My wife and I have been on one cruise before with Carnival and wanted something geared more towards a laid-back adult lifestyle rather than the constant 'booze-cruze' party that we found on Carnival (not that it's a bad ... Read More
My wife and I have been on one cruise before with Carnival and wanted something geared more towards a laid-back adult lifestyle rather than the constant 'booze-cruze' party that we found on Carnival (not that it's a bad thing, just not our speed)
The empress is the smallest ship they have in the fleet, and one of the older ones. It has a lot of heart and is rather comfortable. There aren't as many fancy extras as the larger ships - but having a lot less space to cover makes for easy walking to and from the various parts of the ship. Also, having less people leads to less crowding at the pinch points during shore time, embarking/disembarking.
Our server and assistant server in the main dining room were a hoot - they were very attentive, had a great attitude, made great recommendations and even brought out different food items just for fun. Being that only my wife and I were traveling, we were placed at a table with two other couples (the one couple never showed up, so only one other couple was with us) We're always happy to converse with new people, so we had a great time talking to them. I'm not sure if they offer the ability to be seated alone (if you're looking for a more romantic/intimate meal experience or just don't want to socialize with others) but again, that wasn't a problem for us at all.
They offer a nice menu that changes every night, typically at least 5-6 choices for each course, and the option to pay for premium foods that you'd find at the higher end restaurant on board (Chops Grille). For example: you can order the Filet Mignon for $15; I can't shake a stick at $15 for a great steak like that. The cooking instructions were followed perfectly, presentation was exquisite, and the flavours incredible.
We had breakfasts in the windjammer buffet, main dining room, and did one day of room service. The dining room is very calm compared to the windjammer, but does have a small buffet available - I found that to be a great option. The room service was fantastic, no complaints at all. The windjammer has staff on hand to prepare toast, bagels, and custom omelettes.
The theatre is cozy and comfy, we didn't really partake in any shows beyond the shopping tips things they hosted.
Speaking of which; do they EVER push gemstone buying, lol. We were looking for a bit more information about what to do in the area rather than an overly intense selling session, but I understand that making those high markup sales do come first.
The stores were pretty good; I would recommend doing some research beforehand if you're looking for something specific. Pricing is comparable to on-shore stores, I can't say I found any bargains (and actually some were above the regular retail price). My experience with Carnival was the same, so I can't say RC was out of line.
The weather was ridiculously nice (I know they can't control that either way) every single day was perfect. There are a lot of nice areas go on deck. Deck 6 wraps around the whole ship and offers a great running/walking track. There are smoking areas available all around deck 6. Depending on your speed, you can lounge by the pool on Deck 10, or hide on the top deck of the stern and enjoy a bit more peace and sun. Deck 6 offers either great sun exposure on both sides, or a very sizeable shaded area on the stern. On the bow there are two public access areas that lead to deck 7 and 8 respectively. There are no deck chairs, but there is NO ONE up there, so you can great a great view of the sea, have some private time with your partner, take a smoke break etc. Those two areas are not well noted, but that just makes it more enjoyable for those who take a look around.
There is a small gym above the Boleros lounge, for the size of the ship it is more than adequate, and it offers a great view.
The boleros and schooner bars offer a different flavor for each, but both were laid back and cozy. Boleros is more of a Cuban themed with lots of Latino music, the schooner was a bit more towards a contemporary lounge and more laid back.
On our first day trying to leave Miami there was a repair the ship had to undergo (underwater repairs by a dive team - looked expensive, lol), it delayed us by about 4 hours but had no effect on our arrival at our first port of call. We also had to stop to fuel up near Bain Town, we were not able to disembark as it is purely an industrial marine service dock located in the bay itself. That had us tied up for about 6 hours, but again - had no effect on our port of call visit the next day. Frankly, I rather enjoy the industrial side of things, so I was happy either way.
The day of cruising was nice, they offer lots of things to do on the ship but we opted to enjoy time to ourselves *ahem* and spent a great deal of time on the aft of deck 6 reading and enjoying a drink. There was no shortage of options for entertainment on the ship, though. The casino is smoke free by the way; I did not expect that - it was nice to see.
Overall I was more impressed with RC than Carnival, many people who are more experienced with doing cruises had nothing but good things to say about RC, and I'm glad they were right. Read Less