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   Cruise Travel - Cruise Ships


Imperial Majesty Cruise Line

MS Regal Empress

Rating:Two Plus Stars
Submit your review hereSubmit your review
Operator: Imperial Majesty Cruise Line
Year Built / Last Refurbished: 1953 / 1993
Length / Tonnage: 612 / 21,909
Number of Cabins / Passengers: 450 / 1,180
Officers / Crew: International / International
Operating Area: Two-day Cruises to Nassau, Bahamas

Review by Mark H. Goldberg, TravelPage.com, Cruise Editor &
Chris Smith TravelPage.com, Associate Cruise Editor

Some tell me that the REGAL EMPRESS has seen better days - and for a lady of her vintage there have been QUITE a lot of them since the 1953 day she first showed her pretty bows in New York harbor. Her name was OLYMPIA then and she was flagship of the now defunct Greek Line. Never mind that she was supposed to have been a small British aircraft carrier and that the smart Goulandris family, the forces behind Greek Line, bought her contract and had this vessel designed from the keel up to be the largest and fastest passenger liner in the Greek merchant marine. To honor the Greek Royal Family, her name was supposed to have been QUEEN FREDERICA, but a dispute over taxes led the Goulandris’ to register their trend setting 23,000 tonner in Liberia...Count THAT move as the first in blazing the trail to modern cruising...

The OLYMPIA’s NEXT move on the road to cruising as we know it today was to provide the bulk of her accommodations in Tourist Class, leaving only a scant 138 beds and berths for First Class passengers. Built into the OLYMPIA’s designs was the ability to spend much of the year cruising and for that matter, with the competing HOMERIC, ITALIA and NASSAU, give this ship credit for popularizing affordable cruising in the 1950s and 1960s...These four ships from New York and a trio of OLD timers based in Florida, the American built BAHAMA STAR, EVANGELINE (also known as the YARMOUTH CASTLE of incendiary infamy) and the YARMOUTH really built the foundation upon which NCL, RCCL and Carnival were able to build the modern cruise business....and FRANKLY....whether you know this ship as OLYMPIA, CARIBE or REGAL EMPRESS, she has more cruises behind her than almost any ship we can think of. No glamour girl now or ever, she has carried countless thousands of weary city and country dwellers to sea and brought them back tanned, relaxed and amused. And isn’t that really what a cruise is all about? What a success she is, this old timer...and she’s still going strong. She still has a few charming feaures - woodwork, polished brass, a great wraparound glass enclosed promenade deck and some wonderfully LARGE cabins (though she has more than a few postage stamp sized rooms for the TRULY budget conscious).

Public Areas
To tell the truth, for a ship that can carry up to 1200 passengers, the REGAL EMPRESS offers precious few hang outs for those disinterested in tanking up or dropping coins in slots, shooting craps or tempting the gods of 21! Most charming and “sophisticated” of all the public rooms are the library and the Regal Club, two rooms sporting a modicum of decorative taste and panache....wood paneled walls, comfortable seating and incandescent lighting fit these spaces and give them a welcoming atmosphere. Want a quiet drink with friends? Pick the Regal Club where a pianist at the piano bar entertains at various hours and small tables invite you to gather round for conversation. The airiest looking room on board is the Mermaid with adjacent Mermaid Terrace, a pair of spaces with a tropical theme. When I sailed in this ship in 1981 when she was Commodore Cruise Line’s CARIBE, I rated the ship’s Grand Lounge the tackiest, cheapest main lounge I’ve ever seen......seating was limited to office style waiting room stackable chairs.

These days it’s somewhat improved but wins no kudos for design decor or elegance from THIS quarter...The CASINO, the point behind the formation of this small cruise line sits where two smaller lounges used to lull OLYMPIA passengers into night time reveries...if not into stultification itself.. It has a LOT of aming equipment and let me say only this: THE SHORTER the cruise, the MORE ACTION in this space....Shorter cruises also attract the disco-going crowd where the decibel level tops the noise behind an ascending 747...Bring your earplugs...the beat will still thump through you. Besides these fine rooms the REGAL EMPRESS boasts the expected places to go...a gym, beauty salon, boutiques....

As printed in Imperial Majesty Cruise Line brochures, the plan of the dining room suggests to the trained eye that a hideous eatery is in store here...Nothing could be further from the truth because this room is the showpiece of this ship...and is actually surprisingly pleasant, with cane backed wooden chairs, sufficient elbow room, and a reasonable high ceiling. Yes, it thoroughly lacks the panache of similar spaces in newer cruise ships, but has that old world je ne sai quoi, which you know pleases me. Everyone we’ve talked to agrees...the food here is surprisingly good...

Everyone we know who has sailed in this ship since she became REGAL EMPRESS liked the food, most of them (and all of these people we refer to here are either in the cruise business...travel agents...or travel writers...) came away giving the food their heartiest praise...The fares are so low that if you are nearby one of her embarkation ports....take a short cruise in her even if it is just to give the food a try... A typical dinner menu, though not lavish, should offer a hearty meal to even a picky eater...there is certainly enough selection. Don’t look for anything considered gourmet.....you’ll be disheartened. But for what you have paid for your ticket you will be sumptuously fed...let me stress this...for the price you paid, you MUST NOT expect overflowing caviar tins....Nevertheless, Captain’s Farewell Dinner menus can certainly hold their own against those aboard ships of competitors who charge considerably higher fares.

This is an ultra budget operation, but you will get a lot more than you paid for in any cabin grade on REGAL EMPRESS. This is because when her owners tried to decorate her cabins they did it with their eyes open, as opposed to the apparent “blindfold yourself and repaint” method used on Dolphin Cruise Lines. Suites numbered 1, 2 and lettered E and F, for example, retain the rich dark wood paneling from the ship’s Greek Line days. Bedspreads in all grades more or less match the carpet and wall colors, and even side chairs, when fitted, are a cut above a Cosgo folding seat. I would avoid booking outside cabin type 3 on Promenade Deck, because those cabins, though windowed, look out onto a glass enclosed promenade.....so your view of the ocean is really filtered. Also, this cabin type has some wonderfully spacious selections down along the port side of Main Deck, but beware....there’s no elevator access to any of those cabins (duly noted in the company’s deck plan).

If you are looking for well located outside accommodation, you can’t go too wrong with a category 4, but make sure your travel agent assists you with location should you care to select lower grade outside rooms....some are acceptable, but others are just too near the stern or machinery space. There are a smattering of cabins in various grades which have queen or king size beds fitted, but do remember that whenever you pick a cabin with such sleeping arrangements, your room will look as if it’s all bed, and nothing else. So for anyone interested in having enough floor space to move around, I highly recommend you consider rooms with two lower beds. Now here’s some bad news....if you book the advertised lowest rate on this ship, your cabin will have bunk beds and no porthole. As there are only a handful of these cabins, you need to reserve early if you want to take advantage of the deal. So long as there are no more than two people traveling in your party, any cabin type from 10 through 1 will ensure you will have 2 lower beds (or queen/king as previously mentioned), a small bathroom with shower, (tubs in some of the suites), and sufficient closet and drawer space.

Who Goes
The REGAL EMPRESS is an old cow of a ship but a lot of people like her. Many who want to get away for a few days take her and have a ball. The casino is big, the food is good and the cruise fares are L O W!!!! A lot of people like the REGAL EMPRESS. They drink, they gamble, they eat, they don't give a damn about decor. She's a relaxed vessel and people come aboard for a few nights to kick up their heels, let down their hair and party. This is not the ship where the stately Mrs. van Tassle hosts her houseparties at sea but she is a ship where you can laugh out loud, eat yourself into a coma and drink yourself silly if that's what you're in the mood for.

Imperial Majesty has a deal with a number of time-share operators in the Bahamas so a number of your fellow passengers are likely to be traveling as part of a time-share promotion.

Since being sold to Imperial Majesty Cruises in May of 2003, she has been operating on two-day cruises from Ft. Lauderdale to Nassau, Bahamas. The ship departs from Ft. Lauderdale at 5:30 PM and arrives in Nassau the next morning. She departs Nassau at 5:30 PM and arrives back in Ft. Lauderdale the next morning at 9:00 AM.

You see, readers, there ARE ships in the budget market I like and would rate highly enough to spend my own dollars on...and the REGAL EMPRESS is one of them! The crew work hard....almost too hard, when you consider that most ships around today maintain a rough ratio of one crew member for every two passengers. On REGAL EMPRESS, with a chock a block full sailing of almost 1200 passengers, a crew of under 400 just cannot provide a high level of coddling, no matter if you are traveling under the ship’s waterline or in the priciest digs.

She has the usual range of cruise ship activities from Bingo in the afternoon to lounge lizard acts and expected floorshows at night. Because she is so affordable she gets a wide variety of passengers, many younger couples among them and they do tend to keep late hours and dance, dance, dance when they're not gambling and drinking. To sleep off any hangover, she has broad open and covered promenade decks as well as a big sun deck aft. An ideal ship for someone who wants a very casual cruise experience, the first timer trying out sea legs (be careful...this ship used to be known as the "ROLLYMPIA" because she does!)... the modest prices charged will be well compensated here but don't expect to rub elbows with movie stars, present or retired. This is a hard- working peoples' ship and on such a craft you'll be more likely to break bread with the girl next door, the family down the block, the man who sold you your car and the woman who sold you your house. So no pretension here, take her, let your hair down and have fun.

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