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Kathryn Whelan

Age: 52

Occupation:stable owner

Number of Cruises: 3

Cruise Line: Royal Caribbean

Ship: Nordic Empress

Sailing Date: January 24th, 2004

Itinerary: Western Caribbean

It was with much trepidation that I booked this cruise since so many of the reviews were mixed or outright negative, but my family was greatly in need of a vacation together after a very rough two years and the price was irresistible. I was traveling with five of our adopted children, a friend, and my X. The reviews by other cruisers with young people were particularly distressing so I brought plenty along to keep them occupied - video games, portable DVD, laptops, etc. They never touched them. They all found friends the first day and there was so much to do onboard that I rarely saw them during the day except in passing. Two of my boys are emotionally challenged (all the children were adopted through foster care after parental rights were revoked due to abuse and neglect). The boys blossomed on this cruise. The staff working with the kids were all very supportive and just wonderful with them. They made some friends (a first for one of them) who have kept in touch since our return home. The 15 and 16 year old boys met a pair of lovely young girls traveling with their family and spent a great deal of time with them at the pool, rock wall, ping pong tables and shuttle board courts. The older girls greatly enjoyed their time with other older teens and some of the younger crew members.

We three adults also enjoyed ourselves immensely - the shows were very nice, the music lovely and the food excellent. The family ate together in the main dining room every evening. The staff was friendly, attentive, and very efficient. Our waiter, Anton from Transylvania, was absolutely charming and won the heart of my oldest girl. The food was delicious and varied. For the other meals, we went our separate ways but I often saw the older boys and girls with their friends in the windjammer café, although we old folks tended to grab a plate and eat on the deck. All the food was fresh and well prepared. I should also compliment our charming room attendant who was very efficient and extremely understanding (bed-wetting issues with two of the boys who feel they are too old to wear protection and conveniently “forget” to put it on). In fact all the crew were polite and efficient, although I did feel the people manning the purser’s desk were a bit abrupt.

As for the shore excursions, we opted to fend for ourselves except in Belize where we visited the Mayan ruins. It was disappointing - the windows of the bus were filthy so I couldn’t get any good shots of the landscapes and they have “repaired” parts of the ruins with concrete - quite jarring visually. In Cozumel we found a beach that I highly recommend - Paradise Beach. It was beautiful with lots of chairs, umbrellas and tables for the loungers and snorkeling equipment, kayaks, floating trampolines and inflated floating rock walls for the more active. Everything was free of charge except for the food and drinks. We spent the whole day there and the total bill was only $120 - food for eight people and tropical drinks for the adults.

I’m sure you are reading many reviews, so I won’t describe the ship, the excursions available or the amenities included. I just wrote this to dispel any qualms one might have about cruising on the Nordic Empress with minors. We all had a fabulous time and the children only want to cruise from now on. I can only hope that other ships can live up to the expectations they now have.

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