card at the end of the cruise. It seemed that the entire casino staff was rude or simply didn’t talk to you at all. The casino keeps the token level in the slot machines at a very low level, thus, after a small win, the machine would run out of tokens and not pay out completely. You were constantly calling for assistance. The other staff member whom we were dissatisfied with was, believe it or not, the cruise director! We never met him personally (didn’t want to) but his demeanor on the intercom was terrible, almost ordering you to do this or that. As a matter of fact, just after we were on the ship and it sailed, he announced a MANDATORY meeting of all passengers in the Grand Lounge. He used the word mandatory five times in that one announcement. We found out that this “meeting” was to inform you about the Blue Lagoon and other tours they offered in Nassau, along with a short film. We didn’t attend.

As an aside, during the lifeboat drill, we were assigned to a particular lifeboat (unlike on the Elation with Carnival) and they did take attendance at the drill. In Nassau, all the lifeboats on the port side except one were lowered to the water for a crew drill. The one that was not lowered was ours, and we wondered why!!! Talk about being paranoid!

Food:
The dinners in the dining room were good and the menu was varied. The food at the buffet the first day was adequate but nothing fancy. The choice there was limited. Also, you had to be served by the staff, you couldn’t help yourself. We missed the midnight buffet so can not comment on that, but can say that other than lunch and dinner time, it is hard to find something to eat other than room service which really was a joke. You got a choice of three sandwiches, two salads, cookies, and that was about it.

This was the only ship I’ve been on that served Pepsi. They also had Coke. Soda drinks in the can were $1.75 and a tip was added after the fact on your sailing account.

Public Areas:
Contrary to some of the reviews I’ve read, almost all seats in the Grand Lounge could see the stage area. We watched one production show here and attended the Captain’s Reception here. The dress at the Captain’s reception was extremely varied from tank tops and flipflops to full suits and ballroom gowns. I did not see one tuxedo. The biggest mismatch was this slim good-looking girl of about twenty or so with a neck to ankle plain black gown. She was with a fellow wearing slacks and an open sports shirt not even tucked in at the waist. As stated elsewhere about the dress code on this ship, it really isn’t formal, it is resort casual, and sometimes less.

The Commodore Lounge remains almost as it was fifty years ago and we really enjoyed sitting in the recessed seats at the side. The Mermaid Lounge right behind the Commodore is where one of the original pools used to be (You can look up and tell where). Both of these rooms have smoking on one side, non-smoking on the other. The Mermaid is where they have Kareoke (sp?) each night. They also have a stage for live bands but we never saw a live band there. Strangely, we never saw a live band anywhere, including at the pool area.

There is a disco, a children’s room, an internet room, etc., all of which we did not visit.

Debarkation:
Yes, they do hold you up until everyone has settled their bill. Announcements calling various passengers to the information desk were made just about every five minutes for more than an hour. It began with sixteen cabins being called, finally got down to one cabin and two names. (In Nassau, just before sailing, they were calling ten names over and over. We saw a group of four people then return to the ship, and later an electric cart pulled up with four more. We assumed that two people got left behind because at 6:00 sharp, we sailed. Perhaps these were the two names that didn’t respond to numerous pages on the intercom.) Then, Sun Deck and Promenade Deck passengers were allowed to leave the ship and we got off quickly..

As I stated at the beginning of this. I wanted to sail on a real ocean liner and try to experience what it was like in the 1950s during a trans-Atlantic sailing on this ship. We did this, enjoyed ourselves, and had a few nice surprises. Would we do it again, probably not.

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