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: April 2019
I, like many of my shipmates, chose this cruise specifically because it visited three Cuban ports: Cienfuegos, Santiago de Cuba, and Havana. As MANY others have noted in previous reviews, RCI advertises these ports, knowing full well that ... Read More
I, like many of my shipmates, chose this cruise specifically because it visited three Cuban ports: Cienfuegos, Santiago de Cuba, and Havana. As MANY others have noted in previous reviews, RCI advertises these ports, knowing full well that for at least the past six months, they cannot port in Santiago. They continue to advertise three Cuban ports, and then literally as soon as final payments are paid, the RCI website is updated to show that in fact you won't be visiting Santiago: the ship will stop somewhere else instead. In our case, it was Cozumel, Mexico. Since most Caribbean cruisers have been to Cozumel before, this wasn't a particularly attractive alternative. RCI doesn't do its guests the courtesy of notifying them of this change. I only found out via the CruiseCritic roll call for the cruise. So if you are interested in this cruise, be forewarned: you will probably NOT visit three ports in Cuba. There was, for us, only one positive about this cruise: the crew. With the exception of the cruise director (whom none of us saw at any point in the 7-day cruise, even being out and about all the time!), the crew were friendly, helpful and really just an amazing bunch of people. They made up for many (but not all) of the many shortcomings of this ship (and RCI in general.) MANY NEGATIVES: where to begin? Let's start with the cabin. We had an inside (see below). Another problem? The food is average AT BEST: and often downright bad. We're not fussy by any means, but of the seven meals, 3 of them were awful (we couldn't even eat them), 2 meals were mediocre, and only 2 were average in taste and quality. Our dining room waiters did their best: always asking if we wanted something else, and so on, but we don't like to waste food, so we just figured (on several nights) to have a bit of a "fast"..... The dining rooms (both the main Starlight areas and the Windjammer buffet) are horribly overcrowded, with tables pushed so close together that you literally had your neighbors' chairs up against the backs of yours. They are also VERY understaffed: they need at least 50% more servers in both areas. We like to talk with our servers and get to know them a bit, but they were so busy that they rarely had time to even slow down, much less stop! The swimming pool is a joke. First of all, it's a uniform depth of 1,80m (a bit over six feet). It is VERY small and because it has no shallow area, older people tend to just sit on the edge with their legs in the water. This makes getting into and out of the pool a real challenge, and once you're in the pool, you have to keep swimming, because you can't stop anywhere on the sides (with all those dangling legs!) Maybe 20 people (if they crowd close together) can sit around the sides, and only 10 or so can "swim" (by which I mean tread water in a very confined space.) Finally, it's a salt-water pool, so if (like us) you don't care for salt-water pools, you won't enjoy this one. We went in on the first day and never went back: it was always very crowded. The casino onboard has an interesting two-level design, which we liked. There are a couple of things you need to know about the casino, however. First of all, it is completely non-smoking. Not a problem for us, but for many, this will be a disappointment. The other thing we didn't care for was the fact that about 75% of the slot machines are old: and I mean 20+ years old! Some of them still use coins, believe it or not, that's how old they are! Many have buttons that don't work, or are out of order for "maintenance". If you plan on playing the slots, you cannot charge to your "SeaPass" card. You have three options: bring cash (USD) with you; use the ATM to get money (for a $6.95 fee); or go to the cashier and charge it to your SeaPass (for a 5% fee). So if you are going to get more than $107 to gamble with, use the ATM. The fee is actually better than getting it at the cashier's. Generally, though, we were bored with the selection of machines after 2 days. Honestly, going to this casino is like going to a small "locals" casino in Las Vegas: lots of old, tired machines, and really low payouts. Another irritating aspect of this cruise is the way RCI has two levels of customer service when it comes to shore excursions. This is particularly true in Cuba. If you are booked on an RCI excursion, you get off the ship first. But if you have made independent plans, tough luck. You have to wait on the ship until all of RCI's "customers" (as they put it) have left the ship. Then you can go (unless you are in Cienfuegos: then you have to get a "tender ticket" and wait even longer for your turn.) So for example, we arrived in Havana at 0700. Because we had private tours, we couldn't get off the ship until 0930. So you may want to schedule any private tours for later in the morning (i.e. when it's getting hotter!) because if you had an 0900 tour, you'd probably miss it in Havana. We did one ship excursion, the "Chichen Itza Mixed Reality" tour from Cozumel. We had not been to Chichen Itza, and it's a long trip, so we thought a ship tour was safer in terms of getting back in time. The description of the tour is quite a bit different from the reality: the virtual reality they offer is in fact a slide show on a tablet, that you do with the guide on the long bus ride to the site. The guide and driver were excellent, but we only had 90 minutes at the site, out of an 8-hour excursion. As to the Cuban ports, the town center of Cienfuegos is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, though I honestly can't imagine why, unless perhaps UNESCO felt like Cuba ought to have a site or two. The best way to see the "sights" in Cienfuegos is to hop on the little Transtur tourist (covered open-air) train that departs every 45 minutes or so from the pier. It's a 40-minute tour, costs 5 CUC (Cuban convertible pesos), and makes a lengthy stop at Jose Marti Square (where all the "UNESCO" sites are located.) Then it continues on to Punta Gorda, where all the rich government officials and other revolutionaries live, and goes past some of the beautiful old hotels and the Palacio Valle and along the Malecon. You can walk to Jose Marti Square from the pier, but many of the roads are rough, unpaved, and you have to run the gauntlet of touts selling pedi-cab or horse-drawn carriage or "classic car" tours. We found Havana to be amazingly underwhelming, and certainly not deserving of the hype we'd read before our trip. Again, a few well-maintained (tourist-oriented) streets surround by squalid, dirty, rather smelly neighborhoods with decaying buildings and a lot of poor people living the socialist dream. No, we're not political at all, but the irony to us (as Europeans) of the failure of the revolutionary ideals was very sad. Embarkation and disembarkation were fairly lengthy experiences. Long lines, long waits, and once you did get on the ship, all of the cabin areas were closed off, with signs saying, "Cabins will be available after 1330." Our luggage did not arrive until just before dinner. RCI transfers are a joke. At disembarkation, we did "self-assist" so as to catch the schedule 0815 transfer to Fort Lauderdale airport. We waited in line for 30 minutes, then finally got off the ship and walked to the bus. We sat on the bus for 90 minutes before leaving at 1000! The ship itself is old and very tired, despite the fact that it just came out of a "refurbishment" at the end of March 2019. We couldn't see much that looked like it had been upgraded or updated: perhaps they just put in more tables and chairs in the dining areas, and renovated the cabins for the officers and the cruise director. To us, Empress of the Seas seemed like a ship that needs to be completely rebuilt, possibly for one of the luxury lines. It certainly is nothing more than a cash cow for RCI, because they don't seem to be spending any money on facilities or crew. Read Less
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
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
1 Helpful Vote
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
Sail Date: March 2019
The issues started with RCCL changing the itinerary right after final payment was due. Then there were the scheduling changes to arrival times at ports while on board the ship that even the crew gave different answers depending on who you ... Read More
The issues started with RCCL changing the itinerary right after final payment was due. Then there were the scheduling changes to arrival times at ports while on board the ship that even the crew gave different answers depending on who you asked. Even though there were schedule changes we still arrived late to every port even to disembark in Miami. The fact that they would not issue tender tickets until 9:30 am and would not allow the first tender to board until 10 am was ridiculous. That is the punishment for using private tours and not RCCL's. Also wish they would have told us that we were staying in Havana until 1 am instead of 10 pm so I could have made plans for a night activity as I did not want to purchase Tropicana show tickets from the boat for $200 each. They ran out of chocolate ice cream, chocolate chip cookies, and butter. Also did not like that they did not offer breakfast and lunch in the dining room on sea days when you could sit down and actually enjoy it. They had a buffet brunch on all sea days. No need to have 2 buffets. Loved the smallness of the ship as it was so easy to get around and from one end to the other. The crew were great and friendly. Inside cabin was not as bad as I expected. Plenty of room for all of our stuff. Just put suitcases under the bed. Shows were okay. The comedians were good. Do not know the reason for the gymnast??? There were two dress to impress nights despite our booking confirmation specifically stating no formal nights. Activity staff was great and the parties they through were fun. However they need to update their material as I was on this same ship 19 years ago and they repeated quite a few of the same things ie, quest game and 70's dance party appearance (do not want to ruin the surprise for others). But as I stated we had a great time and loved Havana and Cienfuegos and wished we got to Santiago de Cuba which was why we booked this trip for the three Cuban ports. Not sure that I will cruise RCCL again. 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
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
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2019
We chose this ship because of the itinerary. I was thrilled that we would be making 3 stops in Cuba and thought that the itinerary would outweigh the fact that this was an older ship and there were no balconies. Embarkation was a breeze ... Read More
We chose this ship because of the itinerary. I was thrilled that we would be making 3 stops in Cuba and thought that the itinerary would outweigh the fact that this was an older ship and there were no balconies. Embarkation was a breeze and we were on the ship by noon. The Windjammer has the typical buffet lines instead of food stations and it just didn't flow. The food was okay but the coffee was the worst that I have had on any ship. Not to mention it continually ran out of coffee and cups. Staff were great and kept tables clean. Although the ship had just come out of dry dock, there were ongoing issues with the ice cream machine, ice machine and hot tubs. There was never any issue with finding a chair by the pool and hardly any sight of chair hogs! The layout of the ship was disconcerting with the Windjammer in the front of the ship and the gym above the Viking Lounge. You could actually see people riding bikes from the floor of the lounge. Boleros was terrific and had some great Latin entertainment. The Schooner lounge was centered in the middle of the ship. The piano player was good but the singer/piano player that came on later - not so much. Entertainment in the show lounge was good, for the most part. The comedians were funny and I enjoyed the late night adult shows. The production number at the end of the cruise was great. Our ocean view stateroom on deck 8 was small, typical though of older RCCL ships. I missed not having a refrigerator and there were no shelves in the closet so space was limited for clothing. Drawers were tiny. The bed was comfortable and I had no trouble sleeping. Our cabin steward kept our room clean and left a 'towel birthday cake' for my husband on his birthday! The staff in the dining room were terrific and very attentive. Food always came out hot and there was only one night that I couldn't find anything that really appealed to me. We ate in Chops one night and that was pretty typical. We found the staff very helpful and ready to help out in any way they could but getting off the ship during the week was one area that, I thought, could be improved upon. Passengers who had booked RCCL excursion had priority getting off the ship and we, having booked privately, were late getting off the ship to meet our tours. It felt like we were being penalized for not booking with the ship. It was sad that we missed our third stop in Cuba due to some pier issues(?). Overall, despite the small glitches, we had a great time. We always find a way to enjoy a cruise and there was nothing during the course of the week that jeopardized that. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2019
We choose this cruise because the original itinerary included Santiago, Cuba. Last November we were on the Holland America Veendam and sailed to Havana and Cienfuego. Havana is a large city and we decided another trip (plus Santiago) was ... Read More
We choose this cruise because the original itinerary included Santiago, Cuba. Last November we were on the Holland America Veendam and sailed to Havana and Cienfuego. Havana is a large city and we decided another trip (plus Santiago) was of interest to us. As it turned out after 49 cruise with 8 different cruise company this was definitely out worse cruise. Not sure when Santiago, Cuba was cancelled and replaced with the Cayman Islands we could not tender into Santiago. But we did accept that. However, the cruise itself was just short of a disaster and like others we were happy to disembark March 25. To start the cabins are tiny and we ended up with bunk beds over our own. Not much room to move but my wife did bump her head twice. The news channels on the TV were not available until the last three days and even then half the time the picture and sound was frozen. No movies in the cabin to watch and only 2 that were shown up on the top deck. The Windjammer cafe was always jammed with people eating overcook food. The windows all around the ship were dirty which ruins the views of the seas. I finally hit the ceiling when I order a package of 3 wines and after the first bottle was told I had to have of one of each of he three choices. I fought that one out until the Director of Food and Beverages relented and allowed us to have a second bottle of the one we preferred. The food in the dining room was mediocre at best. What a tremendous difference between our Cuban cruise on the Veendam and the just concluded trip on the Empress of the Seas. NEVER AGAIN will we sail with Royal Caribbean. Read Less
Empress of the Seas Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 3.0 0.0
Dining 3.0 0.0
Entertainment 3.0 0.0
Public Rooms 4.0 0.0
Fitness Recreation 2.5 0.0
Family 2.0 0.0
Shore Excursion 4.5 0.0
Enrichment 4.0 0.0
Service 4.5 0.0
Value For Money 4.0 0.0

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