I took my first cruise a few weeks ago aboard the Empress of the Seas. The one thing I find myself saying after the experience is that everyone must try it.
We took a bus from Hartford, CT to the dock in Bayonne, NJ. Embarkation was pretty quick, we received our luggage long before dinner time...everything went very well.
Here's my nutshell version of the trip:
All of our interactions with the staff and other cruisers were extremely pleasant.
We were very excited to discover that they serve the same food in the Windjammer as they do in the Carmen Dining Room. We like to dress up for dinner on occasion but on vacation, that just wasn't us. We loved Portofinos and dined there twice. (we did wear smart casual clothes in there)
I found that at least for me, it was best to iron my clothes before packing and also that the Downey wrinkle release really doesn't work very well. Also worth mentioning is that we had no need for a nightlight in our stateroom. We had an oceanview room so perhaps that makes a difference between one without a window...but there was a nice (not) crack of light coming from the hallway through our door.
My group of 4 weren't really into the shows or the ship's excursions but everyone we spoke to who did engage in these activities had a great time. In Bermuda at the Royal Naval Dockyard we did go parasailing and jetskiing at the place right across from where the boat docks. Jetskiing ROCKED! We had our own "lust for life" moment when our guide took us roaring past the Empress of the Seas. He also took us to a little cove for a swim and fed these huge fish too. Parasailing is cool if you've never tried it but now that I have, I don't know if I'd do it again.
We also rented scooters from Oleander cycles. I know that the ship advises against it but we rallied...and immediately downgraded from the more powerful De-lux scooter model to the smaller ones. The people running the cycle rental shop were very cool about making sure we were totally comfortable riding the bikes before letting us take off. We were kind of scared riding them but we took it easy and all in all..it was fun. (though I think I'd like to try it again in America where we drive on the Right side of the road)
Hamilton was cool but you're only there for the day. If you want standard souveniers...Spinnakers is right around the corner from the ship and they had really cool and reasonably priced stuff. We took a taxi to Elbow Beach ($10 for the ride) and it's a beautiful, wavy, pink sand beach. Nice place!!
The seas weren't very rough though the first night at sea was kind of nauseating for many. We took ginger (not sure if it helped) AND some less drowsy dramamine (which KNOCKS you out).
Feel free to email me with any specific questions... I'm happy to answer them...I loved this cruise and will definitely take another and would also definitely cruise again with Royal Caribbean.