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This was my fourth sailing on the Regal Empress. More correctly, this was my third sailing on her as the Regal Empress, following my initial voyage aboard her as the Caribe I.
She was, originally, built in 1953, and her maiden voyage was on April 16, 1953, sailing as the Olympia.
In 1974 she was laid up, when Greek Lines went under, and she was purchased by Sally Shipping in 1981. She was completely refitted, renamed the Caribe I, and sailed the Caribbean for Commodore Cruise Lines as ?The Happy Ship.?
In 1993, she was sold to Imperial Majesty Cruise lines, renamed the Regal Empress, and began sailing two-night cruises from Port Everglades, in Fort Lauderdale, to Nassau, Bahamas.
The reason I went through this short history was to point out one fact; she?s an old ship.
You must keep this in mind if you are contemplating a voyage on the last of the classic cruise ships still in operation. She?s small, by today?s standards, and not everything works the way it?s supposed to. The experience aboard her is very different that that you experience on today?s mega-liners. She?s a ?bed-and-breakfast? among a world of giant resorts. Be forewarned, if you?ve been spoiled by today?s ships, with soaring atriums, multiple dining venues, balconies, and such, you will be disappointed. But, if you want to experience, to some degree, the adventure of ?classic cruising,? this is the only ship upon which you can go back in time, a mere 15 years, or so, and get the feel of yesterday.
Boarding begins sharply at 1:00 pm. The process is painless, and about the same as you, generally, experience on any other ship leaving from Port Everglades. You are greeted, at the end of the gangway, by a member of the cruise director?s staff. There is a line of cabin attendants waiting to take whatever hand luggage you may have, and escort you to your cabin.
The ?welcome aboard buffet,? on Promenade Deck, was excellent. For starters, at the beginning of the line, a waiter hands you your tray, complete with plate and silver. Not too many cruise lines still provide trays at the buffet, and you are left to juggle your food, silver, drink, etc; As you walk the buffet line, servers place the food on your plate, rather than you trying to cope with holding your stuff and serving yourself. Once seated, there are attendants, at the ready, but not intrusive, to take your tray, emptied plates, and serve you another cup of coffee. All the time, wearing white gloves. Surprising, for a ?budget/bargain? cruise. After all, rates start at $129.99, p.p., double occupancy for the two-night cruise. Discovery does a day cruise, no cabin (lockers?), three buffet meals, and a trip to Freeport, for $99.00?.. Here you get a cabin, sit-down dining room meals, all your entertainment, midnight buffet, for three days, for $30.00 more!
The food was really very good. In fact, while there was no steak, or lobster, the variety of food was more than adequate. Always a chicken dish, a fresh fish, a beef and one other, such a lamb, and, always, a vegetarian offering. The fish and chicken dishes were, especially, well prepared. The service in the dining room excellent; water and iced tea glasses were re-filled when ? empty. Friendly and efficient waiters.
Because the main show lounge is only one deck high, the entertainment is a little limited. However, the shows are more cabaret style, and the ?eastern European? entertainers very talented. They present a different show each night.
You are offered a varied, if not limited, evening of entertainment. Other than the shows, they have a disco, a piano bar (with a very talented, friendly, piano player), karaoke and dancing in the show lounge. On desck, a band plays from 11:30, on, and the midnight buffet, poolside on the Promenade Deck. Of course, you can always hit the casino!
The ?bottom line? is, if you want to experience classic cruising, with good food and very decent entertainment, you can?t miss. If you?ve been ?spoiled? by all the things that today?s cruising offers, pay the extra few dollars and go on a ?standard? 3-night cruise.