Pros: It was fun to get away
Cons: Too crowded, small cabins
A few years ago, while we were visiting family in Florida, we decided to take a ?mini-cruise? to the Bahamas. Prior to booking I did some checking on what ships were doing this type of cruise, and we chose the Nordic Empress because we had not been on Royal Caribbean cruise lines at that time.
The Nordic Empress is not a new ship and also almost 12 years old now; it was showing a few wrinkles back then. It is a high-density ship weighing in at about 48,000 tons, and carrying over 2,000 passengers. This is quite crowded for a cruise ship today. We later took a trip on another RCCL ship, The Legend of The Seas, and at 70,000 tons, it also has a passenger capacity of approximately 2,000. In other words, do not expect spacious rooms or a lot of deck space on a ship the size and capacity of the Nordic Empress. This is always important to check when you are booking a cruise.
This ship is almost 700 feet long, 100 feet wide, cruises at just under 20 knots and draws 25 feet of water. Sitting in the water, it is a relatively attractive and quite modern ship. Currently the Nordic Empress is doing four night cruises out of San Juan, and will be sailing from Miami to Bermuda in the summer.
It is not a particularly exciting ship by our likes. If you want to go and have a "rager" then my one statement that would describe it is a ?party ship?. Remember, booking anything less than a seven day cruise is going to be more of a ?let?s get away and party? mentality than your longer ones.
We drove from Tampa where we had been visiting, to the Port of Miami. There is ample parking at the pier, and I believe it was about $10 per day. It was quite reasonable, and very convenient if you are within driving distance.
Boarding was uneventful, and my only complaint about that was it was your basic ?cattle herding? process. We had already received our cabin assignment, and since the ship was sold out we got stuck with inside cabins. Our very first cruise was an inside cabin, and I swore that it would never happen again. However, we took what was available and left it at that. It was only four days. The cabins on RCCL are quite small. This inside cabin was on ?A deck? and was about 110 sq ft (Category M). That is the smallest we have ever had. However, we did have two small twin beds that made up in a sofa style bed, a bathroom large enough for only one person at a time, a small desk/make-up area, ample closet space for a short trip, a phone (that didn?t work part of the time) and a television.
With regards to the size of the cabins, RCCL was the only cruise line to not put pictures of their cabins in the brochures. That was because they were so small. Now that their ships had increased in room size somewhat, they are easily found as well as on the Internet. Remember that the pictures make it look bigger than it is. The walls were very thin, and I found the party animals up in the passageway outside our cabin at 3am. This does disrupt your sleep.
We sailed to Nassau, on the first stop, which is nothing terribly exciting after you have been there once, but still pretty and fun to just go walk around and see all the same stores are there. We rarely shop in the Caribbean anymore, because the prices are not that great, and the shop owners are rather annoying when you say ?I just want to look?. I did price some gold earrings and they were twice what I could have bought them in the States. Needless to say, we purchased nothing.
The other island we visited was Coco Cay, a ?private island? leased by RCCL. We took a tender over to the island, and were promptly greeted with bottled water offered for sale. Of course that is a turn off in my opinion, and since we were having lunch there, we decided to skip the $3 water. Lunch was a cookout, rather nice, with a good assortment of food. The beach was on the poor side as far as we were concerned. There were a lot of rocks in the water, and you had to really go out a long ways if you wanted to swim. We have been on other cruises that stopped for a day on one of these ?private? islands, and this one left quite a bit to be desired. That was it for the shore visits, as remember this was only four days.
The mark of a RCCL ship is the Centrum atrium complete with a waterfall. This is quite splendid and is all glass with lots of brass. On each floor the elevators stops, and there are seating areas. I have always found this to be quite attractive and makes for a great gathering place to socialize.
Everything is off of the Centrum including all six of the bars. The prices for drinks were about typical for ships, running on average of $4. The Carmen dining room is two stories, which is pleasant as far as appearance, but I found the food to be less than average, and the service to be satisfactory. I personally do not think that RCCL has great food. It lacks originality and expression. It could be on any buffet anywhere in America. Also, I got really tired of the waiters trying to cram all their little ?acts? into just those four nights. Okay, the baked Alaska walk is always fun, but I did find that they got rather carried away with every night having a theme. Sometimes a little peace and quiet is appreciated at mealtime.
The entertainment was typical, and since my husband hates those shows, we stayed for a very short time just one night.
This ship is somewhat below average. I would only go if you could get a really great rate, and believe me, they are out there now.
If you want to check more about this or any other Royal Caribbean Cruise line ship, just check out their website at www.royalcaribbean.com. Just remember what I said about the wide-angle lenses!
Enjoy your travels! I know we sure do! Until later.