RCI's Nordic Empress (August 8, 1999)

I visited RCI's Nordic Empress this afternoon for lunch and a look around between her trips to Bermuda from New York. All I can say is, I was underwhelmed. A few hours on this ship made me feel like I had seen the zenith of mass marketing.

The physical layout of the ship is nice, and it is very pretty in it's attempts at modern ship decor. However, it very much reminded me of a new hotel in Cancun rather than a ship. The atrium, which RCI calls a "centrum" on this ship (sounds like a vitamin) was one of the first built nine years ago and is, I suppose, the trailblazer for all others that came after (say "thank you", Carnival). The colors, textures and different planes in this area, along with the wide open spaces, are lovely. The other public rooms (the Viking Crown Lounge and the High Society Lounge, as well as the Carousel Pub ... which looks more like a teen room than an adult lounge...) are, well...just okay. The ship does have a wrap-around promenade which I liked very much and plenty of deck space.

The Nordic Empress is 48,563 gross tons and is 692 feet long, 100 feet wide. It carries a crew of 685 with 2,020 passengers. The ship felt very claustrophobic/close and over-loaded with people this afternoon, as more and more passengers embarked and more waited their turn in the passenger ship terminal. I wondered how they would all fit onboard and still be able to sail away. This, I suppose, is the true meaning of mass marketing.

But I shouldn't say that. I haven't told you about lunch in the Carmen Dining Room yet, have I?

The food we had onboard the Nordic Empress was abysmal. I would think that we got a well-presented example of what the regular fare is this afternoon. It was not at all good.

I'm not a picky eater by any stretch of the imagination, but I couldn't eat the shellfish soup (much too salty and too greasy) and the terrine of wild mushrooms tasted like liverwurst. We diners had a choice of either halibut or sirloin steak, and I was sorry I did not chose the steak. Key lime pie served as dessert seemed to be that stuff made out of a kit you can pick up in the Jello aisle at the local A & P. The coffee was awful. Let's just say I filled up on rolls and butter.

I had to laugh out loud at the audacity of RCI for hanging signs all over the ship (including the ladies rooms) which spoke about "saving the waves" after their record fines for ocean dumping. Speaking of ladies rooms (were we?), they were busted, broken and ill-supplied. Many spots on the ship were badly maintained or just plain broken down.

This is a ship that very obviously caters to mass market cruisers, "mass" being the operative word here. The ship has about as much class and sophistication as a fourteen year old girl, but is trying for all the glitter and flash anyway.

Would I sail on this ship? Hell, no! No, no, no, no, no.