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Brooke Nevius

Age: 45


Number of Cruises: 3

Cruise Line: Royal Caribbean

Ship: Nordic Empress

Sailing Date: February 15th, 2003

Itinerary: Western Caribbean

Bill and Brooke Nevius
3214 Crosshill Court
Prospect, KY 40059

March 18, 2003
Royal Caribbean Cruises Limited
1050 Caribbean Way
Miami, FL 33132 USA

RE: Cruise on the Nordic Empress February 15-21

Dear Royal Carribean,
In February 2002 we cruised with you aboard the Adventure of the Seas. We were amazed with the ship and all the wonders of cruising. We were smitten with every aspect of cruising. We decided this was our vacation agenda for the next several years. Our family of six could be accommodated in every way and everyone was happy. As good fortune would have it, we sold our home in New York while we were cruising with you last year and we booked our cruise this February from our new home in Kentucky. It has been a challenging year, leaving New York after 16 years and returning to Kentucky, where my husband and I were both born and raised. Since we were making a life style change, my husband stayed in New York for the last six months and only arrived here in Kentucky one week before we left on our cruise. Once we knew my husband would be joining us in Kentucky we started researching your website. We knew we would only go with Royal Caribbean. Our search began on your website, only to be forwarded in most cases to a referring travel agent.

We started our search by itineraries, then by port departure, called some different agents, and were actually solicited by a few to go on Carnival. We decided we liked the itinerary of the Nordic Empress. However, your website did not show particulars of the ship. When I spoke with Delores of Vacations To Go, I asked how the rock climbing wall, etc, could fit on such a small ship? She said, “ She didn’t know, but she knew all the ships offered the same amenities.” Still toying with the idea, and of course very busy settling our family in, we decided to research some more. We once again tried to book online with you only to be transferred to an agent. We then were directed to Best Price Cruises. When I talked to Charley at Best Price, she also said she knew it was a smaller ship, but the amenities were the same. “It’s a very nice ship, but smaller.” We did not specifically discuss what was available on board, but I was told all ships had so much for the kids to do. We booked the cruise. After all the website showed all these activities. We requested connecting rooms, which I also notice the website to be elusive to. The next day Charley called to say there were no connecting rooms. We agreed we spent so little time in the room it would be fine.

Every other day or so we would click on the your website and look up the Nordic Empress. We watched the morning, afternoon, and evening video. We checked out the activities for the day, checked the weather in the ports of call, and reviewed the shore excursions. My daughter couldn’t wait to ice skate, my youngest son said this year he would make it to the top of the climbing wall and play basketball 24-7. My youngest would go down the pool slide no less than 100 times a day, and my oldest son would be at Johnny Rockets for a daily milkshake and the teen disco at night. My husband and I were looking forward to enjoying the adults only pool, knowing our children were having a ball doing all the wonderful activities. We even purchased special two way radios so the boys could wander the ship together and still keep in touch. Last year I would not let them go on their own. We made a vacation count down calendar. We drove to Florida on Wednesday, taking our time and anxiously anticipating our cruise. We enjoyed two days at the beach, but talked about all the things we were going to do on board the ship. As we pulled up to the ship at port in Tampa Bay the children all yelled out hooray. They left behind their Gameboys and books. They were going to have too much to do, they didn’t need any of this. We had the valet take the car. Heading into the port we noticed it was not as crowded as last year. Perhaps we were the late ones. It was about 3pm as we headed for the ramp to the ship. We all smiled real big for our picture. We had finally arrived, the ship looked gorgeous. It sure didn’t look that small!

Entering at the centrum, we were still smiling. Then we saw the gift shop, no big deal, we didn’t need the big mall area! As we went on each floor, the faces began to drop. The upper level was the final blow for the girls. There would be no skating, no sliding, there wasn’t even a cheeseburger joint. The girls both burst out in tears, “What are we going to do all week? We don’t have a clue how to play shuffle board. As we looked out to the bay we realized we were heading out to sea. We headed down to our rooms with our heads hanging low. At least we had rooms with windows, we would be able to see the views and feel the ocean breezes. I felt betrayed and sad. I knew my husband and I were going to have to work especially hard to keep everyone occupied, and we hadn’t seen the library yet, or the arcade, or the online center. We prayed for good weather all week. If it rained, we were doomed! We opened the doors to our non connecting rooms. Yes, there were windows, but they didn’t open, and one room smelt like a cigarette factory. There must be a mistake. We asked our steward, Michael. There was no mistake, smoking was allowed, we could possibly change rooms, but they would not be next to one another. There was nothing that could be done about the smell. The “boys” were settled into the “stinky” room. As our youngest son has allergy induced asthma, we had to move him out. We went to dinner, which was wonderful, and met our wonderful servers. We saw very few children on board.

After dinner we went to see the Kids Connection, it was closed. We went to bed weary and worried. I could hardly sleep as I was enveloped with the smell of smoke, and as I brushed my teeth the sink kept stopping up. This ship is beat!!! The next day at sea, we found the library. It was small and there were not books appropriate for the children. We went round to Kids Connection, but it was closed. We wandered to the sports deck to try ping pong, there were only three paddles and the wind made it impossible. We tried the shuffleboard, played for an hour and realized there were several people waiting to play. The kids played in the pool and we were entertained with the pool activities. Finally, we went to kids connection, and it was open, some children were in the dark small cavernous room. There was a slide, but they couldn’t go down it then because the activities weren’t for their age. Never have we seen a more depressing dark dungeon for children, and so few children!!

We felt as if our highly anticipated vacation had turned into a prison. Well, soon we would be released to the wonders of Grand Cayman. All day off board ship, playing on the beach and swimming with the stingrays, snorkeling, etc. We had chosen this cruise because we would have more time on the ship with only three stops. We chose the late seating so we could have more time for all the activities. We checked, and the first seating was now full! It didn’t take long to realize we were in trouble as the only food available for the children from 5 to 6:30 was at one of the many bars or room service, which you had to wait in the room for and it was extremely limited.

Additionally, the ice cream was even shut down. You couldn’t even get a cheeseburger from room service until 6. This is the most un-kid friendly ship in your fleet, I am convinced. At one point that day by the pool, I heard an elderly lady say, it would be nice if only the children would get out of the pool. When I thought of what we had spent, I could feel my stomach churning. We had paid all this for nothing but disappointment and dissatisfaction. I have to take some responsibility. I must have clicked on the wrong ship. Why didn’t I investigate the ships lack of description on the web more? My husband was kind and didn’t get angry with me. Of course we were late to Grand Cayman and had to be tendered to port. we arrived at port at 12.

I think you get the picture. The last day on board the ship was almost unbearable. A drunken passenger started talking and spitting on me, telling me of her family. She said this ship was so nice and it would be perfect if the children weren’t about all the time. At the end of almost an hour long repertoire, she told me she had been to the ships doctor the last three days for shots as she had a severe strep throat. The doctor had been kind enough to give her shots so she could continue having a good time and partying. (While subjecting the rest of us to her strep!) Then she got up and jumped into the pool spitting water from her mouth. Later she was fingering all the rolls at the buffet. Thank god my boys were in the room watching a movie on this beautiful sunny day. The girls were in the strep pool out of boredom. On the rare occasion when we saw a child, we would ask what they were doing. Every child above toddler-hood was bored to tears. The games were completely ravaged. Chess became our pastime when we could find the room to play it. My son beat several adults.

How could a travel agent representing you not know this was not a kid friendly ship? How can you possibly justify the video and activities list showing these activities? This is false advertising at best. I notice you have detailed descriptions of most of your ships. WE were not the only ones deceived. Additionally, some people were on this cruise for as low as $199, and their room was not smoke infested. This is a beautiful ship, it is perfect for couples and small families going to Bermuda. Even the crew members ask why so many children? They were surprised to see us. Some, I won’t mention names, even said we were not the first duped by the travel agents and the internet. There are 10 bars on board this ship and the size of the children’s play area is smaller than your smallest bar. The children cannot even see from most seating in the theater. You certainly have enough kid friendly ships. Please put a small note of the un-kid friendliness of this ship? WE spent far too much money on Bingo and the video arcade for lack of other things to do!

In light of our less than enjoyable experience We hope you will consider some recompense. We want to continue as loyal Royal Caribbean cruisers. We have joined the Crown and Anchor Society. My husband and I are looking into a short Bermuda cruise without the kids. We want to make the February trip an annual affair, even expanding it beyond our immediate family and informing friends and neighbors with kids of the benefits of cruising. Thank you for your consideration and any response would be welcomed.
Bill and Brooke Nevius
cc: The Travel Editor, The New York Times
Best Price Cruises.

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