1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: August 2019
We just got off this excellent ship after a six day cruise. Both my husband and I have physical limitations, he used a scooter the entire time, and I used a cane. This was the first cruise I can remember where when you went to get on the ... Read More
We just got off this excellent ship after a six day cruise. Both my husband and I have physical limitations, he used a scooter the entire time, and I used a cane. This was the first cruise I can remember where when you went to get on the elevators, people held the door for you, stepped off to let you on, and helped you in ever way they could. No pushing and rushing in front of you to get on! A much different attitude. In the Windjammer, people were polite, and the crew always tried to help you in carrying your food to your table, and then even once you were seated they came over to see it they could go and get you anything. I can't remember a nicer, caring crew. When I spoke to one of the supervisors about the attitude, he told me that because it is a small ship, the crew is like family and like working together. You could tell! Yes, the cabins are small and do not have a lot of storage. Lacked a refrigerator,but would supply ice if you asked. There were a lot of hangers in the cabinet, but wished there were more drawers, also the handles to open the drawers were on the bottom, so in order to open the bottom drawer, the handle was on the floor. The bed was very hard, and was a problem after a couple of days. The bathroom was small, and the shower was the smallest ever, but the shower curtain was heaver so it did not stick to you. The entertainment was good, a nice variety with two comics, a magician, and one night of a variety show of dancers and singers. i did like that Royal Caribbean on this ship did not hound you to buy things. In fact there was never any announcement of BINGO, the only thing was a listing in the activity paper, also there are NO Art auctions! We cant wait to go back on this ship, and would book the same cabin, we were on the 4th floor, right at the elevators, but did not hear much noise. Also the only time I smelled anything smelly, was when we had to go out on deck six for the life boat drill. and then there was a sewerage smell. Read Less
13 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2019
This was originally a cruise to Cuba which was the only reason we chose this ship. When the Cuba ports were cancelled we decided to take their offer of 50% off but didn't expect much from this "old" and "small" ... Read More
This was originally a cruise to Cuba which was the only reason we chose this ship. When the Cuba ports were cancelled we decided to take their offer of 50% off but didn't expect much from this "old" and "small" ship. We had a wonderful time. No way did the ship seem old. All of the public areas and our cabin were very clean and just lovely. We loved that the ship was smaller since it was so easy to get around and there were no crowds anywhere. You could walk into the buffet area, the showroom or the pool area and always get seats. We have been on many cruises where getting seats anywhere is always a hassle. The entertainment was top notch. We especially enjoyed the many beautiful costumes. The food was very good and our wait staff friendly and very efficient. In fact every service person we encountered was super friendly. Since we always take a balcony room and there are no regular balconies on this ship we opted for a junior suite which in actuality was the same as a regular balcony on any other ship. If you are thinking of going on the Empress, don't even hesitate. You will enjoy it! Read Less
Sail Date: July 2019
My husband got this cruise as a surprise for my birthday. Unfortunately , I found out due to the travel agents app (used last yr for trip to Antigua) sent me an email about it. I was super excited, he was highly upset. Nonetheless, we ... Read More
My husband got this cruise as a surprise for my birthday. Unfortunately , I found out due to the travel agents app (used last yr for trip to Antigua) sent me an email about it. I was super excited, he was highly upset. Nonetheless, we were both looking forward to our 1st cruise. Then the president stopped all US travel to Cuba. That was my hubby's main purpose for booking this particular cruise; he left it up to me to say go or cancel. I decided to keep it and stay excited and not have to wait on another trip. We left out of Miami, cruised to Key West, Costa Maya (LOVED THIS PORT), Cozumel. We traveled from home (NC) to Miami the night before. It was just my husband and I. We did not explore Miami since we've gone there so many times for our anniversary. Embarkation and disembarkation was a breeze. We bought the Key Program which eliminated a lot of wait time and included internet. A MUST HAVE for any cruise! The ships is smaller than most, but big enough for a first time. I loved that we saw the staff in different roles, like the gift shop and then performing. The entertainment was phenomenal. The spa experience my hubby bought me (special on day 1) was GREAT!The food in the dining room was magnificent. The food in the buffet (Windjammer) was decent. (Nothing to write home about) The one thing I definitely appreciated were the staff members at each buffet entrance reminding and ensuring your hands were washed before getting a plate to begin. That speaks volumes for someone who is a germaphobe like myself. We chose the Salsa/tequila tasting/beach break in Costa Maya (Mahuhual). I could have stayed there all day! We made guacamole, hot salsa, and sweet salsa, did tequila tasting and salsa dancing. (included 1 free drink) We both had coke. We aren't drinkers, but the taste of that family's mango tequila was unbelievable! We chose the dolphin experience excursion in Cozumel. It includes lockers for your belongings, buffet and lunch, and seal show. The memory pictures are EXPENSIVE. No cameras allowed!There's imitation Mayan ruins at this state park, but we didn't opt to see them because it was so hot. I enjoyed time at the pool. I've already been looking for another cruise to take. I would definitely go back on Royal Caribbean again, even if it was the same ship. Read Less
8 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2019
We chose this cruise because we wanted to go to Cuba. We were disappointed when we learned we would not be able to go to Cuba, but Royal Caribbean really went above and beyond for us. The 50% refund was extremely generous. While I was on ... Read More
We chose this cruise because we wanted to go to Cuba. We were disappointed when we learned we would not be able to go to Cuba, but Royal Caribbean really went above and beyond for us. The 50% refund was extremely generous. While I was on this new itinerary, I never once felt that I was missing out on anything. In fact, it was the best vacation I've ever had. Since I'm a planner, I had done a lot of research on the Empress of the Seas, and I was a little nervous about the ship. That was all for nothing! The ship is amazing! Yes, it is a smaller ship - the smallest in the fleet - but guess how many lines we waited in during this vacation? None. That includes our embarkation. We walked in, went right up to the counter and were on the ship in a matter of minutes. When we got to our cabin, we noticed that it was small, but we knew it would be. We had plenty of room in our cabin. I did bring magnetic hooks with us and that helped to provide some additional space by hanging things on the walls. Bringing these hooks was probably the best tip that I got from my research. I've read in a few places that there was a weird odor on deck 5. I smelled it, but it wasn't a big deal. The dining room was great and I was happy with the food quality and selection. The best part is if you don't like what you ordered, you send it back and get something else. Or, if you like it a lot, you order another! We went to Chops on my birthday and that was fantastic too. It was a step up from the dining room and my 9oz filet was so tender that I could cut it with a butter knife. First class entertainers on this ship! Loved the shows I went to! The music around the ship was always fun and lively. I booked some of my shore excursions through the ship and thought those were fantastic. We did the behind the scenes tour of the ship and loved everything we learned. It was great to learn about what goes on behind the scene on this ship! My daughter found a great group of friends with the teen group. This really provided an opportunity for her to get to know the other teens and she really had a great time. The pool was usually crowded, but it was still really great. I loved it! Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: June 2019
We booked this cruise as part 1 of our honeymoon (then onto Cancun after) as it originally went to Cuba. Although Cuba was then off the cards (and beyond the control of Royal Caribbean) we still went ahead with the cruise. RC we're ... Read More
We booked this cruise as part 1 of our honeymoon (then onto Cancun after) as it originally went to Cuba. Although Cuba was then off the cards (and beyond the control of Royal Caribbean) we still went ahead with the cruise. RC we're very good and put 50% of cruise fare into on on-board credit for the cruise. This was our first time cruising and it certainly wont be our last. We had a great experience and I would go with RC again in a heartbeat! Check-in was very smooth, we arrived early and just walked through with no ques/line whatsoever. We knew this was one of the smaller ships but also had read that this was good in terms of not have to wait in lines etc. At Check-in we received our Sea-pass card which is also you drink package card. I would recommend the delux alcohol package even if you want 2-3 alcoholic drinks a day (this combined with the inclusion of soft drinks plus coffees will certainly be good value). Onboard the cabin was small but we knew it would be and to be fair we only used it to sleep and shower as we were up and about for the rest of the cruise. The same can be said for the gym, it is very small but again, there were no lines so no wait for any of the equipment. I also used the running track on deck 5 most morning and there was a great atmosphere/camaraderie on the track every morning as faces became familiar! We had booked excursions through RC (We looked at booking 3rd parts as we both travel a lot) but it wasn't much more expensive booking through RC and your covered if anything goes wrong. We booked Key West Bike Tour, Cozumel Sailing on Catamaran (including snorkeling), Belieze Bus tour and CocoCay 1/2 day pass for the water-park - all excellent tours and I would recommend each and every one of them. Having reviewed Costa Maya online (and confirmed with a 60min walk around) there inst a whole lot there (for us anyway) so we stayed on the ship and enjoyed rock-climbing wall, gym, haircut etc. The at-sea days were excellent and the staff work so well to create a holiday atmosphere. The shows were good in the theater, we're not into dance so on those evening we just watched a movie or enjoyed a late dinner. The food was excellent but I see were some of the comments mean in regard to the Windjammer. Great for breakfast but lunch can be a bit repetitive. No complaints about dinner though as staff were fantastic as was the food (although don't be in any rush, but we were never in a rush and enjoyed the dinner/atmosphere). We didn't smell the odors that people mentioned apart from the last day (where we were checking out - so I guess they now have some system where they clean the septic system on the check-out day. But certainly have no issues throughout the cruise. Some comments (they are more comments that criticism as we had a wonderful cruise): - It would be good to have a better que system for slides in COCOCAY, some of the slides had a line that took 90mins and it seemed like they could let people through the slides slightly faster as well as staff changes at the slides could have been done quicker. - Costa Maya is a waste of time, its a fake tourist trap. terminal was built as a fake village where all prices are highly inflated. We looked at hiring bikes to go to the real village but even this bike rental was extortionate. Also the swim with dolphins is a disgrace in Costa Maya and RC should actually do something about this an request that this is ended at the terminal (there are maybe 8 dolphins in a tiny pool and thats it as there are shops one side and a concrete wall the other and its cruel and horrible to watch). - The wait at the bar for a drink was sometimes a bit long, which was frustrating at times when it was really warm out - Self check-out was the only line we encountered and for no reason apparently, I couldn't not see how it took so long as the line winded around the theater etc. This could be seeded up easily. Read Less
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2019
The service was impeccable. When my husband stopped by Guest Services to pick up the Assistive Listening device they got overzealous and installed blinking lights and bed vibrator in the room. That was very kind but I didn't need all ... Read More
The service was impeccable. When my husband stopped by Guest Services to pick up the Assistive Listening device they got overzealous and installed blinking lights and bed vibrator in the room. That was very kind but I didn't need all that ( and it changed the set up of the room) so they took it right back out. We loved having the assigned seating at 6pm. We loved having the same wait staff each night. I emailed special requests ahead of time---They were able to give us a private table away from the piano so I was able to enjoy without trying to explain my deafness to people They handled my food allergies easily. The main dining room was my something I looked forward to everyday. We loved every single thing about the size of this ship. We never felt crowded, never waited in line, never felt rushed. We asked Guest Services and they said it was fully booked and had 1600 people on board when we sailed.There are rumors about Royal taking it out of commission with Cuba off the table. I hope not-- I would sail this ship again in a heartbeat. The biggest surprise--- the teen club. As you know, they have little to nothing on the website about having a teen club. I was very, very worried that my 13 year old would be bored. We made him go to the teen meet and greet the first night promising to pick him up in 2 hours. We were thrilled to find out that instead of a dedicated room---they have a "roaming" teen club. Fabian had the kids all over the ship from morning until midnight. They played hide and seek, uno, scrabble, a scavenger hunt, went to the shows as a group and played a days long spy game called paranoia. My son was gone from sunup to curfew and had the best time. Added bonus--- no electronics were involved so it really was a throw back to the childhood of disconnect. I think Royal is missing a huge marketing opportunity and parents would sign up for this ship just to get their kids off the devices. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2019
EVERYONE with Royal Caribbean made us feel like we were so important to them and they would do anything within their power to accommodate our every need. The service, entertainment, and food was all excellent! We had a few meals in Chops ... Read More
EVERYONE with Royal Caribbean made us feel like we were so important to them and they would do anything within their power to accommodate our every need. The service, entertainment, and food was all excellent! We had a few meals in Chops Grill and they were good, but the food and service in the main dining room was so good, we probably will not spend the extra money next time. A larger pool would be nice, but that was not the goal of our trip or we would have booked a larger ship. We had three adults in an ocean-view cabin and had plenty of room. We purchased The Key and felt like the benefits were great compared to the cost. After a lot of research, I also found that most excursions were actually less expensive booking directly through Royal Caribbean, contrary to many review warnings. We loved the ports of Key West, Cuba, and Cozumel! Definitely agree with "small ship, HUGE heart". We did walk by a few small areas with a less-than-pleasant odor a few times, but I have never been in a venue accommodating over 2,000 total people where you couldn't find a few spots that were not exactly pleasant. If given the chance, I would do this exact trip again next week, no questions asked!!! Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2019
This was our 4th cruise - and 4th different cruise line. The Empress of the Seas is an older and smaller ship. If you accept that fact, you will have a great time. The service was outstanding, and the food in the main dining room was ... Read More
This was our 4th cruise - and 4th different cruise line. The Empress of the Seas is an older and smaller ship. If you accept that fact, you will have a great time. The service was outstanding, and the food in the main dining room was excellent. The Cuba cruise is too short to spend much time or place much emphasis on shows, or alternate dining venues, or activities. Hence, trying to compare those to other ships seems pointless.There are stage performances, a spa, a casino, several bars, and both adult and child activities. While all are on a smaller scale, the staff is excellent and the reduced population makes it easier to navigate. Likewise, a smaller cabin was not a problem as you are rarely in it. I recommend this cruise for those wanting a quick get-away with some new sight seeing and some quality service. If you rally want the the deluxe cruise experience or lots of on-board activities, you should look at longer cruises and larger boats. Overall, we had just as nice an experience as we have had on longer European cruises. Final note: we met a number of staff who had 15-30 years experience. It definitely showed, The staff was the key to an enjoyable cruise. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2019
My family and I specifically chose the Empress of the Seas for its itinerary-Cozumel, Havana (overnight), and Nassau. After reading some of the reviews on Cruise Critic, I was a bit worried about sailing on this specific ship. No ... Read More
My family and I specifically chose the Empress of the Seas for its itinerary-Cozumel, Havana (overnight), and Nassau. After reading some of the reviews on Cruise Critic, I was a bit worried about sailing on this specific ship. No worries! My family and I were presently surprised at the service and how well maintained the ship was. The ship is the smallest in the NCI fleet, which was fine by us! Mega ships are overrated; being on a smaller ship makes it much easier & quicker to learn the layout of the ship and you can walk from one end to the other in 5 minutes! Excellent dining experience in both the dining room and the Windjammer cafe! Huge selection of foods available...and quality of the food was very good to excellent. Desserts at the buffet were much better than I remember from my past experiences on NCL and Carnival. There were options for beverages at the Windjammer for those who chose not to purchase the pricey drink packages-lemonade, iced tea, fruit punch, water, and coffee. The coffee was much too strong for my taste, but it was decent. Staff on the ship couldn’t have been more helpful-from Deny (our room attendant), to our waiters in the dining room-Valento and Viny, and who can forget the hilarious activities staff who made playing trivia every day a hoot! Our accommodation was an oceanview stateroom. Yes, the rooms are small, but how much time do you actually spend in your room!?! I don’t know about anyone else, but I go on cruises to spend time in the ports of call, on the sun decks, and at activities, not wasting away in my room!!! Past posts indicate the ship is in poor repair and musty/dirty. I can tell you that I found none of this on the Empress of the Seas. I am a neat freak so I would have definitely noticed these things! No areas of the ship were closed off due to maintenance when we sailed (as I had read in previous posts). The pool and hot tubs were well maintained and were never shut down. Embarkation and debarkation when stopped at ports of call was quick and painless. I was a tad worried about getting sick on a cruise, given what is publicized in the media so often. The staff went above and beyond to encourage passengers to wash their hands or use hand sanitizer before meals to help with the spread of germs. I can tell you as a nurse I sincerely appreciated this! Shout out to Neilbert for greeting us at the Windjammer Café multiple times a day and encouraging us to “washy washy”!!! I would definitely consider traveling on the Empress of the Seas in the future! Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2019
A group of 28 of us were on the Empress the last week of March 2019. Embarkation and debarkation was easy and fast. We all took this cruise to go to Cuba this week we were spending 2 days in Havana. Although its is an older ship and ... Read More
A group of 28 of us were on the Empress the last week of March 2019. Embarkation and debarkation was easy and fast. We all took this cruise to go to Cuba this week we were spending 2 days in Havana. Although its is an older ship and not a mega ship the ship has been kept in very good condition. Before going we read a number of negative reviews of the ship, food and service on board. We found none of the negative reviews to be true except that the cabins are a little smaller than the mega ships. The food was excellent both in the main dining room and buffet in the Windjammer. Our steward Martin Smith kept our cabin spotless. All the ships personnel were courteous and helpful and always with a smile. We have been on many of the mega ships and it was a welcome change not to have to walk 15 minutes to get from the front to the back of the ship and no long lines at the buffet or to get into a shows. We all agree "absolutely" we would go on this ship again especially with the overnight in Havana. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2019
We are seasoned cruisers, are used to the mega ships, but we wanted a little getaway cruise to break up the time, and I’ve been wanting to go to Cuba. In researching, I found that this 6-Night cruise in January, which was the month we ... Read More
We are seasoned cruisers, are used to the mega ships, but we wanted a little getaway cruise to break up the time, and I’ve been wanting to go to Cuba. In researching, I found that this 6-Night cruise in January, which was the month we wanted to travel, was an excellent value, so we went with the Owners Suite. After booking, I realized that Empress of the Seas used to be Nordic Empress, which we sailed on in 1997! Now I had become quite skeptical, but kept an open mind. Thankfully, the weather held out for us, because prior to our departure week, there were several itinerary diversions due to weather. It’s been ages since I’ve cruised out of Miami, but it was so smooth and organized. And luckily for us, because there was damage to a pier in Key West, we were informed several weeks earlier that we were now stopping in Havana, replacing Key West. I was absolutely thrilled! What a bonus that was! We have been on several sailings where the tables were turned, and we missed a stop we really wanted, and this just made the cruise that much more special. Upon boarding the ship, I was pleasantly surprised at how clean it was! I couldn’t understand why it has gotten so many terrible reviews, other than some guests may not have ever sailed the smaller ships, and could only compare Empress to the mega ships. The service was exceptional! Everyone in every area was so welcoming towards us. The ship is the oldest and smallest, but it was a breath of fresh air. It was wonderful not waiting in lines for any activity, show, or at a bar. Our suite steward went above and beyond, as did our dinner servers, each and every night. The Owners Suite was wonderful, with a delightfully large balcony overlooking the front of the ship, it was amazing! The suite itself was not huge, but certainly large and spacious enough for two people.The Loyalty Ambassador onboard made sure everything was taken care of, not only for us, but for everyone. I thoroughly enjoyed our three ports of call: Havana, Cienfuegos, and Grand Cayman. We did two shore excursions in the Cuba ports being novices there, but now that we’ve gone, our next cruise to Cuba, we will venture out on our own. It was so easy getting around and conversing with the locals, we have mapped out what we will do next time. Back to the locals, I found them to be so engaging, easy to talk to, and friendly. Havana is such colorful a city, I highly recommend it. Cienfuegos is a bit more primitive, but the tours will take you out to the beautiful countrysides. The shopping there is limited, but I found the little stalls near the ship had the best little remembrances at better prices! In Grand Cayman, we just walked around, shopped, stopped at the Paradise Grill overlooking the water, it was wonderful, and one of the best days just hanging out, relaxing with a beverage, enjoying the scenery. The shows on the ship were okay, we went to more than we usually do, as we aren’t real show goers. We also went on the Bottomless Galley Brunch which was by far, a highlight of the week, and I highly recommend it. This cruise was one of the best trips ever, I can’t stop thinking about it and how much we enjoyed it! Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: November 2018
Over-all rating 10: Ports of call, small number of guests 1400, quality of service, food, activities..it all was great Areas of Improvement: Beverages: Pre-paid adult beverage pkg: $45/day must include both adults so $90/day/6 days. ... Read More
Over-all rating 10: Ports of call, small number of guests 1400, quality of service, food, activities..it all was great Areas of Improvement: Beverages: Pre-paid adult beverage pkg: $45/day must include both adults so $90/day/6 days. My fiance does not drink and the alternative offered of the regular beverage pks did not interest her. Essentially, we were off the ship boarding/departure/tours about two days so could not use pkg. Suggest a daily package even if a bit more for one. Phone service: Not on hold long, Unfortunately, all week long we could not hear what the other person was saying so it was of little use to us. Check-in/check-out: seems they might have more agents on duty, long lines. Handicap Rooms: not enough with balconies Service: Outstanding in all areas but a few of the staff did not know location questions when asked and had trouble with English We are handicapped so we could not participate in all activities. We did, however, find other things to do and the trip over-all was fantastic. Highly Recommand. Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: November 2018
We love cruising, and DH being a big cigar smoker- Cuba was at the top of our bucket list. Like everyone else, we wanted to go before there was a Starbucks on every corner. We went with 2 other couples- 1 being a real classic car fan. ... Read More
We love cruising, and DH being a big cigar smoker- Cuba was at the top of our bucket list. Like everyone else, we wanted to go before there was a Starbucks on every corner. We went with 2 other couples- 1 being a real classic car fan. Price was certainly right, so we went on Empress on a B2b to see more of Cuba. At first we were disappointed that Santiago was replaced with another Havana stop, but found that 3.5 days was certainly not enough to see everything. After following reviews for several months we had pretty low expectations...the ship, Cuba, tours, etc. Were we wrong! Yes, the ship is old and small. We knew that, and weren't expecting The Edge (our next cruise!). We found it clean, and as we don't use alot of the newer ship stuff anyway. It was full the first week (Thanksgiving), but never once did it seem crowded. Some of these reviews just seem to nitpick every little flaw- look at the entire picture! However, the service and food more than made up for it! I think our cabin steward, Gusti, lived outside our door! He couldn't do enough for us. And our waiter was so good we followed him the second night to another table! He insisted we try everything, and was never wrong. He kept bringing us more appetizers, another main dish, etc, yet we were still one of the first to leave the dining room! We were going to try the specialty restaurant, but the MDR food was so good we cancelled. Cruise director Bobby and the rest of the activities staff also helped make the cruise exceptional. Everyone was very friendly and really seemed to enjoy their jobs. Cuba itself was clean, but poor, as was expected. Our lunches at Paladars were exceptional and such fun (and cheap!). The people were very friendly and helpful. The experience was like something 100 years ago! It truly was experiencing a different culture, which we don't see enough of in our travels. Architecture was beautiful, and restoration efforts for their 500th anniversary next year were amazing. We took 3 private tours with 2 different operators- FerTours and Cuba Connections. I will go into more details on reviews of each later. Cuba Connections would be my recommendation. Most memorable moments in Havana (so many to choose from!)- Rum Museum- do the cocktail tour. Regular tour is 7 cuc, but for 15cuc includes a stint behind the bar learning to make drinks (and drinking them!). Feeling no pain, joined in with the band on the maracas. Had a fantastic tour of Hotel Nacionale and got tickets for the Cabaret Parisienne that night. Show was very good, and paid 35cuc rather than over $100 through the ship. Got great seats down front, Also went to the Jewish synagogue, which was a surprise. Very modern and beautiful. Again, they made us feel very welcome. From Cienfuegos also went to Trinidad. Don't do it! Too long of a drive for not much! During a full day in Havana went to Pindar del Rio- Vinales- to the tobacco plantations. Fantastic! That truly was a journey back in time. Spent 2 hours on a highway 1 lane each way, often behind horse-drawn carts. At the plantation went into a barn to learn about the cigars, then went for a smoke. I even had a Montecristo! Government takes 90% of the tobacco, but the farmers can keep/sell the other 10%. Got Montecristos for 3cuc each! Ended up with 7 boxes of different cuban cigars! During a RCI sale we booked 2 ship excursions, which we normally don't do. Even these exceeded my expectations. In Cozumel did the swim with dolphins- fantastic time, fantastic value! Included the swim (much longer and more intimate than I thought), beautiful grounds at Chokobban, and a great open bar & buffet ($70pp!). The snorkel in Georgetown was one of the best! Bit of a drizzle in the morning, but by the time we got to the protected reef the sun was shining. 20 of us on a boat that held 80 was perfect, the rum punch at $3 (mostly rum) was great, the depth was perfect (not too shallow and not too deep) and the guides were great, always feeding the fish. All in all, the perfect trip (if we ignore the horrible American airlines flight back home)! Read Less
Sail Date: November 2018
We booked the ship for the destinations. RC must have taken note of all of the customer complaints. We did the Best of Cuba trip on Thanksgiving week and it was unforgettable. Our Santiago stop was replaced with Havana. We stopped in ... Read More
We booked the ship for the destinations. RC must have taken note of all of the customer complaints. We did the Best of Cuba trip on Thanksgiving week and it was unforgettable. Our Santiago stop was replaced with Havana. We stopped in Havana for 1.5 days, Cienfuegos for 1 day, and Grand Cayman for 1 day. We had plenty of time to explore each city and were able to go out at night in Havana. I would not recommend purchasing any excursions through the ship. You can purchase the same thing from a local for 1/3 of the price. The staff on the ship was excellent as well, and the dining experience was excellent. Windjammer was slightly disappointing but the main dining room was great. The rooms were older, but again, we booked the ship for the destination. I would highly recommend this cruise to anyone wanting to experience Cuba. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2018
We chose this cruise mainly to visit Cuba. We have cruised on many ships with many companies in the past. On this occasion our focus was Cuba and not the ship. We chose the Empress of the seas as it fitted the dates we wished to travel. We ... Read More
We chose this cruise mainly to visit Cuba. We have cruised on many ships with many companies in the past. On this occasion our focus was Cuba and not the ship. We chose the Empress of the seas as it fitted the dates we wished to travel. We are UK residents and were unsure of the visa policy. I contacted Royal Caribbean and basically if you travel from an American port you are treated as an American person visiting Cuba in relation to the visa application. Royal Caribbean kindly sort this out for $75 per person. We boarded the Empress and were pleasantly surprised. Although the ship is older and smaller than some other cruise ships it is in immaculate condition and all members of staff were fantastic. The pool bar is large and we never had to wait to get served. The food at the restaurant and buffet were as per usual standard for Royal Caribbean, very good. We didn't visit chops grill. The ship is not crowded and we spent our time on board just enjoying the peace, the pool and the view. There are bacon and suite rooms but inside or ocean view rooms. We chose an inside room which was great. Very clean and maintained well. Myself, wife and son had lots of laughs and enjoyed the special time we had together. We visited Costa Maya and paid for the water park. $50 for entry and an extra $48 if you want to do the zipwires. We loved this water park. Very different to other ones we have visited but just as much fun. It did help that there was hardly anyone there no queues whatsoever and the staff were very friendly. We have visited Cozumel before and just spent the day walking and having food at a great little restaurant on the front near to the submarine tour office. Also key West which I didn't mention was fantastic. We have been here a few times before. We love Key West. So to the main event Cuba. We booked a private company fertours. The company is run by Fernando and he has many guides and drivers. We arrived in Havana at 1pm. Straight through customs passport stamped for entry for 30 days if required. Zulia our guide took us to all the squares in Havana followed by an open top tour in 1952 Chevy. Later that evening we toured round in a 1952 Chevy Bellaire hardtop with Zulia and driver Joseph. The 9 o clock cannon shot was great and we ended up at the Buena Vista social club. Awe drinks lots of great Cuban music and dancing. The following day we toured further afield to the home of Ernest Hemingway. Lunch at a fabulous Cuban restaurant. We also visited the home of Cuban artist José Foster. This is a must see as he has turned his entire neighbourhood into a beautiful art installation. Back to the ship and return to Miami. Cuba was amazing and I cannot wait to go again. The Empress of the seas also gets top marks. As long as you don't expect loads of restaurants and watermarks like some of the larger ships this is a beautiful ship. All round fantastic cruise. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: October 2018
We booked this mainly for the overnight stay in Havana, as had most of our fellow cruisers. We had decided to ‘suffer’ the ship for the Havana experience and boarded with ‘Cuba’ uppermost in our minds. I’ve done many cruises over ... Read More
We booked this mainly for the overnight stay in Havana, as had most of our fellow cruisers. We had decided to ‘suffer’ the ship for the Havana experience and boarded with ‘Cuba’ uppermost in our minds. I’ve done many cruises over the years and ‘Empress’ took me squarely back to my early days of cruising in the late 80’s, which I absolutely LOVED. The size of the ship was perfect - you could ‘see the sea’ on both sides from lots of places on the ship. The promenade deck was practically deserted, with comfy loungers and there was plenty of ROOM everywhere. I was quite often sitting in the jacuzzi on my own and the upper deck pool lounging area always had beds and was quiet, away from the racket of the music by the pool. We sauntered on and off at each port - never any queues. In fact, the only queue was at checkin and the time it took, despite having all documents filled out beforehand. I put it down to the Cuban Visa paperwork, which a lot of cruisers didn’t seem to have filled out. Windjammer was busy in the mornings and at lunch, but there was always a nice space, where we wanted to sit. We LOVED Boleros lounge and the Bamboleo group! We’re avid salsa dancers and boogied the night away, every evening. We had tried to book an outside cabin but the ship was practically full, but even our vibrating bed above the engine room in an inside cabin couldn’t dampen out enthusiasm! We had a ball! If you want bells and whistles, this ship isn’t for you, but for fans of ‘old school’ cruises, it’s PERFECT!!!! Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2018
We recently took a cruise to Cuba and had an overnight stop in Havana. Due to a storm, we arrived late in Havana. Fernando from Fertours was very accommodating to us and ensured that we would have our tour guide there to pick us up. We ... Read More
We recently took a cruise to Cuba and had an overnight stop in Havana. Due to a storm, we arrived late in Havana. Fernando from Fertours was very accommodating to us and ensured that we would have our tour guide there to pick us up. We arrived on Tuesday in the late afternoon and our tour guide, Luis, was there to meet us at the agreed upon place. We took convertible old pink cars and saw the Malecon, Revolution Square, status of Jesus, and many other sights during the night. We then switched to air conditioned cars and rode to the Tropicana. The Tropicana show was outstanding. We all really enjoyed the dancing, singing, and costumes. It was so colorful. I would recommend this show to anyone traveling to Havana. After the show, Luis was there to greet us and take us back to the ship. The next day, Luis met us in the San Francisco Square and took us on a tour of Old Havana. He was very knowledgeable about the culture and history of Cuba. We all appreciated his patience with our many questions about Cuba. Luis was also very caring as we had a few older people in the tour and he was sensitive to everyone's needs. Thank you to Fernando and Luis for such an amazing time in Cuba. We learned so much about Cuba and were amazed by all the nice people we met while there. Luis is an EXCELLENT tour guide and I would highly recommend him and Fertours to anyone visiting Havana!! The crew members on the Empress of the Seas were OUTSTANDING and service oriented. I really appreciated that each and every person went out of their way to make our cruise comfortable. Not once did I hear a cruise member say that I would have to ask someone else. Each member took it upon his/herself to find out the answer to my questions. I would like to call out the following crew members: Emilio from the Specialty Shops always greeted me with a smile and went out of his way to answer any questions. Malache, Rodlee, and Yan from the Dining Room made each night a special one when we went to dinner. They went out of their way to make each meal a unique experience. The nightly entertainment was really good as well. We enjoyed the different singers, dancers, comedians, and the ventriloquist. Also, a special call out to the Captain of the Empress of the Seas. He did a great job in maneuvering the ship during a hurricane. I would highly recommend the Empress of the Seas and the excellent crew members. Read Less
8 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2018
We just got back from the 8 day "Cuba Immersion" cruise on Empress of the Seas. We are long-time Royal Caribbean cruisers and have done all the ship classes. By far (like a factor or 2) this is the smallest boat in the fleet. ... Read More
We just got back from the 8 day "Cuba Immersion" cruise on Empress of the Seas. We are long-time Royal Caribbean cruisers and have done all the ship classes. By far (like a factor or 2) this is the smallest boat in the fleet. By no means did it feel like we were missing anything. The facts are, the staff more than made up for the ship size in the quality of food, service, and access to really cool ports. The cabins are small, we had a junior suite, which was nice - but it was about the size of any other balcony. Our friends had an "ocean view", which was just a window, so go in expecting small and older and you'll be fine. Don't expect a modern fancy ship. But this one is clean, well equipped and has all the basics. We visited Havana, Cienfuegos (Trinidad) and Santiago de Cuba. In looking at these ports, there's really no practical way to think a larger could not even get into these ports. In the port entry to Santiago de Cuba, the ship almost reaches power lines going over the water. So, in all fairness, Royal NEEDS to run a smaller boat here. The food was great, probably some of the best we've had on Royal and the size allowed us to get to know some of the service staff. We thoroughly enjoyed it. The facilities are small but adequate. Now, on Cuba, don't expect fancy or beaches. Cuba is 60 years behind. Go to Cuba because you want to learn about Cuba not to be pampered. If you want to be pampered go on another cruise and don't complain about this one. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2018
This was the best way to see Havana. Two days in port and it was so easy to get on and off the ship and in an out of Havana! Wonderful time. It was like going back in time to 1959! One of the best trips I have been on and will go back ... Read More
This was the best way to see Havana. Two days in port and it was so easy to get on and off the ship and in an out of Havana! Wonderful time. It was like going back in time to 1959! One of the best trips I have been on and will go back for sure! Everybody was so worried about the paperwork to get into the country and it was easy and nobody really checked. The ship took it at the Miami port and that was it. It really is for the US and you to hold for up to five years in case you would get audited. The exchange process was easy and I used Euros to get a better rate as US dollars get a 10% reduction off the top! The visa process the ship handled and it was billed to the onboard account. You give to the Cuban officials when you leave the ship the first time and that is it. You can take up to 100 cigars per person and a liter of rum per person. Lots of great cigar stores but go to the authentic. Casa De Habanos for the best! Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: September 2018
My husband and I had a last minute opportunity to take this cruise. We picked it solely for the itinerary because it had an overnight in Havana. We loved it! Fair warning, if you are choosing this ship solely for the ship experience ... Read More
My husband and I had a last minute opportunity to take this cruise. We picked it solely for the itinerary because it had an overnight in Havana. We loved it! Fair warning, if you are choosing this ship solely for the ship experience and looking for something new and modern, you will be disappointed. The ship is smaller and one of the older boats in RC's fleet. Overall we enjoyed ourselves, but again, we were not on this boat because it was shiny and new. It is clean and well kept. The staff are all wonderful. Embarkation and debarkation were a breeze. The staff (customer service, dining, bartenders, stateroom steward, etc...) were amazingly kind, helpful, and friendly. We really enjoyed the food on this ship...both in the main dining room and Chops Grill. The buffet was your typical buffet and was decent overall. They also have a really great wine selection on this boat! And for the best pina colada, go to the Schooner bar and ask for a topper of Meyer's dark rum. Amazing! We didn't see any of the shows since that usually isn't our thing. Since it was an overnight in Havana, we did the cigar factory tour one day and a walking tour the next (that included stops at La Bodeguita and El Floridita. Sidenote, if those bars are on your agenda, I recommend seeing them through an excursion rather than going on your own. With an excursion, they will open early for the group and it is less crowded - - AND they include a mojito or daiquiri. If you opt to go on your own later in the day, there are lines and crowds at both spots). We really enjoyed both excursions. Always felt safe, and the air-conditioned bus for the cigar tour was a plus. After both excursions, we opted to explore on our own with some destinations we had mapped out in advance. We found some wonderful restaurants, cigar shops/speakeasies, and just enjoyed walking Havana. The cabins are fine. Hopefully, if you are heading to Havana you won't be spending much time in it anyway. While outdated and nothing fancy, it was clean. The bed was comfortable. We had an oceanview stateroom and felt it was good for two people. Had we brought our two kids, I don't know that I would have felt the same way. Speaking of kids, we opted not to have our 8 year old and 5 year old join us for this trip. The boat isn't super family-focused (although we did see quite a few kids!), and our agenda included lots of walking and exploring. Call me selfish, but I didn't want anyone asking me for snacks or whining that they were tired of walking. We come from a desert climate, so the pool and extra sun weren't really on our agenda. From what we could tell, the pool was small and underwhelming, but again, this is an older and smaller ship. Also, something random I noticed is that the staff on this boat really promote handwashing/hand sanitizing among the guests. It was kind of nice to see staff constantly reminding guests to clean their hands before entering restaurants and the buffet (and sad at how many guests try to skirt by without doing it). We have been on other cruises where the signs are there, but they aren't really enforced. So I give this boat extra points for trying to keep everyone healthy! Coincidentally, we had another cruise planned on another line later in the month for a family celebration. It was on a larger and newer ship. Being able to compare the two, my husband and I actually preferred our overall experience on the Empress vs the other carrier. Highly recommend this boat and itinerary if Cuba is at the top of your list! Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: July 2018
I chose this cruise for the ports of call. I love Key West, and had been to Cococay years ago. Both are fun and excellent venues! I really went on this cruise for the day in Havana, mainly for the historical perspective. I was not ... Read More
I chose this cruise for the ports of call. I love Key West, and had been to Cococay years ago. Both are fun and excellent venues! I really went on this cruise for the day in Havana, mainly for the historical perspective. I was not disappointed. The contrast between Cuba, a Communist Nation, and other venues in the Caribbean is very noticeable. The personnel on this ship are very friendly and strive to accommodate your wishes. At the bar, the drinks were excellent! I purchased the ultimate drink package, and will do so again on my next cruise. Food in the Windjammer offers a wide variety, and the quality is excellent. We ate dinner each night in the Starlight. Our waiters did an excellent job in making our dining experience a good one. Wine selection was great. We sat with a family from Connecticut, really enjoyed sharing experiences with them. We hit it off really well from the get go. Food selection and quality of the dining experience in the Starlight was also excellent. The Empress is a smaller ship, so you get to know crew members. I am a loyal customer of Royal Caribbean, and highly recommend their cruise line to anyone interested in a wonderful cruising experience. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: July 2018
We took this cruise with extended family (14 of us total) for a 50th wedding anniversary celebration. I was a bit anxious about how Cuba would be, but it turned out to be fantastic and I'm glad I got the opportunity to visit. The ... Read More
We took this cruise with extended family (14 of us total) for a 50th wedding anniversary celebration. I was a bit anxious about how Cuba would be, but it turned out to be fantastic and I'm glad I got the opportunity to visit. The Empress of the Seas is by far the smallest ship in Royal's currently active fleet, but it was well-maintained for its age, and the crew was very friendly and professional. The menu variety in the main dining room was excellent, and we also enjoyed a night at the Chops Steak House restaurant. It did cost extra to go there for an evening, but the excellent food was well worth the price. We attended the shows every night, which gave a good variety of music, comedy, and dancing. The band which played for the shows was fantastic. If you are looking for a nice cruise to Cuba, I'd recommend this ship. I did think the prices for shore excursions in Cuba were pretty steep, so I booked my own and highly enjoyed a private tour for the family that I found on tripadvisor (I toured with Yosel Vazquez, yoselvazquez@yahoo.com or http://ilovecuba.webs.com) Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: July 2018
The service is beyond anything we have ever experienced cruising & we cruise twice a year. The staff in the dining room was extraordinary. The entertainment was spectacular, but that is something we have come to expect from Royal ... Read More
The service is beyond anything we have ever experienced cruising & we cruise twice a year. The staff in the dining room was extraordinary. The entertainment was spectacular, but that is something we have come to expect from Royal Caribbean. The Tribute Show was so upbeat & fun, what a talented performer. Cruise Director, Hugo, also was very entertaining. Every encounter we had with Royal staff was first rate. The disembarkation was a bit labored but once we informed the staff that we had a plane to catch, someone escorted us all the way from the ship directly to Customs, avoiding a very long wait in line. The ship doesn't have all the bells and whistles that a 4,000-5,000 passenger ship has, but the ease of getting about & not having to wait on lines for everything does have an advantage for the guests.The Empress may be a smaller ship than the rest of the Royal fleet, but it has the biggest heart! Read Less
Sail Date: July 2018
My family of four chose this ship and itinerary because we have always wanted to see Key West, Cuba, and Cozumel, but never wanted to fly to these places and spend more than a few days. I have to say had a terrific time! We only cruised ... Read More
My family of four chose this ship and itinerary because we have always wanted to see Key West, Cuba, and Cozumel, but never wanted to fly to these places and spend more than a few days. I have to say had a terrific time! We only cruised one other time on the Oasis of the Seas, so we were a bit nervous about scaling down from one of the largest ships to one of RC smallest ships. Nevertheless, we loved the Empress! It was (literally) smooth sailing. The ship is certainly much smaller and does not have all the bells and whistles, but it was no less fun. Our interior rooms (we had two) were tidy thanks to Manuel G. He did a great job keeping up with our teenagers' room, which is no easy feat! Chandan and Milton took great care of us in the Starlight main dining room; Chandan even went out of his way on a few occasions to say hello to us in the Windjammer. The nightly entertainment was terrific each night - we really laughed. Hugo Arenas, the Cruise Director was terrific ("yes or yes") and really set the tone for the entire time. We navagated Key West on our own, which went well (it is walkable). The two excusions we booked for Cozumel and Cuba (Best of Havana Express with Heminway House & Mayan Runins w/Chocolate Tasting) were great. Cozumel was not what we were expecting as far as the port was concerned and I will say that of all of the ports we have been to now we were harrassed the most at Cozumel. Those who run the excursions at Cozumel and Cuba also had no problem asking for tips for just about every one that is encountered! We even had to pay a dollar to use the rest room in Cuba. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2018
My friend (who is a seasoned cruiser) selected and booked our cruise. This ship is supposedly the oldest and smallest of their fleet, but I never would have known. The staff was genuinely happy and nice, and the activities were endless. ... Read More
My friend (who is a seasoned cruiser) selected and booked our cruise. This ship is supposedly the oldest and smallest of their fleet, but I never would have known. The staff was genuinely happy and nice, and the activities were endless. Such a great experience! I'm for sure doing this again soon!!! We were a bit hesitant about going to Cuba, and walking around on our own, but it really ended up adding to the experience. Nassau was nice for shopping, and next time I think I'll venture further out. My favorite parts of the trip were just relaxing on the deck with my friend, with great music, and a drink in my hand. I think the first day out I accidentally took 2 naps without meaning to! That says something!!! I am looking forward to bringing my husband and family on a cruise in the near future... like maybe 2019? And then another girls trip soon after that! 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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