2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2019
We originally booked this cruise with the sole purpose of going to Cuba. Like most other reviews have stated, the laws changed and the itinerary was changed to a 6 day Western Caribbean, which we were fine with. We received 50% of our ... Read More
We originally booked this cruise with the sole purpose of going to Cuba. Like most other reviews have stated, the laws changed and the itinerary was changed to a 6 day Western Caribbean, which we were fine with. We received 50% of our cruise fare back, which was more than generous for still being able to go on the full trip. Flash forward to 2 days before our departure. Hurricane Dorian was on track to hit Florida directly, so Royal Caribbean shortened our trip by 3 days (leaving on the following Wednesday now rather than Sunday.) While we were disappointed, we understood the safety concerns and decided to sail anyway since they stated they would give us a refund for the 3 days we missed, and a future cruise credit. I'll go ahead and get the negatives out of the way (none having to do with the actual ship.) While we were thankful for the refunds, they did not inform the Empress passengers on what that refund would actually look like. On the first day of the trip, the guest services attendant stated we were getting two 50% refunds based on the original cruise fare, basically meaning we got a 100% refund. We were ecstatic. However, on the last night, we learned that Empress passengers got a refund based on the already refunded trip from the Cuba change. So for missing 3 days of our cruise, we received less than $200 back, and our cruise credit was in the same amount. Obviously there isn't any 3 day cruises you can book for under $200. We tried not to be greedy, but we felt that the compensation was misrepresented between different RC staff. We are overall satisfied with the compensation, especially since both circumstances were out of RC's control, but the communication (or lack thereof) made it confusing and frustrating. The ship itself is very well maintained. It is very small, but the layout is different than any other RC I've been on. There is an ocean view in almost every common area, which made it beautiful. The pool is small, and I could see that it would be an issue for a full sailing (we only had 600 on board, so it was perfect for us.) Most of the loungers are in the sun. I wish there were a few in the shade. The pool bar and the attendants walking around were on point. Drinks were much stronger and tasted better than on any other ship. The crew was absolutely phenomenal. I was surprised with how many crew members remembered our names right off the bat, our drink orders, etc. Friendly, talkative, and didn't seem frazzled and overworked like I've seen other crews on other ships. The Chops Grille promoters were pretty pushy, but we ended up booking since we had a cruise credit and finally understood the hype. We had a great experience. The food was amazing, service was very personal, and we didn't have to share a table with strangers. I told my boyfriend that we would have to budget for a night at Chops for every cruise in the future. I'd definitely recommend checking it out. Main dining room and Windjammer were above average compared to other RC ships. The main dining room has a wonderful view with a ton of windows at the back of the ship. If you can, try to go to dinner around sunset. The view is spectacular! We also utilized the spa. There was no sauna or steam room, unfortunately. I booked a massage with seaweed detox, and my boyfriend booked a haircut. My massage was unreal and incredibly relaxing. If you ever find yourself with a large cruise credit, the spa is certainly the place to use it! They do try to sell you some products at the end, which kind of throws off the zen you just spent 100 minutes trying to achieve, but at the end of the day I would absolutely recommend investing in the spa services. They're overpriced, but you're on vacation! :-) Our cabin was decently sized. Small bathroom. Cruise cabins are meant to be tiny, so we weren't bothered. Not a lot of storage space on this ship. Bring an over the door shoe hanger, it saved our sanity on this boat! We booked a forward, ocean view cabin. Since the ship is smaller, we felt MAJOR effects of the hurricane winds. I could feel the waves much more significantly on this boat. If you are prone to sea sickness, it's important to book a mid cabin on this ship since it's so small! Entertainment was fun. They had a solo singer that was great (Lou Gazzarra), a pretty decent comedian, and a great cast for the shows. Trivia was kind of clumsy, but always a good time. The casino was laid out differently than any other ship (split between two decks). What I loved about this ship was that it was a non-smoking casino since it wasn't necessarily contained. We spent a lot more time in there due to that fact alone. Despite its size, I don't feel like we would've been bored if we had the full 6 days (which I was originally worried about) We didn't do any shore excursions since we've been to Nassau more times than we can count. We looked in to it, but they were way overpriced for what you got. We noticed the sewage smell on the lower decks (outside, mostly), but I wouldn't say it was overwhelming. Just normal for a cruise, to us. Overall we had a great experience on the ship and would have loved for it to have been the full 6 days! Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2019
I was in a oceanview with 3 people. Two twin beds and bunks. The room was smaller than other ships but liveable. Dont expect to stay in the room and watch anything worth watching on t.v. Getting on the ship took a little longer because ... Read More
I was in a oceanview with 3 people. Two twin beds and bunks. The room was smaller than other ships but liveable. Dont expect to stay in the room and watch anything worth watching on t.v. Getting on the ship took a little longer because we were early. Got off a little late but we were able to sit in the theater until they called our tag number. Once they did, it was pretty smooth. The food: Breakfast was mostly not great. bacon is disappointing. Even the sit down is just ok. The one great plus is the Brunch in the main dining on sea day. They give a complimentary mimosa or bloody Mary. Lunch in the Windjammer is just ok. The pizza and the french fries are actually good. The nachos were good also. Dinner in the main dining is good. The appetizers I had that were yummy are shrimp cocktail, shrimp ceviche, escargot. The 2 main dish that were really good are beef tenderloin and pork chops. They had a lobster tail night!! This is not offered on some ships. I ordered two. Do not miss Caribbean night in Windjammer for dinner. That was the only night we did not do sit down dining. The jamaican dishes were authentic. Oxtail , rice and peas(beans), plantains, jerk pork, jerk chicken, curry chicken(more Indian style). The oxtail was excellent. The coffee is excellent! if you like strong coffee. One negative is that food ends at 1:30 a.m. But they do have chicken wings on the late night buffet. that was surprising. they were pretty good. Music - The piano bar guy was just ok. The DJ was just ok. I mean he played some great tunes but he was not consistently good. You will be able to get an hour of good dancing. I guess I wanted 3 hours. There was a good band that played some good reggae. Getting around the ship was easy. They do a great job with safety drill. It was quick and instructions were clear. Staff was friendly I dont normally go to shows so I cant rate them. The casino is small but laid out nicely. Not many of the popular games. One disappointing thing- they dont have a basketball court or the basketball throw game in the game room. So to summarize... I would sail Empress again if the price is right, for the following reasons: Caribbean food night (oxtails) Complim. mimosa/bloody mary brunch on sea day Lobster tail night Chicken wings on late night buffet Read Less
Sail Date: June 2019
We chose this cruise, and the small ship, because of the Cuba itinerary. 11 days before we were scheduled to sail, the new US restrictions were put in place. Royal Caribbean did a great job coming up with an alternate itinerary with three ... Read More
We chose this cruise, and the small ship, because of the Cuba itinerary. 11 days before we were scheduled to sail, the new US restrictions were put in place. Royal Caribbean did a great job coming up with an alternate itinerary with three stops in the Eastern Caribbean on short notice, although the time for arrival in San Juan changed only a few days prior. This left us unable to do the activity that we had planned, and when we got on board (since we were within the window where we could no longer book online), most of the shore excursions in San Juan were already sold out. We were able to take the "St. Johns on your own" tour from St. Thomas where you were able to climb aboard a chartered ferry "Island Girl" over to St. John. The guide on board was terrific and the convenience of leaving right from where the ship docked, rather than having to go over to red hook to catch the ferry, was terrific! Embarkation at the Port was a breeze, but the common areas felt overcrowded and chaotic until rooms were opened. The ship definitely had a smaller feel, with smaller cabins and less amenities, but the smaller ship also seemed to lead to more of an intimate feel, both with getting to know other passengers and interactions with the ship staff. In terms of activities, the ship entertainment staff had a full schedule offered (trivia, dance classes, games, etc.) that would rival other ships we have been on. There were several headliner shows, but mostly comedians, with some being better than others. There were only a couple of nights put on by the ships entertainment crew themselves. (Perhaps it was a longer itinerary than most for this ship, or due to the itinerary change.) In general, the food was excellent! The head chef was the most present that we have seen on any ship. In addition to seeing him on the Galley tour, we saw him walking through Windjammer and Starlight Dining room at different times of the day throughout the cruise. Our biggest disappointment with the food was our dining experience at Chops. Although we have enjoyed Chops on other ships, our steaks were overcooked and our waiter was absent during this dining experience. The Bottomless Brunch and Galley tour was a fun sea day activity and it was interesting to see the full operation. We had the filets from Chops (much better cooked this time), but to our dismay, the same absent waiter. The head waiter in starlight noticed and quickly made sure that our table, and the others he was serving, were accommodated. We have come to have very high expectations of dining service on Royal Caribbean ships and our first few nights on board we had servers that were pleasant, but nothing exceptional. When we were sat with Eri and Charles on night five, they were so exemplary that we asked the hostess to seat us with them the rest of the cruise. Eri described food with such a passion that you were he got everyone excited about the food before your first taste. Charles remembered personal details about your dining preferences that made you feel like a regular in your favorite restaurant. Staff members like these made the experience! Our last hours on board were a little hectic as a medical emergency caused an unplanned stop in Nassau on our final evening. While this stop seemed to be executed very well (we were in and out of Nassau in 20 minutes), the delayed arrival back into Miami seemed to cause disembarkation chaos. The staff assisting seemed overwhelmed and several of them left the theater while one person tried alternating trying to sing songs in the microphone, and ask trivia questions, while guests were seeking out information due to the change. Read Less
7 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2019
This was my 63rd cruise, itinerary is usually my main focus and wanting to visit Cuba there was only a few ship offerings. I have always had very good experiences sailing RCL and despite the numerous negative reviews and the size of the ... Read More
This was my 63rd cruise, itinerary is usually my main focus and wanting to visit Cuba there was only a few ship offerings. I have always had very good experiences sailing RCL and despite the numerous negative reviews and the size of the “Empress” I decide to give it a try, lucky my sailing was the last Cuba sailing before the new travel restrictions were put into place. Having recently sailed the mega ships the boarding process could not have been any easier. Navigating the ship is fairly easy and the hub of activity is on decks 5 and 6. Even-tough this is a small ship I found lots to do as there are numerous activities throughout the day. In the evening there was two venues with music and the usual fill of activities to participate. There were a number of bars, but “Balleros” was my main hangout plus the music was very good. I ate in main dining room , windjammer and the only specialty restaurant Chops, all were very good to excellent. Staff and service throughout were amazing. Even tough this was a small ship I never felt any rocking throughout the voyage. I did encounter that sewage smell on mid deck 8, but it was occasional. My only complaint was the cabin(the worst in 63 cruises.. but more below). Overall, the Empress is an underrated ship, it has much to offer, food, activities, staff and yes character. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2019
We chose this cruise to go with a group of friends. The Ship: was nice for the most part. It was comfortable to be on. It generally handled the sea state pretty well. It was nice to not have to walk forever to get from one end to the ... Read More
We chose this cruise to go with a group of friends. The Ship: was nice for the most part. It was comfortable to be on. It generally handled the sea state pretty well. It was nice to not have to walk forever to get from one end to the other. The age of the ship did show though in some public areas. We went on the All Access tour and saw many of the behind the scenes areas. In general, the ship looked well cared for. Controls looked somewhat dated but that's fine since they seemed to work well. The Cabin: Here the disadvantage of an older ship shows. The cabin was small and had only a window. The general condition of the cabin was fine. The bathroom was tiny with a little shower tucked into a corner. You almost had to leave the door open to sit on the toilet. But the shower worked well and seemed to be in very good condition. Dining: Hmmm... Hit and miss. Some of the food was awful. Prime rib was the right color but missed badly on texture and taste. Beef medallions were the same. They did not taste roasted. Lobster bisque was horrific. Chicken was good. Most desserts were quite good. Pork was good and fish was fine. Civiche seemed to be just a kind of shrimp cocktail. The food in the buffet was generally OK if but over cooked. All that said, it wouldn't stop me from taking the ship again. Didn't pay any attention to the entertainment or activities. Service: Excellent all around Ports and Shore Excursions: Ports were good even if to almost seems 70% of the cruises I go in have stopped in Cozumel. Key West was good but the highlight of the cruise was the stop in Havana. The shore excursion of Old Havana was great. We got to see how Cubans actually live. Our tour guide was very open about conditions in Cuba and did not stray into politics or propaganda. I'd love to go back but, as Americans, we can't. WiFi: Hit and miss. Some areas of the ship had great wifi but in the cabin it worked ok for 1 device and poorly for the other. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2019
Empress of the Seas is an older and smaller ship in the Royal Caribbean fleet. The ship was very well maintained. Rooms are very small by todays standards but they are functional. The food and service was up to Royal Caribbean ... Read More
Empress of the Seas is an older and smaller ship in the Royal Caribbean fleet. The ship was very well maintained. Rooms are very small by todays standards but they are functional. The food and service was up to Royal Caribbean standards. Very nice to have a ship that played Caribbean music by the pool when in the Caribbean. Making guests check out towels for pool and returning them worked real well. If some one left the pool they picked up the towels rather than leave them. That way you always knew if a lounge bed was available. Even on sea days this made lounges available by the pool all day. Life guards were great at keeping glass bottles from being taken into pool. No problem getting tables for 2 at anytime dining. Casino was small but adequate. Use of shuffling machines, 6 to 5 black jack payouts and no even money on black jack at black jack tables below $25 minimum is the main complaint. Missed diamond club area, which is not available on the ship. Biggest complaint was the lack of dress code enforcement at the main dining. People were admitted in shorts, tee shirts and tank tops, even on casual sheik night. Don't have a dress code if you're going to allow anything. A lot to see in Havana. Like stepping back in time 70 years. People were friendly. Felt very safe. Very clean. Easy to come and go through customs. Visa was easy with Royal Caribbean @ $75. Cigars were a great bargain. Make sure you buy in a national store or factory or you probably will get counterfeits. Price is the same in all stores. Know how to get to a store. They don't have easily noticed signs. You must use CUC Cuban money. Exchange rate for American money will cost you 13%. It will cost you 4% to change the money back to American. If you have Euro's or Canadian it is even. Exchange is fast and easy right at the cruise pier. Old Havana Heritage Walking Excursion booked with RC was good. It covered pretty much all of old Havana. We weren't happy that they added a bus portion to the tour. We were only told about this when our tickets arrived on board. We didn't want the bus tour but had to take it. It took up an hour of the tour. Cost $62 per person. Cafe Taberna Excursion booked with RC was good. Cost was $98 per person. 10 minute walk from cruise terminal. Nice show from 9:00 to 11:00 with band and dance couple that gets audience involved. 2 drinks and snack were included. Food is available at additional cost. Can get a little boring after 1 hour or so, especially if you don't know the language. You can leave and walk back to ship at any time if you want. Cuba's Classic Cars excursion booked through Vacations To Go, who we booked cruise through, cost $178 for 2 people and lasted about 3 hours. Very nice tour. Viewed most of the Havana Cuba highlights with stops at Revolution Square and Hotel Nacional. Half the cost of similar tour through cruise ship. All convertible cars were provided. Guide spoke English well. He was quite informative. Hotel Nacional was a great stop. Improvements to tour could be a little more time at hotel. Felt a little rushed at that stop. Tour included alcoholic drink at hotel. Meeting location was perfect. Easy to find and guides were there on time. A little disappointed with the fact that tour requires 4 per car. We were a couple and would have liked a car for 2. Maybe an option could be provided for this. If you just want to ride in the classic cars, there are plenty available outside of pier. You can rent them at $40 - $50 per hour for up to 4 people. Read Less
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
5 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
6 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
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
Sail Date: March 2019
Disappointed in not making the third port of call in Cuba. Also the fluctuation of times for port arrival and departures. Overall experience was good. We found that having brunch in the dining room very strange and unwarranted. The Wind ... Read More
Disappointed in not making the third port of call in Cuba. Also the fluctuation of times for port arrival and departures. Overall experience was good. We found that having brunch in the dining room very strange and unwarranted. The Wind Jammer was a full time buffet so why have a buffet in the dining room. We went to be waited on not go to another buffet. All excursions booked off ship were excellent. However, we felt we were being penalized for not utilizing the Royal Caribbean excursion booking. Lauren of Blexie Tours in Havana was excellent as was Angel Molina (Chichi), our tour guide in Cienfuegos and Trinidad. Their knowledge of the areas and the history made the tour very exciting and educational. We highly recommend both of these tour guides. We really enjoyed the headliners especially the comedians. The adult only shows were very funny and we all had a great time. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: March 2019
I wanted this cruise because of the three stops in Cuba. I was very disappointed when one stop was eliminated. The ship is old, but well maintained. The staff was great as was the food and cleanliness. I'm really into the ... Read More
I wanted this cruise because of the three stops in Cuba. I was very disappointed when one stop was eliminated. The ship is old, but well maintained. The staff was great as was the food and cleanliness. I'm really into the entertainment and the stuff in the main room was excellent. I wish there was more music thru-out the ship. The worst part was the internet and the TV. They kept blaming the satellite, but that didn't seem like the issue. I'm used to being able to pick several movies to watch on the TV and that wasn't an option. Also March Madness was on and most of the time you could not get those channels. The cabins were small with little storage. The shower would probably be a challenge for a large person to maneuver. We were traveling with two people who have mobility issues and the smaller ship was a plus. The staff was very helpful. We even used wheelchairs to get on and off the ship. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: March 2019
Once we got through the craziness of getting our bags taken by the porters and then checking in which didn't take long we were welcomed onboard. Cuba here we come.It doesn't take us long to see that the crew love their little ... Read More
Once we got through the craziness of getting our bags taken by the porters and then checking in which didn't take long we were welcomed onboard. Cuba here we come.It doesn't take us long to see that the crew love their little ship.We had a oceanview room which was small but was understandable due to its age.Both the dining room and the windjammer served up good meals which we enjoyed.The nightly shows were good entertainment which we appreciate how much work and effort they put in.The arrival into Havana was very picturesque from both sides of the ship.All the colours of the convertible cars was something to see.We walked around the streets on day one and then we had a full day tour on day two.It was everything we imagined it to be.Full of smiling faces and colour and interesting buildings. Our night parisian cabaret show was well organised but very crowded. But well worth it to see the wonderful costumes and singers and dancers.Alas all things come to an end and we have to say goodbye to what was a lovely time on the 'empress'. Read Less
8 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2019
The itinerary for this 7 day cruise originally included stops in Havana, Santiago, Nassau and Cococay (Royal Caribbean's private island). Two weeks prior to sailing, the stop in Santiago was cancelled and an overnight stay in Havana ... Read More
The itinerary for this 7 day cruise originally included stops in Havana, Santiago, Nassau and Cococay (Royal Caribbean's private island). Two weeks prior to sailing, the stop in Santiago was cancelled and an overnight stay in Havana was substituted. While we were disappointed, all in all it worked out fairly well with the exception of our dinner reservations. Specifically, with the unexpected overnight stay in Havana, we asked the Maitre d' to change our late seating to an "anytime" seating just for one night so that we could leave the ship for an early show at the Tropicana in Havana. For some reason, they couldn't accommodate us. I must say, however, that the entertainment on the Empress of the Seas was terrific! Their nightly shows included dancers, a magician and a comedian. In our opinion, the shows were even better than what we saw at the expensive Tropicana! Lastly, the ship is a little smaller than what we were used to, carrying less than 1800 passengers and crew. While the stateroom was a bit tight, we found this small size to be very comfortable, almost quaint, and easy to get around! Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2019
The ship was okay, but you already know it's their oldest and smallest. Entertainment was mediocre when it came to stage shows, but the magician, comedian and Stephanie Parks were all great. If you have cruised mega ships, this ... Read More
The ship was okay, but you already know it's their oldest and smallest. Entertainment was mediocre when it came to stage shows, but the magician, comedian and Stephanie Parks were all great. If you have cruised mega ships, this will be a real come down, but it's "okay". And just "okay". Lower your expectations, focus on Cuba and you'll be fine. Coco Cay was good fun, but Atlantis was disappointing. Food was average at all locations, not terrible but nothing to write home about. Stevo our attendant was great and the staff was uniformly pleasant, it's just a smaller older boat. Passport control in Cuba was strange. They photographed checked everyone on day one, but on day two the booths were empty and everyone walked in unchecked. Same with customs going out. No one asked (until you got to the US) what you brought back from there. Havana CLub bar is a lot of fun and close to the ship. The old car tour with Alex was also awesome. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: December 2018
I chose this cruise because I wanted to sail on a cruise for New Years (which I do often with my husband) plus, this year I wanted to go somewhere I’ve never been-Cuba. So, we chose the Empress. Warning: if you are a modern cruiser where ... Read More
I chose this cruise because I wanted to sail on a cruise for New Years (which I do often with my husband) plus, this year I wanted to go somewhere I’ve never been-Cuba. So, we chose the Empress. Warning: if you are a modern cruiser where you expect to experience a Disney type of ship with rides, slides or roller skating rinks, don’t go on the Empress. If you are someone who loves the ocean, loves sailing and enjoys classic style cruising, this cruise is for you. I’ve been on over 50 cruises. I’m an avid cruiser. First, I booked an ocean view cabin and about 4 weeks before sailing, I received an e-mail from RCCL about an auction for an upgrade to a junior suite. So I did it, I bid $1000 and got a great junior suite 9126. The best thing about this cruise was our cabin. It had a spacious balcony, a lot of space, a great bed, a small walk in closet, a small couch area and a roomy bathroom. It was well worth it. We slept well and truly relaxed. Also, our cabin steward was superb. The next best thing about this cruise is the staff. Bobby, the cruise director is great. Our waiters were wonderful-Melvin and Ma. The enfire staff is professional, warm and friendly. The ship is clean and inviting. The food was delicious. NOW CUBA- it is not for everyone. We were 2 days in Havana. Food and basic nutrition in Cuba is non-existent. Best tip for you- eat on the ship. My first day in Havana I was afraid. I was lost and did not know what to do so we set off walking into Old Havana. Some streets are breathtaking but other streets look like a war zone. My best advice for Havana is hire the prettiest old car right when you get out of the port. For $40 an hour they will give you the most amazing tour of the REAL Havana and you will not regret it. About 4 people fit in the car and 3-4 hours is more than enough for an all encompassing and thorough tour of the real Havana. Do not be afraid. The people are friendly. Everyone on cruise was complaining that the cruise excursions were not worth the price. We ended up having a splendid and unforgettable day 2 in Havana. In Grand Cayman, there’s no need to splurge. The swimming area right by the tender / dock (walking distance) shopping area and is a nice swimming, snorkel area. Don’t go to Calico Jacks or anywhere else. Those areas are overcrowded and not worth it. Grand Cayman is clean and pretty. Back on the Empress, I recommend the sushi making class BUT here is my TIP: buy one class which is enough for two or even three people and they let you share. The class makes so much sushi enough to share with 2 other people. A couple can take turns making the different types of rolls and so on. What I didn’t like about the Empress was that there is an odor on the port side of the ship like ballast water. The bon voyage party was exactly like the white hot party-boring. They need new activities. They have the same ole love n marriage show, Quest. The bingo was lame as well. Read Less
7 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2018
This was a good cruise. People have to understand your not going on a mega ship. ALSO this is not a cruise to take with 16-20 year olds, UNLESS they are truly into visiting Cuba. There is no disco club, sports deck (other than rock wall) ... Read More
This was a good cruise. People have to understand your not going on a mega ship. ALSO this is not a cruise to take with 16-20 year olds, UNLESS they are truly into visiting Cuba. There is no disco club, sports deck (other than rock wall) and only one small pool. We did not go to key west as there was an accident earlier in the month closing part of the port so we were changed to an overnight in Havana The food was excellent both in the MDR and Windjammer. Again, this is not a mega ship. The cabins reflect the ships age.. No balconies, except for suites. The cabins are small as are the bathrooms and showers. There is not a lot of technology like on the newer ships. The staff was very friendly and bent over backwards to make sure you were happy. Dinner in the MDR was very good. There was a Cuban themed menu every night along with the classics. Windjammer had it usual fare. It is smaller and a bit more crazy especially on days when everyone wants to get off the ship, but they had a great choice of dishes. The gym, if you can call it that, looks like an add on above the Viking Lounge. Small and lacking equipment. Overall it was a great time. This cruise is about going to Cuba. If you have teens who want to party and play sports this is not the ship for you. Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2018
We just got off Empress of the Seas yesterday after an 8 day Best of Cuba cruise. It was wonderful. The embarkation process in Miami went very smoothly. We were there quite early and they got us inside in an organized line. There ... Read More
We just got off Empress of the Seas yesterday after an 8 day Best of Cuba cruise. It was wonderful. The embarkation process in Miami went very smoothly. We were there quite early and they got us inside in an organized line. There was some waiting, but only because we were so early. We were on the ship about 11:00. The Windjammer opened at 11:30. Our room was ready at 1:00 and luggage arrived before dinner. It was a very smooth process. While the Empress of Seas is an older ship and small, it has a lot going for it. It is very clean and the crew was extremely friendly and motivated to make the cruise a great experience. There are a lot of floor to ceiling windows and a lot of window seating throughout the ship. There are many quiet places to hide away while reading a book or napping. We enjoy smaller ships so this one was just our size. We had an inside cabin and it was quite small, but we expected this. Although it was small, it sufficed. Ours was on the 4th floor fairly close to the diningroom and very quiet. It was perfect for sleeping and we didn't need it for much more since we didn't spend much time there. The closets are smaller than on other ships (even the smaller ships) and there was no refrigerator. Just things that are helpful to know. Our cabin attendant was Dilcia and she did a great job keeping our cabin clean. The main diningroom staff was fantastic as was the food. Our waitress, Houibo, was friendly, competent, and a great dancer ;) They have Cuban food choices on the menu every night. The Windjammer buffet was about what we have experienced on other ships. The way the buffet is set up doesn't allow for a smooth flow of the line of people and there are rails that make getting to the tables a maze. But it was about as expected otherwise. They serve afternoon snack, late night snack, and late night dinner, which is nice. There aren't any other "included" restaurants and we did not go to Chops. All in all, it was as expected. Entertainment and Activities were as expected, as well. Being a smaller ship, there are not a ton of activities, so, if you need to have something going on constantly, this may not be the ship for you. We don't need a lot of activities as we like to lounge by the pool with a book, so perfect for us. We went to about half of the shows and they were good and about normal for what we would expect. We aren't super into the shows, either. Service was excellent. I think every crew member we encountered was friendly and wanted to make sure we were having a great cruise experience. I was very impressed by that. Our itinerary was changed, which was a bit disappointing. But, after we got over it, we definitely enjoyed all of the ports. Havana is wonderful with the classic cars and literally being stuck in the 50's. We took an independent tour from Cuba Outings that included a walking tour and classic car tour. It was excellent. In Cienfuegos, we had a ship tour that went to Juegos fortress and included city highlights. The tour was ok, but not outstanding. We had been to Grand Cayman before, so we just walked around and shopped. We had also been to Labadee and really, really love it there. It's such a nice, lazy beach kinda place and that's just what we do! I would go on this cruise again, but probably won't only because there are so many places I want to go that I haven't been. But I definitely recommend it. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2018
When I walk onto a ship for the first time, my rating is 100. It’s up to the ship, crew, and overall experience to keep it that way. How did they do? To start off, ports of Havana and Cienfuegos in Cuba were fascinating. I was very glad ... Read More
When I walk onto a ship for the first time, my rating is 100. It’s up to the ship, crew, and overall experience to keep it that way. How did they do? To start off, ports of Havana and Cienfuegos in Cuba were fascinating. I was very glad we were able to go to both ports. However, I do not recall that there were any enrichment activities on the ship, and was surprised about that. Other ports were pretty typical for the Caribbean. I liked that the ship had places on deck to sit that were in the shade (there are also plenty of sunny places). The promenade on Deck 6 wrapped all the way around the ship, and one could walk four complete laps to reach a mile. That deck also had plenty of deck chairs to quietly sit and read, doze, or contemplate the azure seas. Smokers had about as much deck space as non-smokers, which was apparently by design because of the Cuban ports of call and plans to offer freshly rolled cigars. (There turned out to not be any cigar rolling, but still a few guests smoked cigars out on deck). If you are someone who likes to find places on deck at night where you can see the stars, head forward on Deck 6, and climb the stairs to Deck 7 or Deck 8. Tender operations went smoothly, as did embarkation from Miami. Disembarkation back in Miami was a little mixed up: we were told to wait in specific public rooms and watch the screens to know when our group could leave (no overhead announcements). Alas, there were not any screens in our designated public room, and our projected time to leave came and went. Finally, a crew member came into the room, and hollered for certain groups to follow her. We did, then entered another public room, where we waited until another crew member came to lead us off. We were finally off about a half hour after we thought we would be. We took a taxi to the airport, which was $27 plus tip. We had dinner in the dining room 6 out of the 8 nights, where the food was usually good; there were just a few times that it wasn’t good enough to finish or try to finish. The cod on the second night was not good (but the sauce was), and the French onion soup off the always available menu wasn’t good, at all. The filet of sole about the fifth night, however, was excellent. It would have been nice to have the dining room open for lunch because the Windjammer Café was very crowded for the first hour or so at lunchtime. One day, the main lines in the Windjammer were so crowded that we went to the burger line; there were pork and chicken burgers but the hamburger tray was empty. I took a chicken burger, then discovered there wasn’t barbecue sauce. Alas, even the ketchup bottles were empty. The chicken burger turned out to be quite dry, so it could have benefited from some sort of sauce. Another day at lunch, there was fish and when I asked for tartar sauce, was told there was none. At breakfast, the orange juice and apple juice were very strong. I do not care for watery juices, so for me to feel like I needed to add water was extraordinary. Cleanliness in the Windjammer Café didn’t reach a top score: on more than one occasion, when I reached for the salt shaker, it had not been cleaned lately and was crusted with food from other peoples’ fingers. Even in the evening, dress on board was quite casual, which was fortunate considering there wasn’t a lot of space in cabins to store gowns, cocktail dresses, tuxedos and dark suits. On at least one evening, recommended dress was above smart casual, and many ladies did wear fancy dresses while men wore suits and ties. I also saw people in shorts and blue jeans in the dining room, but no one blinked and eye. The library was small, and appeared to be comprised of books that had been donated by guests on previous cruises. By the second or third day, however, they were nearly all checked out. There are many comfortable places around the ship to sit and read, both indoors and on deck. Front desk staff was nice, but didn’t go out of their way to find answers to unusual questions. Excursion staff didn’t know a lot of about the excursions that wasn’t printed in the brochure. I signed up for one shore excursion, but it was cancelled because of equipment failure. Would I go to Cuba again? Heck, yes! Would it be on the same ship? Probably not. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2018
We chose this cruise because we wanted to visit Cuba. All other ports were not as important to us. Empress of the seas is a small enough ship to dock in Havana. In Cienfuegos we tendered in. The ship may be old in years but you could ... Read More
We chose this cruise because we wanted to visit Cuba. All other ports were not as important to us. Empress of the seas is a small enough ship to dock in Havana. In Cienfuegos we tendered in. The ship may be old in years but you could not tell from it’s condition. All common areas looked to be in very good or excellent shape. My cabin had an ocean view on deck 8. The cabin was small and had no other furniture except for a chair in front of a mirror and a small desk. The walls of the cabin had no art work or pictures. There was an excellent flat screen tv. Where the room loses lots of points is the bathroom. It is very tiny. Can hold one person only. Not much space in shower. However, we made do. Breakfast and lunch are always a buffet. Food is okay. Dinner in the dining room was pretty good. Plenty of choices. Plates at the buffet could have been collected sooner. Service at dinner was excellent but wine brought to the table could have been delivered in a more timely manner. Entertainment at night was very good to excellent. We really enjoyed every show. In Havana we arranged a private tour which was a lot less costly and offered more than the ships tours. After a full day of touring which included a ride in a 1950s era Dodge convertible, the tour guide returned us to the ship and came back at night to take us to a show that we bought tickets for. Royal Caribbean charged triple for the same show. In Cienfuegos we took a ship excursion to Trinidad which we enjoyed. All in all we enjoyed our experience in Cuba. The Cayman Islands and Labadee in Haiti were our other 2 visits. Disembarkation could have been handled more smoothly. The ship had us gather way to early to leave the ship. (I was leaving with my luggage.). Read Less
9 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: November 2018
This cruise was originally scheduled to go to Cienfuegos and Santiago de Cuba with a stop the following week overnight in Havana. Santiago was supposed to be changed from a port where they could dock to a tender port, due to damage at the ... Read More
This cruise was originally scheduled to go to Cienfuegos and Santiago de Cuba with a stop the following week overnight in Havana. Santiago was supposed to be changed from a port where they could dock to a tender port, due to damage at the pier. Shortly before departure I received an email stating that Santiago would be canceled and an overnight in Havana substituted. While it is true that the contract of carriage gives the cruise line great latitude to do this, it was unfortunate that no consideration was offered to the passengers for whom this represented an unwelcome change. Often cruise lines will do so voluntarily in the interests of customer satisfaction. Royal Caribbean chose not to do so. Disappointing. Havana was a great place to visit. The ship tour "Easy Panoramic Havana" was a bit expensive, but we had a very good guide and the tour took about six hours including visits to Revolution Square, the fortress and a shop with an introduction to the fine points of Cuban cigars and rum. This was very helpful if you wanted to buy such souvenirs, but did not have experiences with these products. A stop at Fusterlandia, filled with Gaudi-like mosaics was truly a big surprise and a highlight. Our guide said that we were free to ask any questions and she would answer them. I was not expecting such candor. Her English was excellent, so much so that I asked her if she had lived in an English speaking country. She replied no, she had only ever lived in Cuba. A couple on the tour inquired about tickets for the show at La Taberna and she walked there with them after the tour and assisted with booking. This tour gave an excellent introduction to Cuba and the city of Havana. I was not sure what to expect in Havana and I was pleasantly surprised to find the city in considerably better shape than might have been expected from some comments on this site. While there are undeniably some rough edges, there are many beautiful buildings and the history was very interesting as well. Our tour guide had mentioned that it was perfectly safe to walk around at night and this proved to be the case. Many elegant European style buildings were fully lighted as well as the pedestrian only streets in the city center, the plazas and the Malecon. There were many lively restaurants and it seemed every block had a band playing Cuban music. Some of the areas had rough spots on the sidewalks so you had to watch where you were going! Some people may not be used to areas that are not designed just for tourists, but I found Havana to be very similar to many cities in Italy, Spain and other parts of Europe. Keep an open mind and give it a try! Cienfuegos is a smaller city and seemed more of a work a day place than the capitol city. The town square has some pleasant buildings and the pedestrian shopping street was lively, full of local shoppers buying every day things. Just don't go expecting expensive boutiques and designer label shops. The walk back to the ship is anything but scenic, but the distance is not far. The Cuban visa is issued at check in and the $75 fee assessed to the on board account. The Cuban Travel Certification form is not too difficult to fill out and you need to bring two copies with for check in. Although the visa states it is good for thirty days, it is in fact a one time visit visa and is collected before leaving Cuba for the last time. Even Royal Caribbean did not provide correct information about this prior to departure. Guest service staff explained it fully on the ship. Prior to that it was a source of confusion that the cruise line could have avoided for the guests if they had provided correct information to the guests prior to departure. The Empress is one of my favorite ships. I have been on it many times and some of the things that people on this site have complained about are valid concerns. Yes it has some limitations and rough edges, much like Cuba itself. But the food and service in the dining room (unfortunately not in the buffet) are some of the best in the line. The two productions shows in the theatre are the hottest anywhere. The one time only show featuring just the musicians on board was a great show and the closing number by the ships orchestra was one of the most rousing renditions of When the Saints Go Marching In I have ever heard. The big ships have a big lesson to learn from the Empress! But the one truly noticeable thing about the Empress is the quality of the crew. While no ship is perfect in this regard, this ship generally excels in this area. If you are thinking about Cuba the one thing I would emphasize is that selecting a cruise itinerary that docks in Havana overnight is a must. The look and feel of the city at night is something that should be experienced and contrasted to the daytime. No visit to the Tropicana night club this trip-something to save for next time.. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: November 2018
We chose this cruise because it happened to fall during Thanksgiving week. We've been on a Cuba cruise 2 years ago and weren't thrilled to be visiting Santiago rather than Havana. We were told that the dock in Santiago has been ... Read More
We chose this cruise because it happened to fall during Thanksgiving week. We've been on a Cuba cruise 2 years ago and weren't thrilled to be visiting Santiago rather than Havana. We were told that the dock in Santiago has been damaged and is under repair. We were given 2 days in Havana as a substitute, which was perfect. There is no Diamond Lounge but we were allowed 3 drinks per person in any bar during the nightly Diamond event. There was a cocktail party on the open deck of the Boleros bar on embarkation night and we had an exclusive breakfast daily in the Starlight dining room. The bar service was slow during the Diamond Happy Hour and the Boleros bartender was anything but friendly. Havana is an easy city to get around in on your own and since we visited before, we did our own thing. We booked a salsa class on both days with a local studio in central Havana, and while the streets were dirty and the area run down, no one bothered us and we had a good class, although there was no air conditioning in the studio. We ate at the San Cristobal paladar nearby and highly recommend it for excellent food and service. Note that Presidient Obama and his family had dined there during their visit and there are photos on the wall of that visit. Cienfuegos is a beautiful city with historical architecture and in much better condition than Havana. We did some shopping at the open air market next to the central plaza and ate at the Dona Nora paladar nearby. We had a balcony table and enjoyed an amazing meal with drinks, full dinners and dessert for under $50 with the tip. We enjoyed a rare 15 year old rum for only 6 cucs! We also booked a visit to the Hotel Nacional for their cabaret show. It's easy to reach by taxi and the hotel is glamorous and very historical. The show was amazing and reasonable at $35 per person, which included a mojito and a seat near the stage. We'd seen the Tropicana on our last visit and this is a good second and certainly not as crowded. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: November 2018
I'd read many reviews about the Empress of the Seas before I made my booking. After reading them the impression I had was the ship was old and the rooms were unfathomably tiny; virtually unusable. It was like having an old broken down ... Read More
I'd read many reviews about the Empress of the Seas before I made my booking. After reading them the impression I had was the ship was old and the rooms were unfathomably tiny; virtually unusable. It was like having an old broken down rusting ghost ship containing hundreds of dirty broom closets all stuffed with people clawing to get out! After having just returned from a voyage on the Empress of the Seas I can tell you people are probably not wrong in their description of small spaces and aging equipment but they are certainly wrong on their expectations of those things. First of all, It's a real modern working cruise ship! It's not the movie Titanic. You will not be able to unload multiple steamer trunks and address your entire personal staff easily in these small rooms. But how much room do you really need? On my trip to Cuba. The destination was the focus. I viewed the size of the accommodations as being last on my list of priorities. It turned out to be a very nice accommodation and never once did I say I wanted a bigger room. I did find myself thinking, "I wish I had a bigger bed". But I lived and I slept very well each night rocked gently to sleep by the motion of the ship. Even that was fine. As far as aging equipment and a small-sized vessel. It is EASY to understand the comparison to all of the venues of those mammoth sized ships out there. I rather enjoyed the novelty of a more intimate setting. You know people pay a LOT of money to travel on S-M-A-L-L ships all of the time. They are more desirable because the service is more personal and things are more conveniently located. So don't be deterred on the "small size" of the ship comments. They are probably left by people that will never be able to afford a highly personable cruise experience opting instead for huge venues and massive crowds. The ship was refurbished and is absolutely acceptable. The buffet was, for me, one of the weak points. I have to mark them low for that. I think they need to start eating their own meals the food from the buffet themselves and maybe not depend upon the feedback. I think it's common sense when the deserts look amazing but lack any taste, you're serving the wrong stuff. The staff (except for the photo girl that kept interrupting my meals and barking that I remove my lanyard, making me smile to her liking .... for the money making purposes of the ship. That my friends is not good customer service.) The staff is EXCELLENT!! I left the ship on a first name basis with many of the staff members. I loved them all. (except the photo girl from hell). The other low marks I give are for the ship's excursion desk. They were billed as "experts". When I would approach them with questions I was "handled" and told basically if I wasn't doing one of RCI's excursions... they didn't know anything at all about basic Cuban facts. Entertainment was much better than expected! Great!! Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: November 2018
We choose this cruise because the price was definitely right and we were mildly curious about Cuba. We have cruised lots of times on several different ships -- usually Celebrity Cruises. And now we understand why the price was right. ... Read More
We choose this cruise because the price was definitely right and we were mildly curious about Cuba. We have cruised lots of times on several different ships -- usually Celebrity Cruises. And now we understand why the price was right. The Empress of the Seas is the oldest and smallest ship in the Royal Caribbean fleet. Indeed, RC had previously sold the ship but later bought it back; refurbished it; and uses it for short cruises to Cuba. We were not unhappy. We had a fairly nice experience -- thanks to the staff and our own good travel companions. But we often repeated the same words: "we've been spoiled by our earlier cruises." Why: the ship is smaller so naturally the number of activities and amenities is less. The food was good but we have eaten great on other cruises. Naturally there are fewer shops but the same good prices for what was for sale. Sometimes I asked myself if the ship is the training ship for new employees. The staff was the best part of the ship: they are all so friendly; they remembered my name and my drink and eating preferences. They engaged in conversation even when they did not have to do so. They were responsive to my every request. Note that if one member in the suite buys a drink package, the second person is also required to do so. I can understand why they are doing this but what if you have one drinker and one who does not care to drink over $60 worth of booze on a daily basis?! They only disappointed once: they failed to notify me by letter of the mix and mingle event. They did schedule the event on the final day of the cruise which was pretty useless for some of our members who had hoped to connect with each other. Would I book again on this ship? Yes, but only for a short cruise. Never for a repositioning cruise of longer than a week. Read Less
8 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2018
Yes this is an old small ship, but it is well taken care of and the staff is outstanding. We were on the 7-night Oct 11 sailing to Key West, Havana, Cienfuegos & Grand Cayman. Cabin 8026 which is an ocean view. Very small with two ... Read More
Yes this is an old small ship, but it is well taken care of and the staff is outstanding. We were on the 7-night Oct 11 sailing to Key West, Havana, Cienfuegos & Grand Cayman. Cabin 8026 which is an ocean view. Very small with two singles pushed together to make a king. Loved the pillows and linens. Bed was a bit hard. Bathroom is, of course, tiny. But the shower had good pressure and was always instantly hot. Our Cabin Steward Emmanuel was always enthusiastic, welcoming, and kept us well taken care of. Food: Choices are Dining room, buffet, or pay extra for Chops for dinner. We chose the Dining Room for every dinner and except for a very few items that we didn't care for or were not cooked perfectly, we were quite happy with the choices and our selections. Service was flat-out outstanding. Fernando and Dharmendra could not have done a better job! Even though we had my-time dining, we ended up going to dinner on the early side every night...usually around 5:30 and were fortunate enough to always get "our" table for two. 538a (near the kitchen, which might have bothered others, but not us). Favorites were the second night entrees of Duck A L'Orange and the Beef Tenderloin and the Carrot Cake for dessert. Third night's Cuban Chicken Fricassee, Wild Mushroom Risotto and New York Strip were also terrific. Can also recommend the Garlic Tiger Shrimp, the Roasted Poblano Soup,Seafood Cake, Shrimp cocktail, Onion Soup and the Turkey entree The only time we weren't fond of the dining room was for the brunch on sea day. There was a line to get in. Tons of people were coming out, but it took awhile to be seated at a table with others. Food selection included chicken, fish, eggs benedict, pastries, etc. Nothing was overly hot by the time it got back to the table. Probably my fault as I should have selected cold items first. But what lead to a less than pleasant experience was our luck of the draw for table mates as they complained about everything. Windjammer Buffet: We didn't check it out for dinner, but for breakfast and lunch, the days we investigated, most items were the same. There is a whole section dedicated to a variety of burgers, hotdogs and all the fixings for them. Quite good. Pizza was decent and a nice variety. Otherwise, favorite items I discovered were the veggie stuffed potatoes and the Shepherd's Pie, which was my favorite, but I only saw on embarkation day. Breakfast was pretty basic. I liked the already cooked fried eggs. Buffet was pretty crowded, but we never had a problem finding a place to land (especially over by the burger bar). Loved that they made everyone washy washy EVERY time you walked in the door. If only they could keep people from coughy coughy while not covering their mouths. Deluxe Drink Package: We were quite pleased that we had purchased it before sailing. (I grabbed it up when an email offer of 30% off came through). It covered everything we wanted to drink except for one glass of wine that I paid an extra dollar for in the dining room one night. We enjoyed cocktails, wine, many San Pelligrino's and Club Sodas. It was well worth it and Service was fantastic. Wait Staff in the Schooner is especially terrific. We were especially fond of sweet Marita. Nightly entertainment was very good. There were three different comedy acts, an Elvis Impersonator, and the house band, singers and dancers put on terrific shows! We never had a problem getting a seat in the Royal Theatre. A favorite for us was Paul in the Schooner Bar. Great voice, fantastic personality and he can play the heck out of a piano. Great for sing-a-longs and dancing! Casino: There were one to two blackjack tables, both were $6 tables of 5-6. Side bet option was for 20 on your first two cards. I actually had some good luck with that side bet. Even managed to get a pair of Queen of Hearts which paid $125 on a $1 bet. If the dealer had gotten a blackjack on that same deal, it would have paid $1000. Dealers were professional without being too cold. Love And Marriage and The Quest are two "shows" to not miss! Better yet, have fun participating. Pool area: We are not pool people which is a good thing because it was packed most of the time. Overall we were most impressed with the Crew. My one strong dislike is for the restrooms. (can only speak for the women's), but I especially disliked the one outside of Windjammer. It only has two stalls, neither of which is pleasant. Many times the toilets were left unflushed. (sometimes it was hard to get them to flush properly). Ports: Key West is always fun. We did our own thing. Had breakfast at Two Friends.Took a Lyft to the museum that has Robert the Doll. (about an $18 ride before tip) Then took one back to Sloppy Joe's, which is always fun. Shopped a bit. Havana: We had pre-paid a Walking Food Tour of Old Havana, which was terrific. Can highly recommend. Afterward we went to the warehouse down the road from the ship to shop. Whew, they can sell you the moon! Took a horse & carriage ride back to the ship. Was told it would be 10 CUC, but turned out that was per person. A bit misleading, but there was a language barrier. TIP: Bring hand sanitizer with you! We were very sorry to have forgotten to do so. Cienfuegos: Note that you will need patience and time to get off the ship, as it involves tendering, and Cienfuegos doesn't have any tenders, so only the ship ones are used. Plan accordingly if you have a private tour scheduled. We actually decided to hang out on the ship for a lazy day. Our only concern was we had CUC's left that we were going to use or trade in, but the Cruise Director suggested using for tips on the ship, which is what we ended up doing. Grand Cayman: We had pre-booked another private Food Tour. This one took us around the island and included endless rum at a terrific rum factory. NOTE: They never told us on the ship that Cayman time was an hour BEHIND ship time. So we got off way too early. Thought we were being stood up by our tour, only to discover it was 9:15 instead of 10:15. They were so informative about everything else on the ship, that we were baffled as to why they didn't tell us that. Also heads up that a LOT of ships hit this port. There were FIVE the day we arrived, which meant we had to cut our tour short by one stop due to the heavy traffic, so plan accordingly. Beautiful island, and I can highly recommend the tour we took. It was especially useful when we stopped at the rum factory, because our guide got us in just in time to get a private tour, private tasting, then when it got packed with the big ship tours, she made sure we got everything we wanted. 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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