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Just back from Empress to Bermuda: Review


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My wife and I travelled with our 18 y/o son and his girlfriend to Bermuda this past week on Empress OTS. It was a wonderful cruise marked by great skies and seas. My impressions, good and bad:

Philly v. NY: We have cruised to Bermuda and other places from NYC and FL many times. The embarkation and debarkation from Phila was without a doubt the smoothest ever. Polite, helpful and efficient workers got us unloaded, parked, bussed to the port and checked in, all in record time. Upon our return, a helpful porter took our bags right to our car and was grateful for a $10 tip. I was thrilled. From the time I left the ship to the time I was on the road was less than 20 mins. PS: all passengers were off the ship by around 9:45 am, with some (self-serve express passengers)disembarking as early as 7:30. The one disappointment: the trip up/down the Delaware River is both long and rather boring. As a result, it eats up time which would otherwise be spent in Bermuda. You arrive later and leave earlier than other ships from other ports.


Empress v. Zenith and other ships: As expressed many times on this board: the ship is older and smaller than RCI's others. However, the crew had the best morale of any ship I've been on. Everyone, bar none, was friendly and helpful. The ship never seemed crowded to me. I did not wait in line for anything and never felt part of an overwhelming crowd. The casino was fairly empty when I was there.

The renovation of the ship is apparent in the two beautiful lounges - Boleros and Schooner Bar. The rest of the ship looks barely touched and shows signs of age, altho it is generally well maintained. All of the upholstery in the Windjammer was food stained and needs to be replaced, fast. It made a bad first impression upon arriving aboard and going to the buffet for lunch. Overall, I would prob be inclined to go on Celebrity's Zenith again before Empress, as the quality of food and service are higher and slightly more refined on Zenith. Empress' spa and health club are lacking, and the pool area is small. Contrary to what others have reported, we had no trouble finding chairs on the deck above the pool or in the CC secret spot (follow deck six promenade all the way forward and climb the stairs at the bow to deck 7 or 8 where there's a deck with about 10 chairs).

The cabins and bathrooms are very small. After being spoiled by balconies and other amenities on newer ships, Empress is a little disappointing, altho it is easy to get around and learn the ship quickly.

Food: good to very good. Not great. Nothing terrible nor outstanding, other than Portofino's which I thought was definitely worth the surcharge.

Shore excursions: took the Fantasea Catamaran Cruise and was slightly disappointed... too crowded, and the spot chosen for snorkeling was not as good as other places I've been in Bermuda.

I bought the Platinum wine package and saved over $50 by doing so. The first night, I wrote down the prices of all the wines (ask to see the wine list, not just your "allowed wines" list) and then only ordered the wines over $30 (the package price breaks even at about $25/bottle). The Danzante Pinot Grigio and Mondavi Private Selection Merlot were excellent.

Entertainment: Bingo has become ridiculously expensive so only played once. I lost at Texas Hold Em in the casino but almost made it back at craps. The comedian was poor; the juggler/comedian very funny. The production shows were above average cruise ship fare. The piano bar guy, Bill Forest in the Schooner Bar, was great. Don't miss his Beatles tune sing-a-long. He's really talented and entertaining. The Suzie Campbell Band was fine.

Bermuda: the best island. period. Don't miss Horseshoe Bay and be sure to arrive early and walk the length of the crescent and beyond to the beautiful coves that so many people miss. Don't bother going to any of the beaches at St Georges. The Jersey shore is nicer.

Meet and Mingle: frankly, I forgot about it and didn't go, even tho I signed up.

Hope this helps. Any questions, fire away and I'll try to help. PS: I hope today's cruise goes to Bermuda. There was talk among the staff this morning that they may be going to Canada due to the storms.

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Thanks for the review. I have a question. How was luggaged handled? I imagine they are searching through all the carryon's, but are they opening up locked luggage you check at the curbside? Just curious with all the liquor confiscation going on.

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- I didn't go to the street fair bec that was the one time it was raining. It actually poured just as we were leaving the ship, so we turned around. Since we've been to Bermuda, and the street fairs, several times before, it was not a real priority for us. It got somewhat washed out; most people just shopped in the shops that remain open until 9pm.


-Only took the catamaran excursion this trip. The beaches are so beautiful that there is no reason to do anything else unless the weather is not cooperating. We went to St Catherine's beach when in St Georges. It is nice, but nothing compared to the southern beaches. Went to Elbow Beach and had lunch on the beach at the hotel (you can pay cash/charge). Really nice.. the beach there is the best for swimming as there is little surf and it's shallow.


-My luggage was taken right from my trunk by a porter when I arrived at the port. No idea whether it was x-rayed or searched (didn't see anything). Carry on was x-rayed.


-There was a varied mix of ages aboard. Since this was the week between camp and school, there were many children, who were surprisingly well behaved.


- We arrived at the pier around 11 am and had no waiting time at all. We were allowed into our cabin exactly at 1pm. We explored the ship and had lunch in the meantime.


- No refrigerator in our outside cabin (4634). I believe there are only refrigs in the suites.

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Don't miss Horseshoe Bay and be sure to arrive early and walk the length of the crescent and beyond to the beautiful coves that so many people miss.


Wasn't that beautiful past the end of the crescent??!!! I was sorry I didn't have my camera with me. The place was SO surreal!



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Thanks for the review. I have a question about the wine and dine packages. You mentioned that you purchased the platinum package. I am guessing they have different levels? There have been many mentions of this on the boards, but I have not seen prices listed. What was the ballpark price for these packages? I am guessing that you have a different wine list to choose from on each level of package? LAst one, where do you go onboard to purchase and can you purchase before you arrive?


I appreciate any help you can give me. I am sailing on my first RCI cruise in December.

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With the wine package, I was wondering a little how that works? I've seen threads with the costs, but is that per person or per bottle and how many glasses are allowed. I know with the soda package that is per person. If we were to purchase the 10 bottle package, would both my husband and I be able to share the bottle. Then what about others at our table? Thanks for the info. We are on the 9/23 EOS to Bermuda. Janet

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The wine package price is based upon the number of bottles you are buying... no matter how many people share it. You can buy 5, 7, 10 or 12 bottle packages in 3 levels, gold, platinum, diamond. The increased levels give you more choices (with higher end wines being added as the price increases). To give you an idea of price, the 7 bottle platinum pkg was $173, plus 15% gratuity.

You can have 1/2 a bottle or 2 bottles a night. You can have it in Portofinos, any bar, your cabin or the dining room - or even take home any unopened bottles at the end. They are yours to do with whatever, whenever, wherever you please.

BUT, you will only save money if you choose the more expensive bottles on the list every time. You can't lose money, since even if you chose the cheapest wine every nite, you'd break even.

You can buy the package during your first two days onboard. They hawk it all over the ship and at the entrance to the dining room.. don't worry.. you can't miss it.

The beds were comfortable. No new bedding, tho.

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Sounds like the wine package is a win-win since I tend to start choosing higher priced wines as the week goes on. This will help to limit my spending and put my wine usage on a budget. We drink at least a bottle of wine each night with dinner. Thanks for your quick response. I appreciate it.

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QUOTE: I bought the Platinum wine package and saved over $50 by doing so. The first night, I wrote down the prices of all the wines (ask to see the wine list, not just your "allowed wines" list) and then only ordered the wines over $30 (the package price breaks even at about $25/bottle). The Danzante Pinot Grigio and Mondavi Private Selection Merlot were excellent.


Are you saying that they let you order wines that were on the regular wine list as well as the ones on the "allowed list" or were you just checking the wine prices on the "allowed list" by looking at the regular list??


I am a total newbie to cruising but I love my wine...


Teresa :rolleyes:

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Just checking the wine prices on the "allowed list" by looking at the regular list.

Incidentally, the excellent wine, Mondavi merlot private selection sold on the regular list for $32 can be purchased at any wine store or on-line for under $10. RCI's pricing is inexcusable. At least with the package, you actually pay about $24 for it.

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I, too, was on the Empress 8/19, and agree with everything (or just about) wbrumel said.


Most evenings they placed a net over the pool, so that nobody could go swimming. On one evening they featured a pool party for the teens. My son went swimming after dinner, and enjoyed it.


On our cruise the jacuzzi was closed due to an incident of legionnaires disease on the cruise before ours. We received a letter informing us of the legionnaires disease at embarkation. While we hoped they would re-open the jacuzzi after sanitizing it, they never did.


The weather was so beautiful on our cruise, it really made every day special.


We did one shore excursion in Bermuda: Hartley's Helmut Diving. Wow! I want to do it again! We were taken to a beautiful reef in the Hartleys' dive boat around 2 miles off Bermuda's south-west coast. We went down into 10 - 12 feet of water, and knelt on the ground while keeping our hands on a guide rope. I wore my contact lenses; my husband wore his glasses. Our faces never got wet. The water temperature was comfortable. We got to touch hard and soft coral, and we even got to pet a fish. There were several fish who hovered around us the entire time. One even swam through hoops. Mr. Hartley rewarded them with food from time to time. It was very non-threatening. (I'll never forget the excursion to Sting Ray City off of Grand Caymen, where the tourguide released squid to attract the sting rays, thus setting off a feeding frenzy among the rays that had me so scared I scampered back up the ladder to the dive boat as fast as I could climb. My husband still laughs about my reaction.) The reef was beautiful, and Mr. Hartley pointed out all of its features. If you do this excursion, you will be offered the opportunity for an extra fee to have pictures taken by Mr. Hartley while underwater. The pictures are well worth the price. They were burned onto a C.D. by Mr. Hartley's son. Because you are wearing a helmut, you can smile and your hair is in place. And Mr. Hartley gets the fish to pose in the pictures with you.


We went to our three favorite beaches on the three days we were in Bermuda: St. Catherine's (while in St. George's), Elbow Beach, and Horseshoe Bay. We climbed to the top of the cliff at Horseshoe Bay and took many beautiful photographs. We formed a more favorable impression of St. Catherine's Beach than wbrumel. Not like the Jersey shore at all.


This was our fourth cruise to Bermuda. Previously, we cruised twice on the Horizon, and once (back in '88) on Home Line's Atlantic. This was also our second time on the Empress of the Seas. Since we had already been on the Empress, I knew what to expect in terms of cabin size. We had an oceanview on Deck 3. There were three of us in the cabin (me, my husband, and our 13-year-old son), and somehow, there was enough room. Nobody complained. We had the two lower beds placed together. Our son was rarely in the cabin. He liked the teen program, and would disappear after dinner every evening, only to return to the cabin at curfew (1:00 A.M.). I thought the food was just okay, occasionally good or very good. It wasn't the executive chef; just the menu choices. (The line I am most used to, these days, is Princess Cruises. I like their menus better; just my personal preference.) I also thought the service was very good, with some occasional rough edges. Nothing to spend precious time grumbling about. The entertainment was wonderful, and I loved Warren, the cruise director. Would I travel on Empress from Philadelphia to Bermuda again? YES! In a heartbeat! I had a great time.


Joan, winner of the Royal Caribbean computer mouse at the Meet-N-Mingle

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