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Ship Visit to EMPRESS (Pullmantur)
Dover - Friday 7 May 2010

Report by PETER WOOLGAR
All Images ©2010 Ian Boyle

EMPRESS (Pullmantur) at Dover - Photo: © Ian Boyle, 7th May 2010

     
EMPRESS - Centrum - Photo: © Ian Boyle, 7th May 2010
Centrum


EMPRESS - Broadway Show Lounge - Photo: © Ian Boyle, 7th May 2010
Broadway Show Lounge


EMPRESS - El Embarcadero - Photo: © Ian Boyle, 7th May 2010
El Embarcadero


EMPRESS - Wu Fusion Restaurant - Photo: © Ian Boyle, 7th May 2010
Wu Fusion Restaurant


EMPRESS - Casino - Photo: © Ian Boyle, 7th May 2010
Casino


EMPRESS - Junior Suite 9102 - Photo: © Ian Boyle, 7th May 2010
Outside Cabin 4038


EMPRESS - Miramar Restaurant - Photo: © Ian Boyle, 7th May 2010
Restaurant Miramar


EMPRESS - Salon Rendez-Vous - Photo: © Ian Boyle, 7th May 2010
Salon Rendez-Vous


EMPRESS - Buffet Panorama - © Ian Boyle, 7th May 2010
Buffet Panorama


EMPRESS - Pool - Photo: © Ian Boyle, 7th May 2010
Pool

 
On a cold and windy morning, a group of ten OLS members boarded EMPRESS at Dover’s cruise terminal one. The vessel had spent the past winter based out of Sao Paulo and was now on a short Iberian peninsular cruise featuring Dover and Le Havre as additional ports of call. She had arrived at Dover in the morning of 6 May and stayed in port overnight.

Ordered by Admiral Cruises in 1987 as FUTURE SEAS, this twin screw 48563 gt vessel was built by Chantiers de l’Atlantique, St Nazaire (Yard # G29) and intended for short 3 to 4 day cruising, such as voyages between Miami and the Bahamas. Admiral Cruises merged with Royal Caribbean Cruise Line in 1988 and the vessel was delivered to RCCL as NORDIC EMPRESS in 1990. She served them well, was refitted in 2004 and renamed EMPRESS OF THE SEAS. She was transferred to the Royal Caribbean‘s Spanish subsidiary, Pullmantur Cruises in 2008 and renamed EMPRESS. She is currently registered in Valletta, Malta.

The group boarded EMPRESS via deck 5 starboard side into the Centrum, an impressive nine deck atrium topped with glass roof. It featured two glass and brass bullet elevators, a stepped ground floor of white marble, plenty of gleaming brass fittings, etched glass panels, sculptures, several mini-waterfalls and green foliage. The location of the Centrum can easily be seen from outside the vessel since this is the large green glass expanse in the forward superstructure with an inlaid glass disc.

Our hosts, Beatrix and Eduard led us from the Centrum forward to the Broadway Showroom. (Salon de Espectaculos Broadway), formerly the Strike up the Band Showroom . Furnished in restful burgundy, dark pink and beige colours, this double deck height room featured the stage and main seating areas on deck 5 with overlooking curved balconies on deck 6.

Still on deck 5, we then moved aft into the Centrum, past the Pursers and Tour desks into the charming El Embarcadero lounge and piano bar. Furnished in dark woods with large light tan and brown leather chairs, the nautical theme of this room was enhanced by several models of sailing ships, some half-hull plaques, with a mast and sailcloth feature reminiscent of that found on RCL’s former SOVEREIGN OF THE SEAS. The room covered the full width of the vessel.

Further aft, starboard side, was the specialist, Wu Fusion restaurant and bar lounge. Serving dishes from Thailand, China, Japan and the Pacific islands, this extra charge restaurant (ranging from 20 to 29 Euros pp) was furnished in a black and white theme.

Crossing over to port side, we found the ship’s photographer boards and entered the lowest level of a rather unique tri-level casino. The slots and gaming machines are located here on deck 5 and on deck 6 immediately above. But mid-way between these two decks in the centre of the vessel was a mezzanine floor containing a roulette wheel and more machines.

Moving further aft on deck 5, we came to the upper level of the Miramar restaurant (Restaurante Miramar), formerly the Carmen Dining Room. Located at the ship’s stern, this two tier dining room housed a lower and larger dining area on deck 4. This was linked to the upper balconied dining area on deck 5 by two winding stairways. This high ceiling room was particularly pleasant since it was fed with natural daylight from the side and large stern windows on decks 4 and 5 and offered superb sea views over the stern. Evening dinner is taken in two sittings at 2000 and 2215 hours, reflecting the Spanish preference for late evening eating..

The Salon Rendez-Vous, formerly the High Society Lounge, was located above the restaurant on deck 6 and was equipped with a bar and a large dance floor. The group then moved forward through the Monte Carlo Casino and past several shops to the Centrum. Outside there was a wide walk-around teak promenade deck .

Pullmantur quote a capacity of 1853 passengers in 795 cabins of which 59% are outside cabins with 41% inside. Balcony cabins include one Royal Suite on deck 8 with 6 deluxe and 63 junior suites located on decks 7,8 and 9.

Cabin visits included :
• Cabin 4038 Port Side Forward - Two Berth Outside Superior
• Cabin 7006 Port Side Forward - De Luxe Suite with Balcony
• Cabin 8012 Port Side Forward - Two Berth plus two Outside Superior
• Cabin 8013 Port Side Forward – Two Berth Inside
• Cabin 9102 Port Side Midships – Two Berth Junior Suite with Balcony

All cabins viewed had modern furnishing and décor. The Suites offered a good amount of living space with a small sofa, coffee table, chair and vanity desk. The other smaller cabins were compact, having been designed for short cruises, but perfectly adequate.

The group then viewed the internet centre (deck 7) and the library (deck 9) located off of the Centrum before moving aft again to visit a double deck glass lounge behind the funnel. This former Viking Crown Lounge was furnished in striking blues and mauves and housed the Discoteca Starlight on the lower deck 10 level and the Gym immediately above on deck 11. Members of the group resisted any urges to use the rock climbing wall outside on deck 10.

The group moved forward on deck 10 by way of the Tibu club (the children’s room) on the starboard side and the Spa on the port side. There followed the full ship-wide open deck with the Bar Marina, three Jacuzzis and two pools separated by a unique, raised bandstand structure. At the forward end of deck 10 was the Buffet Panorama, formerly the Windjammer café, located above the bridge and affording excellent views.

A most enjoyable visit was rounded off with an excellent lunch in the Restaurante Miramar. The choice and quality of food was excellent, as was the service provided by our table steward.

EMPRESS sailed for Le Havre at 1600 hours. She then positions to the Baltic for cruises between Copenhagen and Helsinki until mid September 2010. Northbound voyages call at Gdynia, Klaipeda, Stockholm, Tallinn, St. Petersburg with southbound voyages in reverse order but omitting Klaipeda. She is due to call at Dover on 22 / 23 September and again on 27 / 28 September.

Everyone in the group was impressed with EMPRESS and her ambience. Whilst she is now 20 years old, she has been, and continues to be, well looked after and retains her original design themes using woods, glass and brass. Refurbishments including new carpeting have been carried out sympathetically to be compatible with the original design and the type of materials used. In the writer’s opinion, it was so refreshing to see a consistent interior design throughout the vessel when there are so many ships today which have lost some of their identity as they have been altered in a piecemeal way. I think EMPRESS has become a modern classic.

Many thanks go to Peter Godliman, OLS Ship Visits Organiser for arranging this most enjoyable day.

Sincere thanks are also extended to Pullmantur Cruises for their very kind hospitality and to Beatrix, Edouard and our table steward who were all charming and efficient.
   
   
EMPRESS Leaving Dover - Photo: © Ian Boyle, 7th May 2010



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