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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.

Alternate Itinerary Cruise

Empress of the Seas Cruise Review by TravelingThroughTheYears

Trip Details
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.
TravelingThroughTheYears’s Full Rating Summary
Enrichment Activities
Value For Money
Embarkation
Dining
Public Rooms
Entertainment
Cabin
Fitness & Recreation
Shore Excursions
Service
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Cabin Review

Interior Stateroom
Cabin 3V 3007
This stateroom was tiny! It was an interior stateroom located on the outside at the bow of the ship. Three sides of the bed were directly up against walls / furniture, with a small walking space on the fourth side that ended at the desk. It was difficult for two people to move in this room.
Deck 8 Inside Cabins, Outside Cabins, Suite Cabins