Major Travel invited agents to see Pullmanturs ship Empress at Tilbury Docks, London, 8th May 2012. This was my first visit to Tilbury Docks, about 25 miles from Central London. The best form of public transport is the C2C train from Fenchurch Street, London. An off peak return is about £9.80 and the trains are comfortable, clean and fast. There is a free shuttle bus (number 99) to/from Tilbury Town train station/ port, this can be accessed by showing your rail ticket.
As we boarded the ship the customary security guards greeted us and after the formalities we headed towards the Rendezvous lounge bar located towards at the aft part of the ship, where we joined the other 20 or so agents. We were greeted by the Major Travel staff and after a nice cup of coffee we were ready for our tour. The first cabin on the tour was a standard sea view, adequate in size with all the mod cons such as hair dryer, TV, dressing table. The inside cabin looked smaller but comfortable and finally a balcony cabin which looked more spacious and inviting. En-suites with shower only were a bit small except for the Balcony staterooms which had ample space and included the customary dressing gowns and slippers. Wardrobes on all cabins were just the right size for a 7-10 night cruise and included a small safe. All the cabins looked clean and well presented.
This particular ship holds about 1877 passengers and the general areas looked well kept and clean with signs in Spanish, English, German and French. The theatre was surprisingly bigger than what I expected, designed on a two tier system passengers can enjoy the many performances. As we headed up the decks we had a chance to check out the atrium. As on most cruise liners, this is the showpiece of any ship and the Empress version looked glossy and sparkling. Glass elevators on one side and opposite an unusual water feature made the place look very welcoming. The library was small as was the card playing area and internet room, all three were open plan, which would cause a few problems if you wanted to sit down and read a book. As we checked the beauty parlour on the top deck the ‘Spa del Mar’ staff were very helpful and informative. The treatment rooms as you would expect were immaculate and tidy. The casino was adequate for this size ship and the nightclub-Starlight- sat neatly underneath the well stocked gym, with great views out to sea. Kids clubs, although promoted, I didn’t see them. As lunch was on the tour we headed towards the buffet restaurant – ‘Windsurf café’, spacious with great views out to sea. As you would expect they served both cold/hot Mediterranean food and quite nice too with free soft drinks, wine and coffee/tea. The plates which were a bit on the small size which explained why I had seconds.
As our tour was approaching the final stretch we were finally shown the main restaurant ‘The Miramar’. Situated towards the back of the ship over decks 4 and 5 the layout is customary in the cruise industry and Pullmantur did not disappoint. The final area of our tour was the speciality restaurant ‘Wu’ on deck 5, small and decorated in dark colours with an oriental theme to it. As long as the food is great the decor will always come second.
What was different about Pullmantur? All inclusive, those two magical words that saves you a packet at the end! Good value for money, mostly Mediterranean passengers as you would expect. (Customers have to pay the gratuities whilst on board).For those early birds the bar opens at 6am and there are a few drinking places to suit everyone. Being a family brand they offer several price structures similar to Costa and MSC with kids sailing free. Infants up to 2 years travel completely free and for single parents, only the adult will pay full fare, whilst the kids only contribution are flights, taxes and gratuities. With a fleet of 5 ships (and a 6th later in 2013 from RCCL) and several planes they cover the Caribbean, Baltic and the Med. Worth looking at.
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