Age: 21 to 35
Number of Cruises: 6 to 10 Cruises
Cruise Line: Royal Caribbean
Ship: Nordic Empress
Sailing Date: NOT FOUND
Itinerary: Bermuda inaugural cruise
New York has a long way to go to make the embarkation process smoother. Even though embarkation didn't officially start until 2:00, we, along with a couple of hundred other people, arrived early. We were eventually led into the 2nd staging area at around 1:30...to wait until they actually started embarkation at about 5 minutes to 2. They did have reps going through the crowd to make sure all the paperwork was in order, which does help the line move faster. Once we got to the desk to sign in, the process went fairly smooth. They finally activate your sail and sign card at the pier now vs. on the ship (hurrah), although they only had a couple of credit card machines, so the reps had to wait for their turn on the machine.....
I've been on the NE before on it's 4 day cruise from Miami, and was glad to see that RCI has kept the ship looking as new as possible. All the public areas were spic and span, and all the brass was polished daily. The centrum area is beautiful, and a definite focal point of the ship. The only bad part is that the ship has too few elevators. The main elevators are in the Centrum (4 total), so there was always a wait to get an elevator. The other set was aft, which went to the dining areas (2 story dining room). At meal times, you had to plan ahead to catch an elevator, because the stairs were often backed up 2 decks (our dining entrance was on 4 deck, so everyone that entered on 5 deck blocked the stairs going down).
The dining room is beautiful, 2 levels with glass all around. Since we were on the inaugural 7 day cruise, we enjoyed brand new menus....although some of the entree items twice during the cruise (not the lobster, though). Dining room food was good to very good and our waiter was superb. His name was Ronald from India, and if you happen to go on this ship, try and request his section.
The other food area, the Windjammer Cafe leaves a lot to be desired. There were always long lines to the food (only 2 lines), and there was never any water available to drink. The water problem was a real bummer to everyone that we spoke with on the ship. The food their was okay, nothing to write home about. Breakfast was terrible, though. No matter how hungry you are, powdered eggs just don't cut it. Also, the breads in both dining areas were never fresh, they were always hard as a rock, or stale.....they must have fired the pastry chef that week. Bad bread part...none of those awesome breadsticks at dinner....
Leaving from New York is an experience!!! A lot of history there, and well worth the trip. There is a certain feeling of patriotism you get when you pass the Statue of Liberty that I just can't describe.
Our first day at sea was amazingly calm, 1-2ft only. Beautiful sunny skys and no waves, what else can I say?
Entering St.Georges is an experience not to be missed. The ship gracefully passes through a channel barely wide enough to fit though with jagged short cliffs on 1 side, and a fort on the other. The ship is greated by the town Crier ringing his bell shouting welcome to the ship. While in Bermuda, I recommend buying a 3 day bus pass to get around the island. Public transportaion is excellent in Bermuda and very easy to use. We took the bus from St. George to Crystal Caves. The cave is an awesome sight, 186 steps down. The stalagmites are really neat to see, along with the underground water resorvoir that is crystal clear blue. The tour is about 1/2 hour and costs $ 7.50pp. After that we walked to the Perfume factory and the glass studio, both of which are disappointments. Then we caught the bus back to the ship, ate lunch, and adventured around St.Georges shops. There is a really neat town square with an old pirate ship and torture racks you can take your picture in. !
I recommend buying any native artwork here instead of Hamilton because it is cheaper.
After dinner, we walked back into town to walk off the meal. The ship leaves for Hamilton early the next morning, and I wanted to see it, so we went to bed early.
HAMILTON: Words cannot describe how beautiful it is to set sail at dawn and cruise slowly to the other side of the island. The Zenith passed us on the way and with the sun rising on her, it made for an awesome picture. Early am we did our Ship Shape walkathon mile as we sailed. We docked on Front Street about 10:00 next to the Norwegian Crown. On our first of 3 days in Hamilton we decided to bus it to Church Bay to do some swimming and snorkeling. The beaches really are pink, and Church Bay has the rough sand, similar to south Florida. The water is so blue and clear, much nicer than the Caribbean. Parrot fish actually were swimming right at the surfs edge, amazing to see.
We snorkeled in the 70 degree water (brrrr!!) and took a roll of underwater film with us. Not bad snorkeling, but by far not the best. A lot of parrot fish and not much else. After Church Bay we jumped back on the bus and went to the Royal Navy Yard (a.k.a. Fisherman's Wharf). The bus allows you to see the countryside of Bermuda at your leisure...a very beautiful country. At the Navy Yd we did some shopping and sightseeing. Worth the trip...a lot to see there. After this, we took the ferry back to Hamilton (using our bus pass). This is a great way to travel, seeing Bermuda up close from a ferry. The ferry dropped us off right next to the ship. Long day, but not over yet. We hit Front Street to do some window shopping. They were also having the first Hamiliton Nights street festival of the year that night. They close the street and vendors bring native art, etc for visitors to buy....nothing spectacular, though.
Hamilton, day 2: We decided to use the last day of our bus passes to the hilt!!! We bused it to the Botanical Gardens (free). Very well kept and beautiful. I suggest doing it in the morning before it gets too hot, it's very tropical at the gardens. When we finished there, we took the bus to Gibbs Lighthouse. It is a long climb to get to the top and costs $ 5.00/pp. It's worth the climb, you can see the entire island from up there. Kinda scary at first, but you get used to it. After this, we bused it to Horseshoe Bay, another beach. Pink sand with the consistency of baby powder....the beach is horseshoe shaped and outlined by cliffs. I recommend not walking from the road to the beach as it is quite a steep walk and long, try and catch a cab that is going down to the beach to "hitch a ride". After the long, hard walk up the hill back to the bus stop, we went back to the ship. After dinner, my girlfriend and I took a horse and buggy ride around Hamilton. What a great experience. The driver told us about the island and the history, along with the future of the island. Highly recommended!!!! The inhabitants have a great amount of pride for their island, a refreshing change from the "Braid you hair, pretty lady" attitude of the caribbean.
Day 3 Hamilton: Since our bus pass expired now, we decided to walk around Hamilton and do some shopping. This is the way to do it, save it for the last day. The ship leaves promptly at 2:30...has to do with the tides, so don't be late. Leaving Bermuda was beautiful, and sad.
AT SEA: Our good fortune of excellent weather had passed us by because late Friday night, we started with rough seas...10-12 foot. A lot of people got sick, as the NE is not known for taking rough seas very well (shallow draft made for Caribbean smooth sailing, not North Atlantic). Saturday was filled with cold weather, rain, and 12-14ft seas. this was the first time there were no lines at the Windjammer Cafe.... The weather was so bad that the waves were crashing over the promenade deck on deck 6 and into the public area doors. The promenade was closed off with yellow caution tapes, so if you wanted fresh air,you had to go up top. The crew put huge blow dryers by all the doors to help dry the carpets.
NEW YORK: I highly recommend getting up early the last day as you enter NY. The sun is just rising and shining on the Statue of Liberty, absolutely beautiful!!!
Being a cruise veteran, and having sailed on RCI twice before, I noticed little things that they cut out to save the almighty dollar. I found the service to be lacking in a lot of areas, primarily the Cafe, and shore excursion desk. The cruise director, Helen, was excellent, along with the sports director, but a couple other people on the staff were very rude and obnoxious. It is sad to see how a once glamourous way of travel has become so commercialized. Don't expect the pampering you were used to in the past on this cruise line anymore, sad but true.
SUMMARY: Overall, we had an excellent vacation. Bermuda is a place I didn't really want to go to before the trip, but it left me wanting to go back for more. It's not what I expected, there were no stuffy British folk, and it wasn't overrun with elderly people. It is a beautiful island that I intend to visit again. The ship was very nice and can tell RCI does a lot of upkeep on her, in fact, they were changing out older carpet during the cruise. The only bad part of the ship is the massive congestion at meal times and in the Centrum elevators. Other than that, there isn't much of a problem in navigating around the ship. There are areas in 7, 8, and 9 deck around the centrum that only have a few chairs next to the floor to ceiling windows that should have a lot more. It's wasted space that they should investigate enhancing with couches or even a cafe bar or champagne bar. It's such a waste to not utilize those areas with the best views. On a scale of 1-10, here are m!y scores:
SHIP ACTIVITIES 8