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The Regal Empress is a grand old ship and one of the smallest that I have ever sailed on. If you are looking for copious neon, glitzy facades, long tall atriums with glass enclosed elevators, and endless eating opportunities, the Regal Empress may not be for you. If you are looking for endless perfection, clean paint jobs and a rust free environment the Regal Empress is still not for you. If you are looking for an intimate ship with classic lines, a deck plan that is maze-like in certain areas, the good company of veteran cruisers as well as first timers, a very short cruise, good service albeit sometimes a hard sell, and some frayed edges, then you should consider the Regal Empress. Although the Regal Empress was very rustic in appearance I enjoyed myself immensely, as did most of the fellow passengers I met.
We arrived at the Ft. Lauderdale Airport at approximately 11:00 AM. Being a budget cruise, the Regal Empress did not have representatives at the airport to greet its passengers. Taxis, however, were easily accessible and the fare was only about $10 or $11 for the twenty minute ride to the Port Everglades pier. I believe the ride was only about ten minutes but there was a security cue that all vehicles had to pass. Passengers in the taxi as well as the driver had to present a picture I.D. before going on to the pier. We arrived at the pier at approximately 11:50 AM. There was a slight security line that ended outside of the terminal before entering the actual building. Fortunately, it was not raining. We finally got to the first desk where we were asked by a friendly representative if we had our documentation. I presented the forms that I had downloaded from the web and he gave me Immigration and Arrival Forms to complete and said that we were all set.
We arrived at the next line at 12:00 PM . Although Regal Empress representatives were waiting at the counters they did not start processing passengers until 12:35 PM. We got to the counter 35 minutes after they started processing. When we got to the counter we were told that the form that I had downloaded should have been done in duplicate, so we had to step aside and do the document over. After completing the document we were sent to deposit our luggage with the baggage handlers. I hate to say it, but the baggage handlers seemed a little slick. They reminded us that tips were appreciated. I also noticed a cut out cardboard box that had tens and twenties conspicuously taped inside to give the impression that passengers were leaving $10 and $20 tips. As I watched I noticed that they would put away the singles and leave the 10's and 20's. After depositing the luggage we proceeded to another counter to acquire our ship charge cards and make sure we had proper I.D. to board. After that we proceeded to a table where we were asked our seating preference for dinner and passed an area where some young ladies offered to take wine orders for the evening's dinner. Then we finally got to pose for the optional welcome aboard cruise photo. We proceeded to the boarding area and had to climb what seemed to be a long portable stairway to the next level of the ship. When we got the Restaurant Deck of the ship we were escorted to our cabin. The keys for the cabin were already in the room. Our luggage arrived shortly after.
We had chosen an oceanview stateroom on the Restaurant Deck. The cabin is very small but adequate enough for a two night cruise. There were three closets and enough room in the closet to fit the luggage.The oceanview window of the cabin was at the right corner of the cabin with a chair in front of it and the television set mounted over it. The bathroom was very small and the shower was not unlike some showers I have seen in some budget hotels in Europe where the shower is actually a very small area in the corner of the bathroom and there is no retaining structure to contain the water. The shower in the bathroom of the cabin was so small that I opted to shower with the shower curtain open since there was an additional drain outside of the designated shower area. The general atmosphere of the cabin was dull and the paint job was sloppy in some areas of the room. I was not really bothered by the decor of the stateroom but only want to state the appearance in case there may be passengers who may have more discriminating taste than I do.
What the Regal Empress lacks in an aging decor, she more than makes up with the service provided by the crew.Our steward, Edgar, introduced himself on the first evening and let us know he was available if there was anything we wanted. Then, he disappeared for the rest of the cruise. We did however see evidence that he was taking good care of the room and preparing the traditional towel animals and turning down the bed linens in the evening. Our waiter and assistant waiter, Godolfredo and Isidro were very friendly and took good care of the guests. On the other hand, there are hard sales tactics used to serve drinks and tours. This borders on being annoying. At one point I heard an announcement that there was a "mandatory" meeting in the Grand Lounge to talk about activities for port day. I assumed I could skip the talk.
The Regal Empress serves three basic meals each day and offers afternoon tea at 4:00 PM on port day. We learned early to eat every meal at its proper time because there is very little to be found inbetween meals. The food was well prepared and very basic. Most of the meals are served in the main diningroom. Lunch is open seating in the main diningroom. Being a vegetarian I have to judge the food based on the vegetarian offerings. The vegetarian menu consists mostly of steamed vegetables and pasta dishes. The vegetarian entrees, although not fancy, were very adequate. My traveling companion stated that the poached salmon was outstanding. There is not much for vegetarians during afternoon tea. The cookies and desserts during afternoon tea were very tasty. The macaroons were outstanding. Since this was a very short cruise the chef has to make an immediate impact to impress the guests. Although I was not extremely impressed with the cuisine, I was satisfied with. it.
The main showroom of the Regal Empress is only one level and the ceiling is very low. There were times when I was afraid that the dancers would kick high enough to kick the ceiling or bump their heads when they were being lifted. The show was very entertaining. The musicians played extremely well and the dancers were exciting. The singers had great vocal instruments but sang with heavy accents, sometimes to a point where they were not understood. Overall, they put on a fine presentation.
Downtown Nassau seemed very clean this particular trip. We enjoyed walking around town and doing a little shopping. No visit would be complete without a stop at the straw market. Because our trip was so short we were only allowed to bring back 4 oz. of liquor. We bought back one bottle of rum liquer without a problem.
The Regal Empress offers guest breakfast on debarkation day, early seating and late seating. We had late seating but I noticed the diningroom staff tried to accommodate guests who missed their early seating breakfast. After breakfast we picked up our carry-ons from the stateroom and proceeded to the main lounge to wait for debarkation. Others opted to wait on the Promenade Deck or other public rooms. Those passengers who could take off there own luggage were allowed to leave the ship first. Everyone else had to wait until about 9:45 to
Although the Regal Empress is not glitzy and she is showing signs of aging, I do believe it is a very enjoyable cruise for those who are searching for a very short cruise. I had made some special request and all of them were granted without a problem. As a result of my telling the reservation agent that I was a vegetarian, I received a phone call from the maitre d' asking what type of vegetarian I was. It turned out that there were vegetarian entrees for ovo-lacto vegetarians already on the menu. All of the passengers that I met said they had a good time. I am pleased to have had the opportunity to sail on one of the classic liners. Although she is small, she does not have a closed in feeling. Despite what I said about the decor and the cuisine I did enjoy myself. But, you have to realize that I would probably enjoy myself on any cruise. I'm not a finicky person. The crew works very hard to satisfy the guests and I would sail the Regal Empress again in a heartbeat.