Royal Caribbean Nordic Empress

Bermuda Cruise
September 1, 2002 - September 8, 2002

My sister, Sugar, and her husband, Audie, invited Traci and me to join them on a cruise to Bermuda. Since we love to travel, Traci and I gladly accepted the invitation. This cruise was a 7-day cruise aboard the Royal Caribbean Nordic Empress. The ship sailed from New York City to Bermuda and back. We spent Tuesday through Friday docked in Bermuda. We had a great time on the ship and in Bermuda. I didn't want this vacation to end.

The Nordic Empress has plenty of activities to keep the passengers busy. We attended shows, gambled in the casino, participated in games, and enjoyed the warm ocean breezes from our balconies. The staff was very friendly and efficient. Most of all, the food was plentiful and delicious - especially the desserts. We ate each meal like it was our last meal.

The trip from New York to Bermuda was a rough one. It was rainy and windy. This caused the ship to do a lot of rocking and dipping. Many people got sea sick. The water became calm as we approached the Bermuda. The trip back to New York was smooth sailing.

The ship was docked in King's Wharf, Bermuda Tuesday morning to Thursday morning and then sailed to Hamilton, Bermuda where it stayed until Friday afternoon. There isn't much to do in King's Wharf; however, the rest of Bermuda is easily accessible by ferry, bus, or taxi. In addition, the ship offered various tours and activities on the island. We went deep sea fishing, took a four hour tour of Hamilton and St. George, and did some exploring on our own in Kings Wharf and Hamiliton. BET (Black Entertainment Television) was sponsoring the Bermuda Jazz Festival while we were there, so we went to see Alex Bugnon and The Manhattans in concert one night. The show was awesome. This was a truly enjoyable vacation.

Things I Really Enjoyed

Things That Disappointed Me

The Trip Report

Embarkation

This was the second cruise for Traci and me. We did this one with my sister, Sugar, and her husband, Audie, aboard the Royal Caribbean Nordic Empress. Royal Caribbean provided bus transportation to the dock in New York where the Nordic Empress embarked on this seven-day cruise. Traci and I caught the bus in Philadelphia, while Sugar and Audie caught a different bus in Baltimore. The ride from Philadelphia to New York took about 1.5 hours with one stop in New Jersey to pick up more passengers.

Once Traci and I arrived at the dock in New York, it took about a 45 minutes to board the ship. There were porters that took our luggage from the bus to our cabin on the ship so we didn't have to keep track of our bags while moving through the processing lines. Traci and I had a total of four bags so I gave the porter $5 tip.

Having made it through the lines and received our ship credit cards (all purchases on the ship including tours are charged to this card and you are expected to settle the bill at the end of the cruise), we headed to our stateroom on Deck 9. Traci and I were anxious to check out the room since this was the first time we had a room with a balcony. We had an inside cabin with no windows on our previous cruise, so this was a step up for us. We took the stairs from Deck 5 up to Deck 9 since there were a lot of people waiting around for the elevators. Get used to waiting for elevators on a cruise ship or get used walking stairs.

As we were walking down the hallway of Deck 9 we heard some yelling, "Mike, Traci...". I turned around and saw Audie trotting towards us. He and Sugar had arrived about a half hour earlier. They saw us from Deck 10 while they were having lunch at the Windjammer Cafe. Traci and I were pretty hungry at that time so we dropped off our carry-on bags in our stateroom and headed upstairs to join Sugar and Audie for lunch. It took us a while to get through the buffet line. This seemed to be the case any time we ate a meal in the Windjammer Cafe. The food wasn't great but it was enough to stop our stomachs from growling. The cookies and cakes were excellent!

After lunch, it was time to check out our staterooms. Traci and I were happy with our cabin - especially the balcony. We ended up putting our suitcases in the closet and dragging them out again when we needed to change clothes. There was not enough room to slide them under the bed and there was not enough drawer space for clothes. In addition, the bathroom was extremely small but manageable. Other than that, the room was fine. Our cabin attendent, Kenneth from Nicaragua, came by to greet us. He kept our room spotless during the cruise. He was also very good at towel orgami. Every evening when he turned back our bed, he would drop off clean towels and washclothes folded into various animal shapes such as: dogs, lobsters, and elephants. And, of course, he always left us chocolates at night.

Towel orgami

Towel orgami from our cabin attendent, Kenneth

Sugar and Audie like to travel in style, so they had an Owner's Suite. This was a very nice room on Deck 9 with a living room area, a bedroom, two balconies, and a nice-sized bathroom with a Jacuzzi tub. This room had one drawback - the balconies were not covered. This means you are exposed to the elements if you are sitting out there. If it was raining (as it was during most of our trip to Bermuda) you were going to get wet. If the sun was shining brightly (as it was on the hot, humid days in Bermuda), there was no shade. Traci and I did not have this problem with our room since our balcony was covered.

After checking out our rooms, it was time to prepare for the mandatory life boat drill. This consisted of putting on the life jackets which were lying on the beds in our room and then reporting to the assigned muster station when the captain sounded the alarm. Traci and I ended up getting a little wet during the drill since it was raining and our muster station was on an outside deck. Sugar and Audie's muster station was in one of the inside lounges. While we were all lined up at our muster stations, the captain announced over the ship's PA system that he expected the weather on our way to Bermuda to be rainy and windy. In other words, we were in for a bumpy ride.

The ship began to pull off around 4:45 p.m., shortly after the lifeboat drill. Over the PA system, one of the crew members narrated our trip through the New York Harbor. We observed a moment of silence as we passed Ground Zero. We also passed by the Statue Of Liberty and then under the Verrazano Bridge. Traci and I were on Deck 10 taking pictures of these landmarks but then retreated to our balcony as the chilly rain started to pick up.

Statue Of Liberty

Statue Of Liberty

Verrazano Bridge

Cruising under the Verrazano Bridge

Life On The Nordic Empress

We found ourselves cruising through a storm Sunday evening and all day Monday. There were periods of rain and wind. The ocean was rough. The Nordic Empress rocked, rolled, and dipped. This sometimes made walking a challenge. At times, we were stumbling along as if we were drunk. Many passengers, including Sugar, got sick. The crew placed vommit bags along the steps and other places on the ship. Traci and I were wearing motion sickness patches so we didn't get sick. This is a prescription patch that you wear behind your ear. It works for up to 72 hours. This was my first time using the patch. I prefer it over the over-the-counter drugs, Dramamine and Bonine, because it doesn't make me sleepy.

Despite, the rough waters on the way to Bermuda, we took advantage of the ship activities. The great thing about travelling by cruise ship is that you have many choices as to how you wish to spend your vacation. You can spend it attending shows, playing games, working out, dancing in the club, attending socials, swimming, laying out on the deck, gambling in the casinos, or eating until you can't eat any more. The choice is yours.

Sugar took advantage of the ship's spa services. She received facials and massages. She said she was so relaxed she fell asleep. She also enjoyed playing Bingo. It cost anywhere from $10 to $30 to play each bingo session. The prizes tended to be between $100 and $300 except for Jackpot Bingo on the last evening, which paid around $5000 to a lucky lady from L.A.. (I only needed one more number to win that game. Darn!)

Traci loved to sit out on our balcony and read books and magazines. I came back to the room a few times and found her fast asleep out there.

Audie's favorite activity seemed to be the casino. He spent many hours there - some profitable and some not so profitable. We all did a little gambling. The slots were pretty loose.

My favorite activities were the trivia and Name That Tune games played in the Carousel Pub every afternoon. Traci Sugar, and Audie joined me in these games. Our team name was "Beautiful Minds" (not very original but it worked). We made a very good team. Unfortunately, we always seemed to come in second place. Anyway, it was fun competing against the other passengers.

Traci and Audie enjoyed working out. They are both runners so they put in several miles during the week. Most mornings, they ran on Deck 6. They said this can be hazardous if the deck is wet. There are also some parts of the track that are subjected to a wind tunnel effect when the ship is moving. This can throw you off balance if you are not careful.

We also attended shows on the ship. Some were very good and others not so good. I really enjoyed Hal Frazier who sang like Nat King Cole, did comedy, and even a little drama. He was very entertaining. The "Jump, Jive, and Swing" show was also very good. It featured the Royal Caribbean Dancers and Singers in a tribute to the swing era.

Some of the other fun games we attended on the ship were the "Battle Of The Sexes" game and the "Love and Marriage Game". The "Battle of the Sexes" game was basically Family Feud. We played men against women. Everyone could participate. The "Love and Marriage" game was basically the Newlywed game. We were in the audience for this one. I had no desire to be a contestant in this game. Very personal questions are asked about contestants' spouses, family, and sex lives. Three couples were chosen to play. It was a funny game for us in the audience. A word of caution if you decide to play this game - the game is taped and rerun on the ship television several days during the remainder of the cruise. This is a quick way to become one of the most recognized passengers. We ran into one of the contestants on the elevator one day and teased her a little about the game. She was so embarrassed she got off at the next floor.

These are just a few of the activities we participated in during our time on the ship. Every evening, our room attendent would leave a copy of the ship's daily publication called, "The Compass". "The Compass" lists all the times and meeting places of the ship's activities. In addition, there is a "Compass" channel on the television in your cabin.

One of our favorite pastimes on the ship seemed to be eating. Sometimes it seemed like we planned our day around meal times. The two major choices for dining on the ship are the Carmen Dining Room and the Windjammer Cafe (buffet). We preferred the Carmen Dining Room. The food and the service seemed better there.

There were two formal nights during the cruise. Some men wore tuxedoes; however, most wore suits. The rest of the evenings were casual. Shorts and swimsuits are not allowed in the dining room; however, the rules don't seem to be strictly enforced for shorts.

We were assigned 1st Seating (Main Seating) for dinner which was at 6 p.m. daily. Second seating was at 8:30 p.m.. Our table assignment at dinner was Table #74. Our waiter, Fathi from Tunisia; assistant waiter, Albert from the Phillipines; and head waitress, Lizal from South Africa, all took very good care of us. They were very personable - especially Fathi and Lizal. They both took time tell us about there experiences working on cruise ships and sometimes about there experiences living in their home countries. These were very interesting stories.

Breakfast and lunch are open seating (no assigned tables). Instead, the host or hostess seated us at a table with other passengers if there was room.

Overall, the food was very good. We ate every meal like it was our last meal. It was not uncommon for each of us to order multiple appetizers, entrees, and desserts. Not a problem. The food is included in the price of the cruise. Eat all you want! Soft drinks (except iced tea and breakfast juices) and alcoholic beverages are not included. You have to pay for these items with you ship credit card.

Dinner Time

Formal Night - Front: Audie, Sugar; Back: Me, Traci

desserts

"Hmm, I can't decide. Just bring me all three."

Some nights, I went to the Midnight Buffet on Deck 10. There was a variety of food and plenty of delicious desserts. One night, I filled up on barbequed beef ribs at the midnight buffet. I was so full I thought I was going to explode! By the way, just in case you didn't get enough to eat at breakfast, lunch, dinner, and the Midnight Buffet, there is always complimentary room service, which is also included in the price of the cruise and is available for most of the day.

Bermuda

We arrived in King's Wharf Bermuda around noon on Tuesday (We left NYC on Sunday). The ship docked at the Royal Naval Dockyard. We got off and walked around for a little while. It didn't take long to realize there is not much to do in King's Wharf. There is a small shopping mall called Clock Tower Shopping Mall. It has a lot of small souvenir shops inside. There is also a museum in the area but we didn't go inside. Other than these attractions, there didn't appear to be much of anything else.

We ended up buying 3-day bus passes from a small shop in the dockyard area. The passes were $23 each and could be used on the buses or ferries. We thought we would use the passes to explore other parts of the island. This did not turn out to be the case. I only used the pass once the whole time we were docked in Bermuda. My advice is to try to think realistically about how often you plan to use the bus passes before purchasing them. If you are a beach person and plan on exploring the many beaches Bermuda has to offer then I would guess the 3-day bus passes may save you money. On the other hand, if you plan to do shore excursions or organized tours than your best bet is to forget the pass and just pay the bus fare or ferry fare if you have time to venture out on your own. Traci probably used her bus pass the most out of the four of us. She went jogging one morning with Audie and later she and Sugar caught the ferry to Hamilton to go shopping. All of us caught the ferry to Hamilton on Thursday morning as it was a requirement to do the panoramic tour of Hamilton and St. George.

Traci and Audie didn't have much success on their Wednesday morning jog in Bermuda. They took the bus to a section of the old railroad trail to go jogging one morning. However, they gave up on the trail after a few miles because they weren't sure where it lead and also because at times they ended up jogging on the narrow roads with speeding cars and trucks.

Later that day, Audie and I went on a 4-hour deep sea fishing trip excursion ($61/person). This excursion took us out about a half hour from the island. I caught one fish (a white snapper I believe) but Audie wasn't so lucky that day. The excursion documentation said that we would have to throw back any fish we caught; however, I guess the fishing trip operators didn't read that section. As soon as any one pulled a fish onto the boat, one of the operators would take it off the hook and throw it into the cooler. About two hours into the trip, it began to rain heavily. The strange thing about it was that it seemed to only be raining on us. We could see the sun shining on the island.

Fishing Trip

My catch of the day.

While we were out fishing, Sugar and Traci caught the ferry to Hamilton to look around and do some shopping. They didn't buy anything. The shops were very expensive

The Bermuda Jazz Festival sponsored by BET (Black Entertainment Television) was happening on the island while we were there. The venue occurred on different parts of the island depending on the evening. We could see the workers building the stage in the Dockyard for the Thursday night performance. Unfortunately, the Nordic Empress was scheduled to move from the Dockyard to Hamilton on Thursday afternoon. And of course, on Wednesday night while the Nordic Empress was at the Dockyard, the festival was in Hamilton. Anyway, we were determined to see at least one show while we were there, so Wednesday evening after a nice dinner on the ship, we caught a taxi ($18) [NOTE: Always get a price agreement before getting into an unmetered taxi.] to the Fairmont South Hampton Princess Hotel to see Alex Bugnon and The Manhattans in concert ($40/person). It was a great show. Although the The Manhattans are not a jazz group, they were definitely a crowd favorite. We caught a taxi back to the ship after the concert. This time the cab was metered (unlike the ride to the hotel) and price came to $25. On the way back, we were fascinated by the strange nighttime sounds we heard. It almost sounded like a bunch of squeaky wagon wheels. The taxi driver told us these were the sounds of crickets and frogs.

The four of us had signed up for the panoramic tour of Hamilton and St. George ($44/person). Therefore, we had to catch the 9:30 a.m. ferry on Thursday to Hamilton to get on the tour bus. The Nordic Empress was scheduled to sail from King's Wharf to Hamilton around noon. Therefore, we would not need a ferry back to the dockyard.

The ferry ride to Hamilton was about 20 minutes. As we approached the beautiful city of Hamilton, I saw a fascinating sight. Although, the sun was shining brightly over the city I could see storm clouds in the distance. Then I noticed a funnel cloud! This was the first time I had ever seen one. It did not reach all the way to the ocean, though. By the time, I got my camera out, most of the twister was obscured by the bright pastel buildings of Hamilton. However, I did get some footage of the phenomenon.

Twister

Funnel cloud (left of the tall building)

Hamilton

Hamilton, Bermuda

The panorama tour was very informative and a little long, but I felt like I saw a good number of island highlights. Bermuda is a beautiful island. We rode by several beaches, the botanical gardens, the former U.S. Naval Base, houses of famous people, government buildings, and several other sites. We stopped at Fort St. Catherine, a perfumery, a beach, and the city of St. George. We got rained on at each of these stops. It seemed to rain whenever we got off the bus. We were given 45 minutes to see St. George. Like Hamilton, there were many shops; however, we didn't do anything while we were there but stand in the doorway of one of the stores trying to shelter ourselves from the heavy rain.

Traci

Traci posing in scenic Bermuda

beach

A Bermuda beach

 

Bermuda houses

Bermuda houses

Friday, was our last day in Bermuda before heading back to the States. We walked around Hamilton in the morning. I was interested in buying a CD that contained the song "Bermuda Is Another World" by Hubert Smith. I heard several times at the concert on Wednesday night that there was once a push to make it Bermuda's national song. One of the M.C.'s at the concert even tried to sing a little of it before she was booed. She did not have a good singing voice. It didn't take long for us to find a music store in Hamilton. I was able to buy the CD and I even used some of the songs as background music in my edited video footage of Bermuda when I got home. I enjoyed most of the tracks on the CD. The songs are mellow, simplistic, and catchy. However, I wasn't impressed with the title track, "Bermuda Is Another World". Maybe that song has to grow on me.

Homeward Bound

The Nordic Empress pulled away from Bermuda on Friday at 1 p.m.. I was beginning to the realize that our vacation was almost over. The water was much calmer on the trip back to New York. We continued to participate in games, attend shows, and eat everything in sight on our way back. The farewell show on the ship was entertaining. The highlight was the video taken by the ship videographer who had been filming passengers during the week. We were not in any of the video.

The Nordic Empress docked in New York around 7 a.m. Sunday morning. Disembarkation took about two hours and was very organized. We were given numbered or color-coded luggage tags the day before and were instructed to leave our bags (except carry-on) outside our cabins between 7 p.m. and midnight. When we got off the ship our luggage was waiting in a holding area. We pointed out our bags to a porter who transported them to our bus. Traci and I said goodbye to Sugar and Audie as we boarded the Philadelphia bus and they boarded the bus to Baltimore. We had all had a great time and will always remember the fun we had on this cruise. When we got back home, Traci and I experienced something we had not experienced in over a week - hunger! Oh no, which way to the Carmen Dining Room? Main Page...

Magnet Purchased on this Trip: (click to enlarge)

Bermuda Entire fridge magnet collection...


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