Number of Cruises: 15+
Cruise Line: Royal Caribbean
Ship: Nordic Empress
Sailing Date: May 19th, 2002
I first sailed on the Nordic Empress in 1992 and recently completed my 5th cruise on this wonderful ship. It had been 6 years since my last cruise and I wondered if the ship still had “it”. I was not disappointed!
All my previous sailings were 3 or 4 night Bahamas trips, as I lived in FL at the time. We moved to New England in 2000 and I was thrilled to see Royal Caribbean offering 7 night Bermuda cruises from NYC on my favorite ship. We originally were booked on an October 2001 sailing which ended up getting cancelled at the last minute due to a hurricane. RCI offered us “1/2 price” sailing as compensation, but in reality it was more like 25% off. They compensated (to their profit protection) by adding an additional $80 per person on transportation to the docks, which had been included in the original booking. Attempts to get that charge removed failed.
Regardless – the cruise was all I have come to expect from Royal Caribbean
We arrived at the docks about 2:30 and it was a bit chaotic at first – the lines were long but they moved quickly. Security was much tighter than I had seen in the past, but RCI seemed to have it down to a science and we were soon processed, photographed, x-rayed and directed to our cabin. The cabin we were assigned was an outside room on B-deck…attempts by my travel agent to upgrade failed as we were told it was a “sold out” sailing. I am glad we did not change – it was the largest I have had on the Nordic Empress! The beds were pushed together to make a king-sized bed and there was still plenty of room to move about. The furnishings were all clean and in great shape. Our cabin steward Emery introduced himself to us as soon as we arrived. He kept the room spotless the entire cruise, and we looked forward to returning to the cabin every evening to see what “creature” he would create out of the towels!
The ship itself does not appeared to have aged at all. The Centrum is still gleaming with the magnificent marble foyer and glass elevators. My husband of 2 years was most impressed with the ship. His previous cruise experiences left him feeling that cruises were “boring”. He now wants to book another cruise later this fall to go up the coast of New England / Canada!!
After we found our cabin, we headed up to the Windjammer Café for a light lunch. The buffet line moved so slowly – it took about an hour to get through the line. I do not remember that ever being a problem on previous cruises. We found it to be slow-moving the entire cruise, so we did all our dining in the Carmen Dining Room.
We were seated at a table for 8 at the Main Seating in the Carmen Dining Room. Our tablemates were 2 other couples about our age, and a single lady. Our waiter, Sanjay, could not have been better! He made sure we had all we wanted and that it was prepared to our liking. The food was very good for the most part. One exception was the traditional turkey dinner they offered on the last night – the turkey was dry and tasteless. My husband’s prime rib dinner was the better choice that night. We did notice a slight deterioration of service when the meals were “open seating” (as all breakfasts and lunches were). It seemed to take a bit longer to get your meals served, coffee refreshed, etc.
The shows were the standard cruise line fare – comedians, singers and dancers. They were well-done and entertaining but nothing exceptional. The Strike Up the Band Lounge is a very comfortable area. They did offer some crazy shows such as their version of the Newlywed Game and a scavenger-hunt type game called Quest. Those were more fun than the “canned” shows!
The ride to Bermuda was a bit rough and many people were sick. I have been in rougher seas, but was never effected the way I was on this trip. I think it was the duration of the roughness – after a day and a half it started getting to me. As a result, we missed the Captain’s Cocktail Party. Our tablemates said they were disappointed in it – not having gone, I could not compare it to previous trips. The cocktail party they threw for the Crown & Anchor members was outstanding though. Unfortunately it was held right after we ate dinner and we couldn’t even think about sampling the hors d'oeuvres!
The weather in Bermuda was rainy so we did not get out much at the first port – King’s Warf. There was not really much to do. All of the ship-organized tours were canceled because of the weather. We did wander over and watch the glass-blowers for a while. The day the ship sailed for Hamilton, we took a ferry over and wandered the city on our own. Bermuda is a beautiful place and we do plan to go back. Unfortunately, the last day the ship was there was a National Holiday, and most of the shops were closed.
Luckily, the ride home was much smoother. Debarkation was also smooth – we waited in the Strike Up The Band Lounge until they called our luggage tag color – the buses were waiting for us and we arrived home roughly 1:30
We would definitely recommend this cruise. The ship has been well-maintained, and although the cabins are not large, there is plenty of room for 2 people. The people at Royal Caribbean are all friendly and helpful – all in all it was a wonderful vacation!