2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2019
Chance to visit Cuba and feel safe about it. We just took the 5 night cruise to Cuba on the Royal Caribbean Empress of the Seas. I had read many of the reviews from past passengers and had a view of an old run down ship. This was our 20th ... Read More
Chance to visit Cuba and feel safe about it. We just took the 5 night cruise to Cuba on the Royal Caribbean Empress of the Seas. I had read many of the reviews from past passengers and had a view of an old run down ship. This was our 20th cruise but the 1st with Royal Caribbean and based on the reviews was not expecting much. This ship is old and small but really a nice ship. It is well maintained and good looking inside and out. The staff was wonderful and some of the friendliest of any ship we have been on. Our room steward Ike was the best we have ever had. The food and selection in the dining room was very good and some of the best compared to other shops we have sailed. Our waiter Leonard was fantastic. The buffet for breakfast was typical and good. But, the buffet for lunch was the disappointment when it came to food. Selection was small and mediocre to bad. On other ships we have been on, they have a grill for burgers and hot dogs that are quite good. This ship just served them from pans on the buffet and were not good. Other reviews made it sound like the seating in the buffet was tight and hard to find a seat. We did not encounter this. Activities were the usual trivia and games that were handled well. Shows were good. Especially the Lionel Richie cover singer Derik Floyd. Casino was small but not crowded. Several tables and a good variety of slots. Cocktails and drinks on the ship seemed more expensive than other shops we have been on. $8 for a beer plus tax and gratuity made it almost $10. Frozen drinks were typically $15. Maybe all cruise lines are like this now but 9 months earlier we paid about 6 for a beer and $10 for a frozen drink. We visited Cienfuegos and took a tour with Royal that was a typical excursion. Visited a fort, had lunch in a beautiful newer hotel, visited the city center square with several historic buildings. Not sure what we expected but reminded of somewhere in Mexico like Mazatlan. In Havana we did another Royal excursion. Again, not sure what I expected but the tour was fine but Havana reminded us of a post war war zone. The buildings are in total disrepair and look abandoned but yet people live in these buildings. Lines of people at bus stops. Lines to get into the grocery stores. Very sad and sorrowful. All in all, we really enjoyed our cruise and learned about Cuba. Encourage others to go. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: May 2019
We chose this particular cruise because it was one of the few seven-day cruises to Cuba...most were shorter. The good news was the itinerary and the Cuban ports as well as the Cuban tours. The shop’s casino was excellent and the ... Read More
We chose this particular cruise because it was one of the few seven-day cruises to Cuba...most were shorter. The good news was the itinerary and the Cuban ports as well as the Cuban tours. The shop’s casino was excellent and the public areas were very good. The bad news was that the food, specifically in the buffet was cheap, bland, and generally inedible. This was one of the few cruises we’ve lost weight. (The Chef’s Table was excellent, but exorbitantly priced at $85 a person.) The dining room was good, but not very good. The rooms are tiny in an effort to squeeze every foot of space into a profit producing area. We had a Junior Suite that was also tiny. The junior crew is willing to provide service, but are generally undertrained by the senior staff. The ship’s most senior officers were rarely seen and, when the made an appearance, made little eye contact with customers. The Crown and Anchor Society is also something of a joke...they offer little. The theater entertainment was very good four evenings; however, terrible on two nights. Because of the general reduction of amenities...no welcome drink...rancid toilet articles...few bar snacks...unappetizing food...and so forth...we do not plan to sail on Royal Caribbean in the future. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: November 2018
If you can't do the cruise right, don't do it at all!! Best of Cuba in a few hours?? Waste of time & money. We signed up for this cruise solely because of of 2 ports in Cuba as we had been to most of the other ports ... Read More
If you can't do the cruise right, don't do it at all!! Best of Cuba in a few hours?? Waste of time & money. We signed up for this cruise solely because of of 2 ports in Cuba as we had been to most of the other ports & they were not that interesting. This seemed to be the case for the majority of the passengers/customers. (We have been on about 10 cruises. About half have been with RCI including Empress of the Seas about 10 years ago.) A few weeks before the cruise departure we were notified by RCI that the port of Santiago, Cuba, was being dropped with no explanation, but some passengers found out about the change only after they were onbaord the ship. (We found out why they dropped the port while onboard & they had good reason.) What was so unethical was that they knew far before they told us that they were dropping the port but they waited until after we passed the refund time! They told us to compensate we would stay in Havana until 5am but we were not scheduled to arrive until 2 in the afternoon; they tried to tell us that this was somehow 2 days in Havana! We arrived in Havana at about 3pm & by the time we were through customs we had only about 2 hours of daylight in Cuba. Oh, after 5 or 6 customs went home & your could freely come & go without a VISA. While waiting for the first Havana excursion, an excursion desk staff said we should not have signed up for our evening excursion as there was not enough time between the day & night time excursions. I pointed out that the online RCI software does not allow for overlapping excursions but they took our nighttime excursion tickets. When we returned from our daytime excursion there was still time before the nighttime excursion! The daytime excursion was not what was in the description, an "Old Havana Heritage Walking Tour". We walked maybe 5 blocks, spent close to an hour in a cigar, rum, & coffee shop (must have been a kick back from someone to delay us at that shop.) Then we went on a bus to a bar with a section only for tourist where they taught us about how to use cigars, rum, & coffee. We received a sample cigar, a taste of rum, & a taste of very bitter coffee. This part was interesting but I had to step outside when it became smokey. After about an hour we back on the bus with TINTED windows being shown highlights of Cuba in the dark, we didn't see much. Didn't see much heritage or history but did see lots of rundown parts of Havana. Everyone who asked received refunds for their Havana excursions. Apparently, ours was not the only bad excursion. We spent a lot of money & time to see very little of Cuba. (Did find out back in Ft. Lauderdale that Southwest flies to Havana.) The public area of Empress looked fine. However, if you looked around you saw lots of rust & chipped paint. Several crew members said they had lots of maintenance issues, especial clogged pipes. I even saw corrosion of a bracket holding an access latter on the side of the ship. I wonder what it was like in the non-public areas? The ship is going into dry dock for a month in February. I think the ship needs a safety inspection. The service was good as usual. Considering the limitations placed on the crew by the itinerary, a small 30 year old ship in disrepair, RCI HQ, & the Cuban government they did very well with a lot of disappointed & angry passengers/customers. Dinning: It is now less all inclusive as now some extras in the Formal Dining room are offered at a large surcharge when they used to be included. There were some issues with getting meals out in a timely fashion & correct. Days at sea were limited to a breakfast buffet in the formal dining room, instead of the formal dining from a menu. One big health & safety improvement for the buffet restaurant (Windjammer) was the addition of hand washing sinks at the entrances The gym area was a joke. It had been reduced in size from when we were on the Empress last time. There was not enough equipment & some of it was in disrepair. The staff were frustrated with the inability to get repairs done on equipment. There are no longer locker rooms, showers, steam rooms or saunas in the fitness area. With so many days at sea a good gym is essential. A spa staff said that there was an used men's locker room. They had the same paid classes but little space & few takers. Not all inclusive. The port called Labadee, Haiti is suppose to be a private "island" but I think it is a private port. You get no real exposure to Haitian culture. It was a pretty area but limited in what you could do. Because it was private & had no competition the only fun things were grossly overpriced. The zip-line was $80+ for about 30 seconds ride. Even a simple water slide was $25 (never saw anyone use it.). The beach chairs were free & they served a simple meal for free at the port. No one snorkeled from the beaches & I saw ahead of time on the reviews that there was nothing to see. There was a sand volleyball court but no planned games. If you like just lying around on the beach it was ok. I don't know why they go to Nassau so often as there is not much there to see. It is basically a shopping stop. However, we were fortunate as we arrive on the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day (WWI) so there was a large local parade & wreath laying ceremony that had nothing to do with tourist but it was very important to the locals. Because they had to replace the lost port with Key West port of call, we wasted a lot of time wondering back & fourth across the Caribbean Sea. Not very efficient route or environmentally friendly. We asked out travel agent to try & get a partial refund of the cruise as they did not provide what was sold to us. He was not able to get anywhere with RCI HQ in Miami. I talked to RCI customer service twice but got nowhere. I received one call this week from RCI, they said they were in management. She said in order to be fair to all the customers they would offer no refunds only an apology. How is that fair to their customers? Why be in their frequent cruiser program (Crown & Anchor)? In the past I considered RCI one of the best value, good food, good service cruise lines. I am NO longer recommending RCI to my friends & family. This cruise really hurt their reputation. I heard many cruisers, including high level Crown & Anchor members, say they were done with RCI. I think I am through with RCI because of their disrespect of their customers. Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2018
The opportunity to visit Cuba was very attractive to me, and having cruised with RC in the past I thought this would be an amazing trip. I was half right. Visiting Havana was a dream come true in many ways. The service provided by Royal ... Read More
The opportunity to visit Cuba was very attractive to me, and having cruised with RC in the past I thought this would be an amazing trip. I was half right. Visiting Havana was a dream come true in many ways. The service provided by Royal Caribbean was a nightmare in many ways. From lost luggage to bad food to inaccurate tour descriptions to a poorly maintained ship and an utterly unapologetic (to the point of rudeness) service staff, they cruise line did everything possible to try to ruin my and my family’s vacation. I get it that Empress is an older and smaller ship with fewer amenities. But to me that means the service has to be that much better. Instead I found myself surrounded by churlish and impatient staff, some of whom openly admitted they hoped to not have to work on that ship much longer and get “promoted”to a bigger ship. In Havana our first tour was good, if not exactly as described. The second tour we took though was a complete rip off that barely touched on the original itinerary we were sold on and ran twice as long as it was supposed to with detours to inappropriate “cultural” attractions where we got high pressure sales pitches to buy art and to make donations to performers we never asked to see. Furthermore, the tour took us to many of the same attractions we had seen the day before even though they were not listed on the itinerary. And this was the most expensive tour they offered. If you go choose ANY other cruise line (they couldn’t be worse than this one) and be very cautious about what shore excursions you buy. Read Less
8 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2018
This cruise was so unappealing in so many ways. To start this experience the line to check in at the Miami Port took over 35 minutes. There were not enough agents to fulfil all the people at check in. The staterooms are tiny, with 139 ... Read More
This cruise was so unappealing in so many ways. To start this experience the line to check in at the Miami Port took over 35 minutes. There were not enough agents to fulfil all the people at check in. The staterooms are tiny, with 139 sq. ft. The bathroom as miniscule with a small shower. The beds, two twins to make a large bed was so uncomfortable, as were the pillows. Both made my bones ache. The food in the main dinning room was bland and had no real taste. The specialty dinning room was better, although the menu is fixed and doesn't change, so that got old after two consecutive nights there. The day at sea makes this small ship very crowded, noisy and annoying and claustrophobic. The pool area with it's spa sized (small) pool was very crowded on the day at sea. The Windjammer café on the pool level could be very crowded as well. They had a good variety of foods. Some okay, other not so much. But you could always find something there to eat. Elevators slow and crowded. There really are no quiet places aboard, what with loud music constantly blasting. There was even a karaoke set right by guest services which made speaking to a representative very difficult. The casino was small and had no inviting vibe. It was mostly very empty. What was especially annoying was the upsells and hawking of the ships extra's such as the specialty dinning, the spa and the photo gallery. This was constant. The library and the card room were not enclosed and basically in the hallway. Again, very noisy. The only reason we went on this cruise was for the overnight in Havana which made every other annoyance on the ship worth it. It was super easy to get on and off the ship in Havana. No lines and we did this a few times the first day in port. Havana was most interesting. This ship was probably a jewel when it was built in 1989, but 30 years later, it is time to put her to rest. I had been on many RCCL cruises and this ship was by far the worst. I kind of felt bad for the staff that constantly, and I mean always asked if you were having a great time and to give them good reviews when an email was sent to follow up. Upon return to Miami, the debarking of the ship was flawless and took no time at all. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: July 2018
We were on the July 2 sailing of the Empress, and I thought I would post a quick review: The good: Staff were warm, friendly, rooms were clean, we were in 3119, 3117 and 3115. There were fun events, drawings and knowledgeable staff for ... Read More
We were on the July 2 sailing of the Empress, and I thought I would post a quick review: The good: Staff were warm, friendly, rooms were clean, we were in 3119, 3117 and 3115. There were fun events, drawings and knowledgeable staff for shopping and culture information. the wait staff are friendly, and do everything in their power to make your experience amazing. The bad: the shower- I know all cruises have small showers, this one seemed even smaller and this was the first cruise shower with a curtain instead of a glass door I have experienced, seems like a good idea- less constricting, more room to move-- wrong! the shower curtain clings to you making movement and washing nearly impossible. The ugly: I have a milk allergy- (not lactose intolerance- a milk ALLERGY) This was communicated before the cruise in proper ways, I consulted the maitre D on day of cruise, and communicated my needs daily. I frequently got- " we can make that without lactose" as a response about my queries, and even though I explained every time that it was not a lactose issue.. I had food allergy symptoms throughout the cruise. I know the wait staff put in orders saying milk allergy, I know because I saw the forms, once it left them and got to the kitchen I have no idea how that was interpreted. The last cruise I went on the chef came out to talk with me and discuss my allergies, how I substitute at home, etc.. nothing like that happened this cruise. In addition I ordered a drink and watched the bartender make it in the same blender of a mudslide with a half rinse (you could still see the cream at the top of the blender). I told him I could not drink it, and explained the situation, he rinsed again (not removing the cream, and I told him that would also not work, he went into the kitchen and washed the blender and then made my drink, after telling me it contained milk- coconut milk- and he didn't under stand the difference from the cream in a mudslide and coconut milk. He handles food/drink, this is very concerning! it's in the details- I traveled with mu husbands cousin, and best friend, one has the same last mane as me, the other has the same first name as me. For some reason this was thoroughly confusing to the staff. A credit that was supposed to be put on my account was put on the cousin's (in a different room) My husband sent me wine for my birthday, it was supposed to come with a note, it did not, and when asked what the wine was for my roommates were told it was because one of them was a gold member, when in fact my husband purchased it for my birthday, it was being finished as I arrived to my room, and only found out it was sent on return home... One of my other travel companions ordered gin an tonic for her room, the brought Gin and club soda, and made her change the club soda for tonic water herself at the bar... if one of these things happened, it wouldn't be that big of a deal, but these are just a few examples... In addition- I advise you book any cruises directly with royal carribian, I did mine through Expedia, and the communication chain was cumbersome and impossible, royal carribain would not speak to me, only Expedia, and Expedia often had to make 2-3 calls to them for them to make requested corrections. Read Less
Sail Date: June 2018
Nice and small boat, superb itinerary, Habana and Nassau were great. Good service, small distances to walk, a little bit crowded restaurants. We misses the Royal Promenade to meet and walk at night. Enough elevators and stairs throught the ... Read More
Nice and small boat, superb itinerary, Habana and Nassau were great. Good service, small distances to walk, a little bit crowded restaurants. We misses the Royal Promenade to meet and walk at night. Enough elevators and stairs throught the ship. Miami offers a lo of entertaintment so you can arribe before the day of departure to enjoy the night life. Embarcation process was good, received an special service for our gold status with Royal Caribbean. Pool was crowded is not Enough for all the psssengers. Music was very loud at some momentos. Awesome animation team, very cheerful and enthusiastic.At night they make a big diferencie at the Pool parties. Exercises clases were good at mornings. We decided to do our own activities at porta and were awesome. You can save a lo of money and have great experiences at your own pace. Food can be better compared to other other Royal Caribbean ships, disembarcation was terrible. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: May 2018
I wanted to see Cuba out of curiosity before it changed too much with the influx of tourism and only planned to give it 12 hours as planned in the cruise itinerary. BUT the cruise line was able to go into port the afternoon before planned ... Read More
I wanted to see Cuba out of curiosity before it changed too much with the influx of tourism and only planned to give it 12 hours as planned in the cruise itinerary. BUT the cruise line was able to go into port the afternoon before planned and stay overnight. Don't know how or why this occurred but pleased with it. We were able to book a nightclub experience we would have otherwise missed. The terminal: after sailing out of Canaveral last winter, Miami seemed disjoint, confusing and inefficient. They could learn a lot from the routine at Port Canaveral. The ship: smaller than I like but what was available for the destinations. Our cabin was small compared to our last cruise on the Oasis of the Seas but we expected that, it was perfectly adequate for 5 nights, even a couple unused cubbyholes and drawers. The food was above our expectaions both in the dining room and Windjammer. Quality of the entertainment was superb, we even stayed late for a couple of the shows we don't normally catch. The staff: Great service, nothing lacking either in the rooms, dining areas or bars. The excursions: Key West; we have visited many times and have our favorite spots, especially Pepe's on Caroline Street for breakfast or lunch then wander around the shops, bars & art galleries. Cuba; as interesting as I expected. We took a person-to-person excursion with a local guide. Incredible architecture that is deteriorating as you watch, heartbreaking. No fast food of any type so no litter. Everything is under "renovation" Seems like their world stopped in 1959. The only new construction seems to be hotels that are joint ventures with the government and whatever hotel wants to build there. The only industry is tourism, no agriculture to speak of, minimal exports. As our tour guide explained, when the Soviet Union fell they were essentially cut off from the rest of the world and unable to feed themselves without Russia's imports.Their Decade of Silence. Bring a lot of small denomination cash, $1's, US is fine for tip money, carry tissues for toilet paper, hand wipes for washing when necessary. Our lunch at the National Museum (non Cuban art) was newly reopened but saw no art. Nice meal in it's beautiful cafe with newly trained staff for the tourist trade. Visit any public bathroom and expect an attendant to solicit a tip to hand you a piece of TP. If you are lucky, the sink works. A few shops let you pay with both CUC's( the currency for tourists only, minus13% exchange fee) and American dollars although we were told that was not done. The locals still rely on ration books and recently allowed to hold Cuban pesos. Prices are pretty standardized and set by the state. We visited both well known Cuban artist studios Salvador, murals and Fuster, mosaics. Nicely curated. The guide at Salvador's Hamel Alley said " enjoy our beautiful country, but don't try to understand it" Agreed! The music at Salon Roja,the night club at the Hotel Capri(formerly owned by the mobster Meyer Lansky), was great, loud, no English spoken. Salsa lessons. Would I do this trip again, probably not but I'd like to hear how things change in the next 5, 10 years. Am I glad we went, Heck Yeah! A friend traveling with us had been there a few years ago on a cultural trip arranged through a University in the US. He said the people were warm and welcoming. The panhandling and tip solicitaion was new since that time. Yes, the old cars were very cool and for a couple dollars they are glad to pop the hood and let you look or sit in one for a photo op. Quite a lot of the cars are still running thanks to the refit with Chinese engines. Means they have some excellent mechanics. To me it seems strange that the people like our tour guide truly believe they are better off with Communism. Now I have to go read up on Cuba before and after 1959. It's interesting hearing the other side of history. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2018
The ship was very small and clean; not the bells a whistles of the larger ships. Not a wow factor when entering. Difficult to get lost because of the small size. Dining room is nicely laid out and there is no formal night. Dress is ... Read More
The ship was very small and clean; not the bells a whistles of the larger ships. Not a wow factor when entering. Difficult to get lost because of the small size. Dining room is nicely laid out and there is no formal night. Dress is very casual in dining room, men wearing shorts and polo shirts was pretty much the norm. Food was good, nice variety, not always hot, just room temperature. The service was good and they make every attempt to please you. As on all Royal Caribbean cruises, the dining room staff says over and over to fill out survey; it gets old. The food in the Windjammer is average, nothing to rave about, nothing outstanding just food for the masses. There is a midnight buffet, which is great if you want a late night snack. There is a very nice, large walk around deck with plenty of chairs to relax or sit and read. The casino is very small with outdated machines and is entirely non-smoking. The drink service is pretty much non-existent; spoke to casino manager about this numerous times and it did not improve. With it being small, non-smoking, outdated machines, and no drink service, the casino is not crowded. I was invited on this cruise with many other gamblers for a Superbowl cruise and party...we were pretty disappointed to find out nothing was being done. As far as the ports go, Key West is always a great port to stop in and offers a variety of things to do and see. Cozumel, also has many things to see and do and tends to get pretty crowded when there are multiple ships ported there. Overall, if you want a very small ship, that is very laid back, then this is your ship. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2017
Great experience overall! This was my first cruise. It was relaxing and had activities to participate in. I would cruise Royal Caribbean again although I have not yet experienced other cruise lines. I would want to experience a larger ... Read More
Great experience overall! This was my first cruise. It was relaxing and had activities to participate in. I would cruise Royal Caribbean again although I have not yet experienced other cruise lines. I would want to experience a larger Royal Caribbean ship with more people to meet and more activities. I was a little disappointed that both my roommate and I were celebrating a bday and she was the only one who received a card and recognition. My bday was not acknowledged and it was a trip I planned. The buffet food could be a little tastier with more of a selection that most people would enjoy. The bar staff and service was great although a lot of the drinks appeared to have watered down alcohol. I am considering attending another cruise in June. It would be a 7 day cruise for my friend's grandmother's 80th birthday. 7 days is a long time on a ship so I want to be comfortable, eat/drink good, and have good entertainment if I decide to go. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2017
I enjoy the not too small, not too big ship experience. It felt like a community of good friends got together and hang for 4 days. The staff was awesome! Every time I interacted with the staff in any parts of the ship; they were ... Read More
I enjoy the not too small, not too big ship experience. It felt like a community of good friends got together and hang for 4 days. The staff was awesome! Every time I interacted with the staff in any parts of the ship; they were helpful, approachable and friendly. The entertainers at the theater were amazing!! I enjoyed the activities provided such as learning to dance, bingo & karaoke nights. Overall, I had a great time at the theater, pool, pool bar, and Bolero bar (my favorite). The musicians were great! I loved the variety of latin & reggae music played. I traveled with my husband and another couple and participated in the Havana excursion. That was fun. I wish we had more time BUT regardless, we had a blast taking a tour of Havana for 4 hours. I want to see more vegan food options at the restaurants and buffet. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: November 2017
Chose this ship through an organized trip to Cuba. Despite the horror stories you may hear about this ship, we found none of it to be true. It is an older ship, but was been refurbished in 2016. Rooms and common areas are spotless and ... Read More
Chose this ship through an organized trip to Cuba. Despite the horror stories you may hear about this ship, we found none of it to be true. It is an older ship, but was been refurbished in 2016. Rooms and common areas are spotless and crew very friendly and food was great. Rooms are very small (ocean view) but we managed. Everything is on Decks 4 & 5 and easy to get to. No crowds in Windjammer or huge lines waiting to enter dining room, like the big RCL ships. This ship has character because of its age. Block out the bad reviews--they are not true. Quality of food is higher than larger ships, with more variety. No blocking off half of best theater seats for Diamond Plus and Pinnacle members like the larger RCL ships do. All guests treated as "special". Disembarkation was quick and easy. I would definitely book this ship again if it has the right itinerary. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2017
As with most reviews on this ship, it was the best way to see Cuba before the tourist traps open. Americans have been sailing to Cuba for 6 months and we wanted to get their to see the real Cuba and not the tourist only version. We were ... Read More
As with most reviews on this ship, it was the best way to see Cuba before the tourist traps open. Americans have been sailing to Cuba for 6 months and we wanted to get their to see the real Cuba and not the tourist only version. We were not disappointed. As we found with most reviews the primary complain was the rooms on this ship. I guess these people had not cruised during the early years. Yes, the room is small, and we were not sure how some people fit in the shower. (Measures about 24 inches by 36 inches if you are lucky. But, if you separate the beds and have two people in a room you have plenty of space for a short 5 night cruise. And hey, the room is not the focus of this trip. The staff are all excellent, with our wait staff and room steward being the best we have seen in the last 30 years of sailing. Total length of the trip is less than 800 nautical miles. The ship did a short visit to Key West which was great, we had plenty of time to visit the cats at Hemingway's house. And, our must stop seafood market on Eaton Street. Stone Crabs are my favorite and this is the place to go. Not a true restaurant but a seafood market that prepares your selections. It's a must, and a short walk from Duval Street. You can even hit Capt Tony's on the way back to the ship. Next day is Havana....what can I say but a special place. Essentially frozen in time and a real gem to visit. Don't believe everything you hear on the news, this place is perfectly safe and very clean. The $75 Cuban Visa will be assessed on your ships account. They take care of submitted the paper work for you. You will receive the visa at the check in for the cruise, so don't loose it or you pay another $75 bucks. The Cuban customs authority will take the visa and stamp your passport on entry. The stamp will serve as your visa from that point forward. Day one, the ship clears customs at approximately noon. Tours arranged by the ship will gather prior to that time in the theater. Expect a wait to exit the ship, since your are at the mercy of the Cuban customs staff. They are efficient but through but just wait your turn in line. Once you clear customs you can exchange currency in the terminal. Lines at the exchange are not bad so no worries. I chose to exchange Euros (140) and the rate was 1.144 E per CUC. That was a little more than I needed since I exchanged 80 CUC back on the second day. Probably would recommend 100 Euros or USD . If you exchange dollars they will levy a 10% exchange fee. Rate is there for $.86 per CUC. But, $86 is plenty of money for tips, drinks, food and a few gifts. We chose to use the ships tours for both days. The first was a four hour walking tour of Old Havana. Our guide spoke perfect English and was very gracious. Most of the group is older so he was sure to walk slowly. We were transport by bus (Nice Chinese version) after two hours to a restaurant called El Tocoro for a Cigar, Rum and coffee pairing. They provide the cigar, rum and coffee as part of the tour. Now only two of the group smoked so it was more rum and coffee pairing. But it was an education in how to correctly pair the three products in a traditional way. Also, a local band plays traditional songs (EXCELLENT) that was perfect. You can purchase additional drinks, food ect from the bar. With tip (Band and waiter) and local beer we spent $5 US. Yes we found out most locals except US currency. Then its back on the bus and back to the square near the ship for a little more walking. The guide will point out multiple places to shop, drink and eat on the way. Tip for the guide and bus driver was $10. You have the rest of the evening to roam the streets and shop, eat and drink. Day 2: We chose the best of Havana tour. This is a bus tour the travels to the top locations. The fort, the old cemetery, downtown square and a super glass themed market. The tour will depart from the terminal and return to the terminal or you can drop off at the market (You need more than one hour for this stop, but they only give you 45 min.) Lunch is included at a restaurant. Overall impression of the tours. Very good idea for the first time visitor, or someone who has limited mobility. The buses are not ADA equipped so keep that in mind. The tour guides provide a very extensive review of Cuban history that you have never heard. Our history books are a little more on sided. They answer questions freely and provided an excellent overview of Cuban culture. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2017
I was looking for something special since for my 60th birthday. i always wanted to go on a cruise this was the rigt opportunity. Visiting Cuba has always been my dream From embarkation to disembarkation everything was absolutely ... Read More
I was looking for something special since for my 60th birthday. i always wanted to go on a cruise this was the rigt opportunity. Visiting Cuba has always been my dream From embarkation to disembarkation everything was absolutely unimaginable.The ship the cabin great. As for dining excellent is not even enought to describe Fernando and Cesar services. From my experience with them i don't think there could anyone better..Carlos; the caribbean group, specially Dakilia Findlay the singer kept me on my toes.Te latino group at deck 6 hmmm at times i was the onlly one on the dance floor love it.Room service with Lidia as attendant was impeccable.Carlos Perez Almanza senior guest services officer went out of his way to get me to take pictures with the Captain. Kudos..... I will definitely come again.It was 7 us. Next time there. will be more. I started to form a group from 30to 50 people.Hopefully it works out Sincerely Mercedes (Room 8602) Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2017
Itinerary for Havana Cuba - with an overnight stay allowing one and a half days there was my overriding reason for this cruise choice. I knew the ship was older and was not anticipating as good an experience on board as we had. Having ... Read More
Itinerary for Havana Cuba - with an overnight stay allowing one and a half days there was my overriding reason for this cruise choice. I knew the ship was older and was not anticipating as good an experience on board as we had. Having cruised on all the newer larger ships lately, it was our first smaller ship in quite a while and we were not disappointed. Tampa was a very easy port to embark with curb side luggage drop off handled smoothly and minimal lines and early embarkation requiring no waiting. It was the Solar Eclipse day so we were handed eclipse glasses as we boarded which added to the fun. Steel drum music by the pool with sun and moon themes was a great touch. Our cabin was too narrow for the beds together because the drop down bunks which were folded up stuck out from the wall and made it hard to walk by the bed. There were only 2 electrical outlets and neither was close to the bed - glad we brought our power strip but it was far away. We had an oceanview cabin with a large window and convenient window ledge for storing things near the bed, but the storage elsewhere was a bit limited and the closet poorly designed for shelf storage. We were near the aft elevators which were very convenient, and there was a nice seating area with ocean views in that area. The dining room was lovely, and we had great service and good food. All the staff on this ship were very helpful and pleasant. We enjoyed the headliners more than the production shows, but that is personal preference. The pool is small but plenty of chairs surround it and the 3 hot tubs were great and covered, so when it rained we were pleased with that. We had a half day in Key West and the day and half in Havana and both ports were great. I would definitely do this cruise again. Read Less
Sail Date: August 2017
We chose this trip because it was an opportunity to see Cuba, before new development, commercialism, and other factors change the setting. Boarding the ship was a chaotic mess. While the lines were organized by platinum, gold, and ... Read More
We chose this trip because it was an opportunity to see Cuba, before new development, commercialism, and other factors change the setting. Boarding the ship was a chaotic mess. While the lines were organized by platinum, gold, and other passengers, which should have helped with the crowds and check-in. It seemed that passengers from all lines were allowed to check in based on the whims of cruise staff who were presumably monitoring the lines. There was no explanation given to passengers in the gold or other lines that those in the platinum line were to be given priority, which no doubt frustrated those in those two lines. Once boarded and underway, I most enjoyed seeing the eclectic architectural styles, learning that Havana is a UNESCO heritage city, interacting with our tour guides who were engaging and knowledgeable, and just roaming the streets and people watching. On-board, watching, laughing, and chatting with your absolutely fabulous cruise director, Carlos, was the highlight. What a talent - quick witted, outgoing and caring, funny, and a wonderful entertainer/singer! The service in our room (4619) and at our dinners (Xioalu and Rayen) was outstanding. Big smiles, taking time to chat with us, and always, always helpful, our direct experience with these staff members was top notch. Despite these wonderful experiences and memories, the cruise will unfortunately be tainted by the stench from the malfunctioning plumbing. Day and night in the hallway and in our room, there was a noticeable odor. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2017
We traveled on this cruise with extended family. We had a great time based on who we were with but the ship was pretty small with not all that many activities. The positives - very nice massage in the spa, bartenders and wait staff were ... Read More
We traveled on this cruise with extended family. We had a great time based on who we were with but the ship was pretty small with not all that many activities. The positives - very nice massage in the spa, bartenders and wait staff were attentive and unlike the prior cruise I took there were plenty of poolside chairs even on the sea day. The cons - very small kids club (thankfully our kids played with their cousins for fun), food options very limited especially for someone with a gluten allergy and just not enough to to do. The ship was small enough that you never had to worry about losing your party but also not big enough to avoid seeing the same people constantly. We were off the ship by 915 am in Havanna which was ok given we booked a private tour who allowed us to negotiate a later end time since we got off the ship late. Note that royal gets the folks off first who booked excursions through them, however we saved a ton given that we were traveling with 15 people by booking privately. Ideally Royal should cut out key west and do 2 days in Havanna. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: July 2017
It was offering a 5 day cruise that included Havana, Cuba and we wanted to see the city. Royal Caribbean offers cruises to Havana from our home city, Tampa. My sister wanted to see Havana since she had not been there since before the ... Read More
It was offering a 5 day cruise that included Havana, Cuba and we wanted to see the city. Royal Caribbean offers cruises to Havana from our home city, Tampa. My sister wanted to see Havana since she had not been there since before the revolution and so we took her as an early 90th birthday event. The ship is the smallest in the Royal Caribbean fleet ( I believe about 1400 capacity) and therefore did not offer water slides and some other "extras" offered on the larger ships. On the positive side, it made the cruise more intimate and we actually met many other guests while on board. The crew was spectacular. Friendly, enthusiastic service in all areas. Housekeeping and the dining experience was especially "over the top" Summary - an interesting cruise to a new (and very different port) with a friendly, almost cozy feel and outstanding service. I will take Royal Caribbean cruise in the future Read Less
15 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2017
Thinking about seeing Cuba while you still can? You may need to do it sooner rather than later. Airlines have already started to reduce flights (some have indicated that they will pull out of Havana altogether due to changes by Mr. ... Read More
Thinking about seeing Cuba while you still can? You may need to do it sooner rather than later. Airlines have already started to reduce flights (some have indicated that they will pull out of Havana altogether due to changes by Mr. Trump). BUT WAIT… There is a better and safer way to visit this distantly impossible and very unique island and a cruise ship is the best way to accomplish it for now! I’ll cover the ship review itself a bit later. Royal Caribbean, NCL, Carnival and Celestial Cruises sail to Cuba currently (July 2017). In my case, I sailed Royal Caribbean’s ‘Empress Of The Seas’ which provided for two days in Havana, Cuba. Plus, a stop or call at Key West, Florida and a day at-sea. The ship overnights in Havana. Embarkation was out of Tampa, Florida (fly into Tampa or Orlando). I loved Havana, Cuba! It’s dirty, decayed, abused and still back in time by 4-6 decades. Cuban’s are wonderfully warm people who stare at you in amazement and the moment you ‘connect’ with them, the welcome smiles are apparent. They are so glad you are there (and yet evident in that they do not trust in you initially). Cuban’s have a great deal to share in both opinion and in what they consider to be a system of government control via communism that they greatly respect and appreciate and are surprisingly proud of. At least that is what we were told by Cuban’s and I’d strongly suggest that while visiting Cuba, such not be challenged. Or discussed… Havana, Cuba is a city full of self-polluting Cuban’s. They totally fail to value appearance and have no issues with tossing trash out of moving public buses or cars and onto the streets. If you’ve ever been to Mexico or other third-world countries; you’ll find Cuba to be far filthier and as said earlier, very decayed (Old Havana proper). My first day was spent aboard a Cuban tour bus (Made In China) and with stops at all of the places that Cuban’s feel pride in (yes, Revolution Square included). This is a great first-day introduction to Cuba with the assistance of a Cuban tour guide and in an air-conditioned bus (A/C is a pure luxury in Cuba). Royal Caribbean offered this tour but you can also venture off on your own using independent tour operators to also see Havana. My second day in Havana involved 22,000 steps (FitBit calculated) of walking Old Havana and taking in its strange sense of beauty. The decay, the way of life and the culture are indeed art. I carried two cameras and would take some 300 shots a day. You’ll need a camera with a decent telephoto lens and the greatest clarity possible (often shooting up). Don’t spend your investment in seeing Cuba to settle for cell phone sub-par photos (this is probably the only time you’ll ever see Cuba). If you are WALKING Old Havana, do it mostly on a street named OBISPO (way too easy to find). You’ll find few tourists and a ton of Cuban’s doing what they do on a daily basis. Cuban shopping, Cuban phone places and Cuban internet access (via long lines). This is not Hawaii or San Juan and there are no ABC Stores or CVS Stores. In fact, it was a challenge to even find what I would call a normal supermarket. Expect no souvenir shops and nothing to bring back except Cuban Rum, cigars and coffee. Travel with your own toilet paper or tissue. It’s scarce to non-existent in Cuba for tourists. Cuban currency is the Cuban Peso (called CUP) but its use is restricted to Cuban nationals only. You can’t obtain it at a bank or exchange facility (but we found many Cuban’s in parks or on corners willing to swap out Cuban Peso’s for USD bills-just ask a street vendor). You’ll have to use a special currency called a CUC or Cuban Convertible Peso. In the exchange rate as of July 2017, you’ll lose 13% or get just 87 CUC for your American Dollar (USD). You’ll also lose another 13% if you need to turn any of it in before leaving Cuba. You cannot purchase or convert CUC’s or CUP’s in the USA. There are no ATM’s in Cuba. Worth noting here is that Cuban merchants will often honor the USD but marking it up substantially in exchange. Thus, carry smaller USD bills only. Credit cards are not accepted in Cuba. Your cell phone will not work. You’ll connect but you are asking for issues so keep it off. The same applies to internet service. There is none except at designated internet spots under government control. That’s why CRUISING TO CUBA will provide those options for you from the ship whereas hotels and restaurants cannot (as of this writing). No ATM’s because ATM’s require an internet connection. Bring plenty of cash and if you are on a cruise ship, they also must turn off ATM machines onboard while in Cuba. Guns are not permitted in Cuba (except military or police). Drugs are not permitted and the consequences are severe so in turn you’ll find little to no crime. It is amazingly safe even at night. It looks dangerous and street characters live outside of their buildings as a Cuban lifestyle of sorts but they just don’t bother you. If you fly in, it is a 45-minute ride from the airport to Central Havana. If you sail in by cruise ship, you’ll dock right at central Old Havana which requires no transfers, cabs, etc. Everything is close by and within walking distance or via various cab types operated by Cubans (no seatbelts-no safety). Speaking of arrival by cruise ship, the terminal in Havana is done well (for Cuban standards). No air-conditioning though. You’ll simply step off the ship with your required Cuban Visa in-hand ($75 each and the cruise line will issue it for you) along with your passport (make sure it has more than six (6) months-plus left of validity on it or you can’t visit Cuba) and present both to Cuban Immigration for their inspection and approval. You’ll then get a Cuban stamp in your passport which allows for on/off privileges as many times as you’d like while in Cuba from the ship. Once you clear customs/immigrations, you’ll then have to go through security (just like at an airport in the USA) and bags will be checked. Take no food off the ship for any reason. Packaged chips or candy that is sealed is acceptable. Water was not permitted off the ship on day #1 but on day #2, the rules were changed for water so be patient, respectful and ready for constant change and always smile and comply. American’s can be some of the world’s rudest travelers and yes, they know who Donald Trump is… Enough said. From security, head down 42 stairs or take a small and slow elevator if you can’t handle the stairs. HOLD THE RAILS as they are steep and dark. You’re now in Cuba! Those are the basics. Yet, there are two VERY IMPORTANT issues to still discuss: 1) Decay is evident everywhere. Sidewalks are broken, cracked and in disrepair. Old overhead balconies barely hang on and you’ll see chunks of sidewalk missing or with major holes from falling debris. Be very careful walking. Cuban hospitals don’t honor your insurance. 2) Food and water: Don’t even think about touching it. Let alone placing it in your mouth. Water is full of bacteria and flies are sunbathing on open sandwiches or other food items sold in cafes. The quote of the day for us was when someone actually said to us that the USDA had inspected safe restaurants! NOT… get a sealed Coke or import beer for liquids and packaged food if you must eat on land. Better yet, call your doctor BEFORE you travel to Cuba if you plan to eat or drink while on Cuban soil. In closing about Havana, Cuba itself. Again, as said, I really was able to see it’s gifted beauty and feel it. Its people were warm and friendly. The decay and abuse of Havana had now become art and what was really noticeable was that progress was starting to happen in building restoration. Do it! Visit Cuba for a lifetime experience that few have had the privilege of doing. PART TWO: Royal Caribbean’s EMPRESS OF THE SEAS… Built in 1988-1989 and recently operated by PULLMANTUR CRUISES; Empress Of The Seas was actually ordered by ADMIRAL CRUISES. Etc, Etc, Etc. A merger happened with Royal Caribbean and the ship would encounter all types of rebranding and changes and be incorporated into the Royal Caribbean fleet or family. She’s not what Royal Caribbean standards are today. She’s old. Sewage smell is a common complaint and toilets work and sometimes don’t. Air-conditioning sometimes works but we spent most nights in a too hot cabin. Cabins are ever so small (about the size of a walk-in closet). Approx.; 120 sq. feet. Worth noting: Keep the beds as TWINS or SINGLES to gain a few extra square feet. This is not your honeymoon ship of choice. While you can sort of shower, you’ll have to come out of the bathroom to towel dry with body movement. Small vanity area for make-up, etc. For a short cruise, it was fine. Basic and compact. TV was a flat screen Samsung with news via satellite and a loop recorded system of a week’s worth of ‘Two Broke Girls’ and ‘Mike and Molly’ sitcoms. Food is high-school cafeteria cuisine at best. Choices are a Main Dining room, a Windjammer Café/buffet style restaurant and a specialty restaurant called Chops Grill ($35 per person). Menus were really basic at all dining choices. Food was always just warm at Windjammer Café. Choices were minimal and without thought or imagination. Be it breakfast or dinner. I did not dine in Chops Grill because I felt if standards were so low-end at the Main Dining Room or Windjammer Café, it was best to avoid Chops Grill. There were no sandwich or deli bars and no themed Cuban food sandwiches. Room service is complimentary… Sort of. For breakfast, if you order just a continental breakfast, there is no charge. If you order an American Breakfast, there is a $7.95 per cabin charge (not per person). For dinner or lunch, there is always a $7.95 per cabin charge. Actually, I found room service the best dining option if you were hoping for a warm to hot entrée and freshness. There is a small casino. There are 4-5 bars onboard. Small but available shopping. A small pool but oddly, Royal Caribbean did not permit food at the pool and there was no hamburger or hot dog outdoor grill as is so typical on Royal Caribbean ships. They do have a Crown & Anchor added or attached bar or room (when Admiral Cruises ordered the ship, there was no Crown & Anchor venue for them). It isn’t a true Crown & Anchor venue and wasn’t used much. The better and best bar/venue was ‘Boleros’, located aft, deck six. If you are flying into Tampa, there is a FIXED-PRICE cab fare of just $25 to the Port Of Tampa. That’s per cab; not per person. An even better bargain is a firm called SHIP OR SHORE TRANSPORTATION that charges just $8.00 per passenger. 813 786-7878. Cabs are faster though and ready when you are. Embarkation was a breeze and Royal Caribbean has always been excellent at the embarkation and dis-embarkation process. You’ll save a ton of time if you double-check all your required documents are in order before getting to embarkation. Disembarkation was even faster. Empress Of The Seas had a WALK-OFF or what they like to call SELF ASSIST. That means you carry off all of your bags on your own, clear customs and get yourself into a cab or Super Shuttle or to your car at the parking facility (this was done in Tampa, FL for this sailing). The benefit to SELF ASSIST: You are first off the ship! Then there is the process of calling for different groups to disembark based on your luggage tag number (groups 1 thru 38). If you know what a DIAMOND MEMBER is (like a frequent flyer club), they were groups 1 and 2 to leave the ship. Worth note is that Royal Caribbean allowed you to stay in your cabin until 9:00AM and even on the ship until 11:15AM. Breakfast was available of course (room service was not on the last day). We were off the ship by 7:30am and on our way over to Walt Disney World for a real Cuban sandwich from Bongo’s! Coincidently, Cuban-born Gloria Estefan is Godmother of ‘Empress Of The Seas’ and owner of Bongo’s Restaurant at Walt Disney World. What about liquor being brought onboard? You are permitted one bottle of wine or champagne per guest. No beer, no hard liquor. No kegs, no cases of sodas. No water. HOWEVER, at Key West, water was permitted and soft drinks were permitted provided that they were sealed and checked. That may change. Royal Caribbean did not confiscate rum purchased in Cuba either. They treated us as responsible adults (unlike Carnival) and respected our cruise vacation experience rather than impose restrictions on its guests for the sole goal of profit. This was an older ship. Yes, a bit tired. Food was sub-par (much to my regret) but I still think Royal Caribbean did a wonderful job of providing a new and very special sailing to Cuba. Still one of the better cruise lines at sea and even better when you sail their family of Celebrity and Azamara Cruises (their upscale lines). Read Less
7 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2017
The Empress of the Seas(because it is very small compared to the fleet) was brought back into RCI Service so that it could be the first RCI ship to go to Cuba. RCI spent over a year preparing for us to have great experiences in Cuba before ... Read More
The Empress of the Seas(because it is very small compared to the fleet) was brought back into RCI Service so that it could be the first RCI ship to go to Cuba. RCI spent over a year preparing for us to have great experiences in Cuba before they made their first trips last Spring 2017. They did an excellent job. Going to Cuba was so exciting and the entire cruise was directed at having an excellent experience in Cuba, Traveler be aware that the 9th deck of Jr Suites, do not compare to Jr Suites on any of the ships in the Fleet. Our memory may be wrong, but we sailed the Nordic Empress in 2001, 2002, and 2003 and the suites maybe were larger, or it maybe our selective memory of those rooms a long time ago. Probably the previous owner two to six years ago after RCI sold the ship, maybe changed the rooms on Deck 9 to get more cabins to sell as suits. The Jr Suites on the Empress compares to normal balcony rooms on the other ships. Now a couple of very small items. 1. In the Windjammer they have sinks to wash you hands before entering. WOW first time, and soooo much needed on all RCI ships. Most people just used the Prell. Maybe RCI has this on other ships, but we have not sailed previously since December 2016. So many germs are transmitted through hands not thoroughly washed. I washed on the way in and o the way out. 2. Probably because the cost of beef is so high, the Windjammer does not sever hamburgers during lunch, only in the afternoon and evening snacks.They offered pork, chicken, fish burgers as an alternate to beef during snack time, but no turkey burgers that are on other ships. But then the overall menus may have changed on all ships for 2017 3. We had no problem with the Windjammer Director treating us a special by having the chefs fixing special vegetarian omelets for our last two days after we told him our complaint that the only option at the egg station was either cheese or ham&cheese....no veggie options 4. However, I must award five stars for the Windjammer for their foods and more options for dishes..probably because of the chefs there versus other ships and the Empress was trying its best to create more and more excitement for our venture to Cuba 5. The ship is very old, only during peak morning and evening hours when many cabins would be using hot water, could you get real hot water as we were far from the hot water tanks. No matter how long we ran water to get hot water, it would just get luke warm. One night from 1 or 2 am until morning around 6, they had the water shut down. All week they had two to four of the engineering staff working on something where the ac or water tanks closets on our hallway. 6. Beware, that the shore excursions have good buses, which are AC which work great, but for handicap people is very difficult to get in and get out. The first step is about 18 inches up fro the ground unless the bus is parked by a curb. My suggestion is that RCI require these RCI contracted buses have a booster step for the first step like may taxi vans in the U.S. Also handicap people must realize that CUBA does not ADA laws so that there are no accommodations for the handicapped. 7. the Tropicana Show was a great experience and two hours of excellent entertainment, but it is July and the theater is open air, very very hot with no real air circulation. They asked men to wear long pants, no shorts....but after a few Cuba Libras the hot was not as notifiable...and the Cuba Libra were not true Cuba Libras (Rum & Coke with lime juice or a wedge of lime)..no lime juice or lime wedges..so it was Rum (excellent Havana Club 7 year old rum) and Coke. One free 6 ounce coke with a liter of rum for the table. Extra coke $5 (5 cocs) per bottle..of well it is a nite club...just two things...if you like Cuba Libras, bring a few cans of coke from the ship and also bring all the water the ship provides you..water is $5 per bottle. With over an hour to wait for the show, in the hot atmosphere, I would have used two bottles of water. The staff keeps telling you take water..we did on the shore excursions, except we did not for the niter club, our mistake... Bottom line, we will go back to see the show again despite the $154 fee per person or the $179 VIP fee. Do Not pay for the VIP as the management staff at the Tropicana were not thrilled to have us. He acted like we were a pain in the ass to have in his club. Our tour guide over and over told us when you enter the club they can not do anything for you..it is up to the their management...their management stinks, but the waiters were excellent.....the manager seated out party almost behind the stage where you could not see half the show..and we were VIP but handicapped...they just were very impatient with two of our party four who are handicapped. The excursion staff at RCI tried to persuade us not to pay the extra $25 for VIP without reason...that they could tell you as they were forced to be super positive... Bottom line do not pay the VIP fee, take your own water, extra cokes, and snacks to go along with a liter of Rum for four people. dress for it to be very very hot, but it is worth the experience, and we will do it again the next time we go on this cruise. In conclusion: Maybe some of you look on this review as petty or knit picking, But RCI did 100% (there is no % above 100%, like some say 150% effort) to make this a super experience. I highly recommend you to take this voyage. The ship may be old, but it is super clean, actually looking brand new, the crew excellent. Read Less
9 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2017
Destination was very important for my family, we loved to visit Cuba . The food were amazing and the waiters are exceptional at my time dinner , Bernadeh Ilagan , Melvin Tumulak and Maxson Goes Head waiter exceed our goals . They were far ... Read More
Destination was very important for my family, we loved to visit Cuba . The food were amazing and the waiters are exceptional at my time dinner , Bernadeh Ilagan , Melvin Tumulak and Maxson Goes Head waiter exceed our goals . They were far and beyond to made our dinner time memorable. The staff at shops were well trained and friendly . The entertainment at This ships were fantastic, The Spanish band were excellent, made us dance every night . The photographers were amazing , we loved all the pictures that they took , they was very friendly and patience with us , so far they are best photographers compare with others from previous cruises . We end up buying the whole pictures package. We really enjoy this ship , it is small ship but the staff working in this ship make the difference , the customer service done by all the employees from the house keeper, waiters , bartenders,front desk , music band , entertainment teams were excellent. We definitely will repeat this vacation . Read Less
Sail Date: July 2017
We went with a group, and this was our first cruise. Everyone in port was always helpful, and the staff aboard Empress we're top notch. Embarkation and disembarkation were smooth as butter! The ship is older, but the biggest turn ... Read More
We went with a group, and this was our first cruise. Everyone in port was always helpful, and the staff aboard Empress we're top notch. Embarkation and disembarkation were smooth as butter! The ship is older, but the biggest turn off was a sewer smell in our stateroom. It wasn't there all the time, but it got worse at night, and it was very strong! Our cabin was well kept, and comfy. Dining staff in main dining room were great, and explained anything we had questions about. Our shore excursion, Easy Panoramic Havana, was well worth the $49! Three hours in an air conditioned bus was grand, especially in Havana's heat. We didn't get to go inside the fort at the end of the tour, because Cuban customs was a bit slower than expected, and we were about 1 hour late leaving on the tour. Plus, some in our group had the Tropicana Caberet show to get ready for. We didn't go to that, but I heard it was amazing! We will certainly sail RCCL again! Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: July 2017
My wife gave me the trip as a surprise gift for my birthday. My friends who were in on it also sailed with us. After leaving Tampa it was smooth sailing to Key West where we had a great time sight seeing and shopping. Lunch at The Hard ... Read More
My wife gave me the trip as a surprise gift for my birthday. My friends who were in on it also sailed with us. After leaving Tampa it was smooth sailing to Key West where we had a great time sight seeing and shopping. Lunch at The Hard Rock Cafe was great. When we arrived in Cuba the next day was a bigger surprise. After going through Immigration and Customs, which was no problem whatsoever , we boarded a tour bus which took us through Old Havana and other districts. We met many locals who were all very friendly . Everywhere we looked we saw cars from the 40's, 50's and 60's ,All in pristine condition. Several tourist took rides in them. Our tour included a visit to the historic Colon Cemetery which was beautiful and then lunch at a local restaurant. Lunch started with a "Mojito' then Lobster and we got to savor the local beers. I tried Buccanero .and my friends tried Cristal Beer. Many of the buildings in Havana were in much needed state of repair but what was amazing were the people were happy. My evenings were relaxed as my friends , my wife and I talked about the daily events at the Schooner Lounge on the ship. Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2017
Admittedly, the only reason we took this cruise was to see Cuba. Key West was a fun stop, as always, but we had been there before and were looking forward to Cuba. Long story short, the people were quite nice there and it was a cool ... Read More
Admittedly, the only reason we took this cruise was to see Cuba. Key West was a fun stop, as always, but we had been there before and were looking forward to Cuba. Long story short, the people were quite nice there and it was a cool place to see. It would be nice if things opened a bit earlier, but I think it's part of Cuba's charm. Definitely see Cuba while you still have the chance! As for the cruise experience itself, it was outstanding. Royal Caribbean never disappoints! While the Empress is the smallest in the fleet, it is well maintained and the staff was outstanding. We really enjoyed Joe Hollywood in the piano bar every night and we thought the dining room service and food was quite good. While the onboard shopping was not huge, the stores had a variety of items to scratch the itch for those that shop. I also recommend the drink package, if you enjoy a few beverages while on board....it definitely pays for itself! Read Less
Sail Date: May 2017
This ship is small but big enough to loose your other guest for some quiet time if needed. Cabin is large with a balcony. I think I will go with the later dinner time due to the late night activities on the ship. We ate at 5:30 each ... Read More
This ship is small but big enough to loose your other guest for some quiet time if needed. Cabin is large with a balcony. I think I will go with the later dinner time due to the late night activities on the ship. We ate at 5:30 each night and I was ready to go out but it was still very early for most. It is better for family groups to take the 5:30 sitting and late night people to take the other. Shore excursion with the Fury Catamaran was great to snorkel, beach barbecue, and ocean obstacle course. My older daughter took the zip line all day excursion and had the "time of her life". Great four day get-a-way! I was torn in three different ways on this trip: high school reunion group. family reunion with sister from Texas group, and the ship's activities. Seriously too many options for me to pick from. The ship has over three different activities happening all at once so everyone can truly find something to do. Add that to my own scheduled activities with family and high school friends... well, it was a lot to take in. My advise is to just go with one person or one group but adding additional groups makes you feel torn. Overall - great time!! Read Less
Empress of the Seas Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 3.0 3.5
Dining 3.0 3.9
Entertainment 3.0 3.9
Public Rooms 4.0 3.9
Fitness Recreation 2.5 3.4
Family 2.0 3.4
Shore Excursion 4.5 3.8
Enrichment 4.0 3.4
Service 4.5 4.3
Value For Money 4.0 3.8

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