Hi saublewater. Sorry that I've been too busy to get to disembarkation and final thoughts. But part of that busyness was getting photos of the cruise uploaded. So you can now see pictures of the cruise and ship here.
If you have questions after seeing them just let me know.
Disembarkation - It was so easy. We had thought about getting room service for breakfast that day but found out there is none on disemberkation day. Therefore, we got up by 6:00 a.m. and went to the Windjammer. It wasn't busy early on but filled up fast. We dropped by the cabin of my family/friends and said goodbye. They were just getting up as they had late departure.
We had signed up for express departure and were supposed to be in the lobby or Strike Up the Band Lounge at 7:30 a.m. with our paper pass that had been given to us at the purser's desk a day or two before. We couldn't find our pass since I put it in such a safe place that I didn't find it until we got to the airport. We still got in line. We figured they wanted us off more than we wanted to get off and we had signed up. It wasn't a problem. We were off the ship by 7:45 a.m. Customs was a breeze with nothing to declare. When we first got outside the terminal there were no taxis so we all lined up. When the taxis started to come some people who were just getting off the ship grabbed the taxis before they got to us. Still, we got a taxi at 8:05 and were at the airport by 8:25. The taxi was immaculate. We found that it was owned and driven by a Singaporean. The taxis there are also very clean. It was fun to talk with him about our visit to his country and what he thought about his adopted one.
When we got to the airport and got to the front of the line to check in we found that we were there too early (more than 4 hours). We had to get out of line and wait for 20 minutes to check in. We were sad to hear later that we had missed another one of my sisters who was in the port area early waiting to pick up our family and friends. We could have seen her, gone for coffee and had here take us to the airport.
Final thoughts - The Empress of the Seas is a lovely ship. It is easy to navigate. It is well kept up. The staff were attentive and did their jobs well. They didn't seem to be as outgoing as on a previous cruise (on LOS). Having been on only two cruises I can't compare more than two staffs. Maybe those on the LOS just excelled. Maybe the fact that the Empress staff will all be leaving the ship when it is sold/transferred had something to do with it. They did fine but there weren't as many smiles.
Yes, the rooms are small but there was enough room for all our stuff. The room didn't get any more messy than it had on the LOS. The entertainment was pretty good. The seating in the Strike Up the Band lounge makes viewing difficult in many areas since it is more of a lounge than an auditorium. The Viking Crown Lounge seemed a bit crowded at various times. The pool is quite small but we don't get in the pool much anyway. There was plenty of room to sunbathe. There was lots to do though events didn't seem to flow as much as they had on the LOS. And there was lots to eat. The food was very good. Bermuda was absolutely beautiful! We want to go back for a longer period of time. Getting on and off the ship in Phila was a breeze. Being a smaller ship made disembarkation quicker for everyone. We'd definitely cruise the Empress and to Bermuda again. With the upcoming change that won't be on the same cruise but that's OK too. It would be fun to sail the Med. on the Empress with Europeans. Until then we look forward to the two cruises we have planned for Jan. and Mar/April.