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
Sail Date: April 2019
We chose this cruise as a replacement for the trip that we were to take last year when I ended up in the ER. Trip did not start out well when they cancelled our flight at the last minute (Southwest). When we finally arrived at the ship we ... Read More
We chose this cruise as a replacement for the trip that we were to take last year when I ended up in the ER. Trip did not start out well when they cancelled our flight at the last minute (Southwest). When we finally arrived at the ship we were hungry and exhausted. We waited over 2 hours to be able to get to our room. We were very surprised when we saw how small the ship was and the fact that there was only 1 pool that could maybe hold 18 people at best. We never got to use the pool. My husband had always wanted to see Cuba which is why we took this trip. It would have been nice if the Cruise Line had told us that they had booked us a day in Cuba when everything was closed due to Holiday. Why would a cruise line book a day in a port where everything was closed? Unbelievable!!! This was supposed to be the high light of our trip. Our room was the smallest room that we have ever seen or been in, you could not even turn in the shower but the water was hot. Thank God. The Schoonover bar smelt like raw sewage for at least 2 days. I almost got sick from the smells. The food in dining room was about a 3. One night my ice cream was delivered to me soupy. I do not like to drink my ice cream. :(We were shorted our time in Key West. it started with 11 hours and ended up getting only 5 1/2 hours. felt very rushed. Thank God we had been there previously. The scheduled port times, the ship, the room and the food was the worst that we have ever had on any cruise that we been on. This girl may be done cruising. This was my 6th cruise and 4th with Royal. No longer Royal. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2019
We booked this cruise because one of the ports was Havana. We knew it was a smaller, older ship, so we knew what to expect. Some of the reviews we had read before we sailed complained about cleanliness and the food. Our experience was the ... Read More
We booked this cruise because one of the ports was Havana. We knew it was a smaller, older ship, so we knew what to expect. Some of the reviews we had read before we sailed complained about cleanliness and the food. Our experience was the opposite ! The ship was very clean, and the food was wonderful. There was one evening in the main dining room that I didn't like my appetizer ( nothing wrong with it....it was something I tried for the first time) Our server, Emile was only too happy to suggest something else I might like. ( which I did) He and all the ship staff were super friendly and helpful. We had a cabin with a window. We knew it would be small, but it was clean and very comfortable. We don't overpack when we travel, so we had plenty of room for our clothes and toiletries. The only " negative" things I can say is that the Wifi was very slow, and although the shower curtain was clean, it had seen better days. Our room attendant ( can't recall his name) was very friendly and efficient. ( he gave us his card so we could call him anytime we needed anything ) The cruise company can't control the weather or ocean conditions, so we knew there was a chance we wouldn't get to all our 3 ports, but we were blessed with beautiful weather and smooth sailing. Key West and Cozumel were nice , but Havana was the icing on the cake. We had done some research , so we had an idea of what to expect. Never pleasant to see poor living conditions and stray dogs and cats ( in Old Havana). A tour of the city in one of the many classic cars ( make sure it has a Taxi sticker) is a must. There are many drivers looking for fares, so you can bargain with them. It was very hot, and we didn't want a full hour, so we made a deal..... $40 for 45 minutes. The entertainment on the ship was wonderful ... very talented musicians, singers and dancers. There were lots of choices of things to do/participate in on the ship. ( take a hi lighter to make it easier), as the list for each day is lengthy in the daily newsletter, the Cruise Compass. We really enjoyed our experience on Empress of the Seas. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2019
We wanted to go to Cuba and I had always loved RC. However, this was the a terrible ship. The smell of sewage was overwhelming. During the disembark the crew blamed the smell on Keywest. If I weren't a local Floridan I might have ... Read More
We wanted to go to Cuba and I had always loved RC. However, this was the a terrible ship. The smell of sewage was overwhelming. During the disembark the crew blamed the smell on Keywest. If I weren't a local Floridan I might have believed them. Also, it didnt explain the gut wrenching smell on the 4th floor at sea. The room was a interior nightmare. The ceiling was multi-colored stained old smoke room. The Anniversary package we purchased was late and left a lot to be desired. The AC was broken , except for 1 night out of 5. The bathroom , had old scum on the walls and the previous guest hair hanging from the shower head - upon arrival. The carpet was definitely in need of replacement. The door handle to the bathroom had several screws sticking out - that took the crew 3 days to repair. Into say the room was a let down was completely and understatement. The whole room needs a scrub down and new paint The ports were excellent . Keywest, cozumel and Cuba. The excursions we had to cancel because of running late / lack of information were quickly resolved and the staff were very helpful. The pool bars and staff were overwhelmed and it showed. The crew is usually upbeat and get the party started. Unfortunately, this crew looked over worked and stressed. They weren't going out of their way to show a smile or make you feel important. The wind jammer had standard cruise buffet food. The only happy person was the washy-washy young lady. They guarded the ice cream machine with the smallest cones, I'd ever seen. My poor boyfriend resorted to getting two at a time. The main dining room was just blah... the crew again looked stressed and asked me to give a positive review. Just kinda hoped for more since I'm a seasoned cruiser and this was my boyfriend's 1st cruise. Read Less
8 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2019
Let’s begin with what I now regard as a “Bait & Switch” maneuver from RCCL. They sold us a “Best of Cuba” cruise with three ports in Cuba including Santiago de Cuba, Cienfuegos and an overnight in Havana. Santiago ... Read More
Let’s begin with what I now regard as a “Bait & Switch” maneuver from RCCL. They sold us a “Best of Cuba” cruise with three ports in Cuba including Santiago de Cuba, Cienfuegos and an overnight in Havana. Santiago has been closed since the middle of 2018. We booked our cruise with these three ports advertised, in November of 2018. We were not notified of the change in itinerary. We only discovered the new itinerary in March of this year during our early check-in process. Of course, Royal Caribbean covers themselves through their cruise contract that states that Itineraries are subject to change at any time. But they are still selling (to this very day) a port that they know full well is not available to their ships! I find that to be deceitful. So, after day 4 of an 8-day cruise, we reach our first Cuban port of Cienfuegos. The original itinerary had us docking at 7:00am and so we booked a private tour to Trinidad with that in mind. We docked at 8:00am and were told that tender tickets would not be handed out before 9:00am and we would not be disembarking until 10:00am. The cruise line contracts with tour companies on the island that are owned and operated by the Cuban government, so the Shore excursions get priority over everybody else. After pleading with the Crown and Anchor manager, Andy, (our Elite Captain’s club status on Celebrity transferred to Diamond status on RCCL) and meeting with the guest relations supervisor, and several other pleadings, they agreed to let us off around 8:30am. Other passengers weren’t so lucky. We met a couple who didn’t get off until 11:00am and their tour basically consisted of a ride to Trinidad where they met our guide, had lunch and returned to the ship. Total time ashore – 7 hours. Day 5 at sea. Around 4 am we heard an emergency alert over the PA system of the ship. Later that morning, we learned it was a medical emergency and that we would have to turn around and head for Grand Cayman to medivac a passenger. New ETA to Havana 3:00pm; 8 hours later than planned. Day 6 of this 8 days “Best of Cuba” cruise, we finally arrive in Havana at 4:00pm. With the same departure time set for the following day. Total time in port – 24hrs. We stood in line for one and a half hours at the gangway on deck 5 before we could disembark in Havana. We met our guide at 5:00pm, 8 hours later than planned so our whole day Havana tour turned into 4 hours. In total we were in port 32 hours out of an 8 day “Best of Cuba” cruise that was scheduled for three ports including one overnight. Now to the ship. The Empress of the Seas. We did our research and read the review. We lowered our expectations knowing that the cruise ship wasn’t the object of this cruise. The Itinerary was. We expected the staterooms to be small, perhaps not as small and cramped as they were as one cannot get in the bed without ducking under the bunk upon each side of the walls or turn around in the tiniest of showers. You can’t open the bathroom door and the closet at the same time. One blocks the other. So I’m not going to whine about size. It seems that Royal Caribbean has put no effort and no money into maintaining this vessel. The lounge chairs with their plastic straps are straight out of an old Vegas off-strip motel poolside. The entertainment and activities for three and a half sea days was disappointing. The food in the dining room and in the buffet was mediocre at best and repetitive. The menus were misleading as their dishes are misnamed and therefore underwhelming. If you’re going to call something a Vol au vent and present a flat piece of soggy pastry in sauce on a plate, be prepared to disappoint. Same with describing a rum soaked sponge cake and serving a dinner roll soaked in syrup masquerading as a Baba au rum. This was our fifteenth cruise. Our first on Royal Caribbean, and also our last. We talked with several other frequent cruisers of other cruise lines and they had the same reaction as we had. Never Again. Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2019
Do not go the dirtiest ship ever! Upon entry carpets stained in common areas as well as rooms, outside decks filthy, old ship with visible rust, Horrible food, filthy, no one speaks English or knows anything on ship, over 100 sick with ... Read More
Do not go the dirtiest ship ever! Upon entry carpets stained in common areas as well as rooms, outside decks filthy, old ship with visible rust, Horrible food, filthy, no one speaks English or knows anything on ship, over 100 sick with virus that started many cruises before and has gotten worse as time went on, decks 6/7/8 smelled of sewer water for over 3 days. They knowingly had viruses from past cruises and still did not clean nor sanitize ship! This was told to me by medical staff. The worst cruise we have ever taken. They also try to buckle and dine you to death! Cocktails run 15.00 plus!! Most upscale restaurants do not charge that much for mixed drinks. Changed port to Cozumel that was surpassed to be Sante go de Cuba. This was a Cuban cruise which was advertised this way with that port even though they have not been there for over 8 months but knowing continued to advertise as such!! DO NOT GO!! Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2019
I want to start this review with the statement that my wife and I are very hard to discourage on a cruise. We have cruise 19 times on many different cruise lines and yes some of them are LOW. Embarkation & Disembarkation, we ... Read More
I want to start this review with the statement that my wife and I are very hard to discourage on a cruise. We have cruise 19 times on many different cruise lines and yes some of them are LOW. Embarkation & Disembarkation, we arrived at 11 am, but we had a check in time for 12 30. They let us move right on in and check in was smooth and easy like always. Dis, we do express all the time, so we took our luggage down to the Theater and between 7 45 & 8 30 we were off the ship. Great. First, The Ship, I want to say, Yes the ship is old and small, but for getting around the ship was nice and quick. Yes were things that need fixing, and touch up, but what old things don't. Food, we don’t really like eating in the dinning room so I can’t really talk about that (we don’t like dressing up). On this cruise we ate in the Windjammer all the time. We like the variety of foods and if it wasn’t up to our taste, we went and got something else. But it seem that everything we picked up was very good. I also want to let you know that out of all the cruises or most of them, you need to try the “Fish Fingers” with the tartar sauces. Lite and fluffy, WOW. Who ever is the baker on that ship is doing a great job. They had a Large Cake just about every night, real Ice Cream !!! You got to try !!!! Over all we enjoyed all the foods and we did not go Home hungry. Entertainment, we went to a couple of the Head Liner, first day Andy Woodhull (okay), Juggling Randy Cabral (Great), Louis Johnson Comedy (Great), Jeff Tracta, singer/Impressionist (Great) Port Shopping, Cozumel, we”be been there about a half dozen times so we did nothing there. Cienfuegos Cuba, Royal Excursion, Cienfuegos Tobacco, small port, small town, we were the only ones in port and we thought that everyone else would be doing different parts of the town. NO, there were waiting lines on every tour we stopped at ??? 4-5 buses ?? I don’t think this was really planned out well by the Tour Guides. Nice to see everything about 3 to 4 times as you drive around. As we got back we didn’t have that much time to shop. Which was okay with us. We would have like to, but. We would have gone right to Havana but we had a “Heath Emergency” and go out to Carmen’s to deliver him to the hospital. So we spent the next day traveling to Carmen’s. Havana Cuba, My wife and I did not take an excursion. We decided to just go out on the town. We had from 4 pm one day to 4 pm the next. Our main thing was to get some Rum and Cigars. Rum, I will tell you try NOT to buy from the Hotels there prices are just a little bit higher a couple of CUC. Try to buy from the local stores, seem to be lower. Cigars & some Rums, I would Highly recommend this Cigar store in this Hotel, #24, Conde De Villanueva. Store, Trends De Habanos, I will tell you that it was by far the cheapest we found after walking all around. It was one of the taxi drivers that turn us on to it. Box of Chiba, 4 Romeo’s, and a couple of bottles of Havana 3, 7, 15. If you want to try some local foods you will have the opportunity any where in OLD Havana, and you can’t go wrong any where. Casino on Ship, YES, it’s small and very tight in some places to just to get to a seat. There were just 6 Video Poker machine, all were .25. I can honestly say that it was a VERY tight week, Yes we hit a couple of things at different times but that did not pay for the week. TIGHT !!! Most of the other cruises we have gone on they were just a little looser. Lots of Penny machines. Over all review, We enjoyed the cruise for the relaxation any where we wanted to go and do nothing. We seen Cuba had some great foods in Havana for 24 CuC. Yes, I would go back for a second visit just to eat some other stuff and get more Cigars & Rum. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2019
After promising three stops in Cuban Ports, Royal Caribbean promptly cancelled one port about three days after the final payment was made. When asked about cancelling the trip or taking a credit on another cruise, I was told sorry, ... Read More
After promising three stops in Cuban Ports, Royal Caribbean promptly cancelled one port about three days after the final payment was made. When asked about cancelling the trip or taking a credit on another cruise, I was told sorry, "you can cancel, but you will not get a refund". After taking at least 20 cruises on many different cruise lines, this one ranks as the worst. The food was barely edible. The food on the buffet was generally cold and when I brought it to their attention, they found a legion of middle managers who apologized profusely and then did nothing about it. In Cienfuegos, the crew was totally unprepared to handle the tender disembarking and return.They shuttled passengers back and forth with two small tenders. At least 1500 passengers were left outside in a pouring rain for two hours while they slowly brought people back to the ship. The only shelter from the rain was crowded with the ship staff. The passengers were so upset about conditions on this ship that they were yelling at the MC on the evening show. I would not recommend Royal Caribbean based on this experience. The ship is old but and poorly maintained, but if the ship was managed better, it would have been a much better experience. We have been to Cuba on other cruise ships and had a very enjoyable time. I agree with other customers. Choose another cruise line! Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: April 2019
I was very upset that RCI cancelled one of the Cuban ports and switched it to Cozumel (along with 1500 other people). I really, really liked Cuba. I liked the small ship but I'm not a huge cruise fan and I do not like the mega-ships ... Read More
I was very upset that RCI cancelled one of the Cuban ports and switched it to Cozumel (along with 1500 other people). I really, really liked Cuba. I liked the small ship but I'm not a huge cruise fan and I do not like the mega-ships so that's just personal preference. I met so many nice people because the ship was small. :-) The staff were generally very nice and helpful. I did not care for the dining room food - it was just blah. The volume of the music on the pool deck is too loud!!!!! The entertainment was good though the regular singers/dancers were "okay". Loved the coffee package as I am a coffee lover. If you know it is the oldest and smallest ship and you accept that, then you will have a really nice trip. The Chichen Itza excursion is not worth it. We were there for only one hour at high noon. The Botanical Gardens excursion in Cienfuegos was very nice. The Free Havana Walking Tour I found on TA in Havana was EXCELLENT! Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2019
I, like many of my shipmates, chose this cruise specifically because it visited three Cuban ports: Cienfuegos, Santiago de Cuba, and Havana. As MANY others have noted in previous reviews, RCI advertises these ports, knowing full well that ... Read More
I, like many of my shipmates, chose this cruise specifically because it visited three Cuban ports: Cienfuegos, Santiago de Cuba, and Havana. As MANY others have noted in previous reviews, RCI advertises these ports, knowing full well that for at least the past six months, they cannot port in Santiago. They continue to advertise three Cuban ports, and then literally as soon as final payments are paid, the RCI website is updated to show that in fact you won't be visiting Santiago: the ship will stop somewhere else instead. In our case, it was Cozumel, Mexico. Since most Caribbean cruisers have been to Cozumel before, this wasn't a particularly attractive alternative. RCI doesn't do its guests the courtesy of notifying them of this change. I only found out via the CruiseCritic roll call for the cruise. So if you are interested in this cruise, be forewarned: you will probably NOT visit three ports in Cuba. There was, for us, only one positive about this cruise: the crew. With the exception of the cruise director (whom none of us saw at any point in the 7-day cruise, even being out and about all the time!), the crew were friendly, helpful and really just an amazing bunch of people. They made up for many (but not all) of the many shortcomings of this ship (and RCI in general.) MANY NEGATIVES: where to begin? Let's start with the cabin. We had an inside (see below). Another problem? The food is average AT BEST: and often downright bad. We're not fussy by any means, but of the seven meals, 3 of them were awful (we couldn't even eat them), 2 meals were mediocre, and only 2 were average in taste and quality. Our dining room waiters did their best: always asking if we wanted something else, and so on, but we don't like to waste food, so we just figured (on several nights) to have a bit of a "fast"..... The dining rooms (both the main Starlight areas and the Windjammer buffet) are horribly overcrowded, with tables pushed so close together that you literally had your neighbors' chairs up against the backs of yours. They are also VERY understaffed: they need at least 50% more servers in both areas. We like to talk with our servers and get to know them a bit, but they were so busy that they rarely had time to even slow down, much less stop! The swimming pool is a joke. First of all, it's a uniform depth of 1,80m (a bit over six feet). It is VERY small and because it has no shallow area, older people tend to just sit on the edge with their legs in the water. This makes getting into and out of the pool a real challenge, and once you're in the pool, you have to keep swimming, because you can't stop anywhere on the sides (with all those dangling legs!) Maybe 20 people (if they crowd close together) can sit around the sides, and only 10 or so can "swim" (by which I mean tread water in a very confined space.) Finally, it's a salt-water pool, so if (like us) you don't care for salt-water pools, you won't enjoy this one. We went in on the first day and never went back: it was always very crowded. The casino onboard has an interesting two-level design, which we liked. There are a couple of things you need to know about the casino, however. First of all, it is completely non-smoking. Not a problem for us, but for many, this will be a disappointment. The other thing we didn't care for was the fact that about 75% of the slot machines are old: and I mean 20+ years old! Some of them still use coins, believe it or not, that's how old they are! Many have buttons that don't work, or are out of order for "maintenance". If you plan on playing the slots, you cannot charge to your "SeaPass" card. You have three options: bring cash (USD) with you; use the ATM to get money (for a $6.95 fee); or go to the cashier and charge it to your SeaPass (for a 5% fee). So if you are going to get more than $107 to gamble with, use the ATM. The fee is actually better than getting it at the cashier's. Generally, though, we were bored with the selection of machines after 2 days. Honestly, going to this casino is like going to a small "locals" casino in Las Vegas: lots of old, tired machines, and really low payouts. Another irritating aspect of this cruise is the way RCI has two levels of customer service when it comes to shore excursions. This is particularly true in Cuba. If you are booked on an RCI excursion, you get off the ship first. But if you have made independent plans, tough luck. You have to wait on the ship until all of RCI's "customers" (as they put it) have left the ship. Then you can go (unless you are in Cienfuegos: then you have to get a "tender ticket" and wait even longer for your turn.) So for example, we arrived in Havana at 0700. Because we had private tours, we couldn't get off the ship until 0930. So you may want to schedule any private tours for later in the morning (i.e. when it's getting hotter!) because if you had an 0900 tour, you'd probably miss it in Havana. We did one ship excursion, the "Chichen Itza Mixed Reality" tour from Cozumel. We had not been to Chichen Itza, and it's a long trip, so we thought a ship tour was safer in terms of getting back in time. The description of the tour is quite a bit different from the reality: the virtual reality they offer is in fact a slide show on a tablet, that you do with the guide on the long bus ride to the site. The guide and driver were excellent, but we only had 90 minutes at the site, out of an 8-hour excursion. As to the Cuban ports, the town center of Cienfuegos is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, though I honestly can't imagine why, unless perhaps UNESCO felt like Cuba ought to have a site or two. The best way to see the "sights" in Cienfuegos is to hop on the little Transtur tourist (covered open-air) train that departs every 45 minutes or so from the pier. It's a 40-minute tour, costs 5 CUC (Cuban convertible pesos), and makes a lengthy stop at Jose Marti Square (where all the "UNESCO" sites are located.) Then it continues on to Punta Gorda, where all the rich government officials and other revolutionaries live, and goes past some of the beautiful old hotels and the Palacio Valle and along the Malecon. You can walk to Jose Marti Square from the pier, but many of the roads are rough, unpaved, and you have to run the gauntlet of touts selling pedi-cab or horse-drawn carriage or "classic car" tours. We found Havana to be amazingly underwhelming, and certainly not deserving of the hype we'd read before our trip. Again, a few well-maintained (tourist-oriented) streets surround by squalid, dirty, rather smelly neighborhoods with decaying buildings and a lot of poor people living the socialist dream. No, we're not political at all, but the irony to us (as Europeans) of the failure of the revolutionary ideals was very sad. Embarkation and disembarkation were fairly lengthy experiences. Long lines, long waits, and once you did get on the ship, all of the cabin areas were closed off, with signs saying, "Cabins will be available after 1330." Our luggage did not arrive until just before dinner. RCI transfers are a joke. At disembarkation, we did "self-assist" so as to catch the schedule 0815 transfer to Fort Lauderdale airport. We waited in line for 30 minutes, then finally got off the ship and walked to the bus. We sat on the bus for 90 minutes before leaving at 1000! The ship itself is old and very tired, despite the fact that it just came out of a "refurbishment" at the end of March 2019. We couldn't see much that looked like it had been upgraded or updated: perhaps they just put in more tables and chairs in the dining areas, and renovated the cabins for the officers and the cruise director. To us, Empress of the Seas seemed like a ship that needs to be completely rebuilt, possibly for one of the luxury lines. It certainly is nothing more than a cash cow for RCI, because they don't seem to be spending any money on facilities or crew. Read Less
Empress of the Seas Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 3.0 0.0
Dining 3.0 0.0
Entertainment 3.0 0.0
Public Rooms 4.0 0.0
Fitness Recreation 2.5 0.0
Family 2.0 0.0
Shore Excursion 4.5 0.0
Enrichment 4.0 0.0
Service 4.5 0.0
Value For Money 4.0 0.0

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