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
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
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2019
Empress of the Seas Cruise Evaluation (March 17-25, 2019) March 17, 2019: We were among the very first to check in for our cruise after arriving at the Pier at about 10.30 am. Our taxi found the Terminal G where Empress of the Seas ... Read More
Empress of the Seas Cruise Evaluation (March 17-25, 2019) March 17, 2019: We were among the very first to check in for our cruise after arriving at the Pier at about 10.30 am. Our taxi found the Terminal G where Empress of the Seas was docked. We did not receive any communication on the exact terminal except that the ship will be at the Port of Miami. In any case, we were upbeat, and we were delighted in finding the terminal. Our delight was however short lived when we stood at the check-in counter for at least ten minutes waiting for the computer to reboot. It was a premonition of additional negative experiences during the cruise. The check in for the fire drill was so outdated. Instead of scanning our cruise cards, one of the cruise staff was checking off names on a sheet of paper! We had our first dinner at Starlight on Deck 5, and I was handed a menu with food stain on its already faded words. It seemed that the menu has lived beyond its life span and was old enough to be discarded. Our table was besides the window, and we requested that the window drapes be lowered down to prevent sunlight from blinding our eyes. But the drapes’ strings were broken, and the waiter had to pull it down by force! We headed back to our cabin after the evening show. I called housekeeping for two additional pillows. When the pillows were not delivered an hour later, I called again. We waited for another 20 minutes. I called the third time. It was already late in the evening, and we wanted to sleep. The pillows were finally delivered to our room after we were about to doze off to our dreams. Altogether, we waited for 2 hours for the pillows. March 18, 2019: We went to Windjammer for breakfast, and sat at a corner waiting for service, but no server came. There were waiters serving in other sections, but they never seemed to see us (and others) sitting at another section. We decided to get our own drinks instead. We didn’t meet our cabin steward until this evening when he saw us going into our room. He asked us for our names, and checked his list for our names. Unlike our cruises on Princess where the cabin steward visited us as soon as we checked in, greeted us with our names correctly, and introduced himself/herself, making us feel welcome. There was no nameplate in our room indicating the name of the cabin steward. March 20, 2019: We arrived at Cienfuegos this morning, but we were required to tender in. We have never seen such a mess in getting the tender tickets. First, we signed our names on a sheet of paper, and then we returned to have our names called in order to receive the tender tickets. There was so much confusion because we could hardly hear the person calling out names. Why would they required us to sign our names, and then be seated to have our names called was beyond our comprehension. The arrangement was insane. Why couldn’t they just hand out the tender tickets when we came into the waiting room? March 21, 2019: We were told just minutes before arriving at Cayman Island that the ship would not be docking at George Town as originally planned due to weather conditions. The ship was then docked off Sports Bay, and we were tendered in. We were told through the intercom communications that shuttle buses were available to take us into town due to the change of the docking station. We took the tender onto the shore. There was, however, no shuttle bus to take us into town. We were instead required to take a taxi into town at a cost of US$6.00 per person per trip. For two of us, it would mean an additional $24.00 (to and back from town). That was a surprise to us. Other cruise lines would provide complimentary shuttle services when there is a change in an itinerary. No announcement was made on having to pay for our shuttle into town. If the captain has alerted us to this arrangement, we would be at least more forgiving. After lingering for a few minutes on the shore, we decided to return to the ship along with other dissatisfied passengers. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2019
This was my first cruise in several years, after having taken a "break" to fulfill other travel goals. Previously, I had been on a number of cruises spanning 5 different cruise lines (RC, Celebrity, Carnival, Norwegian and ... Read More
This was my first cruise in several years, after having taken a "break" to fulfill other travel goals. Previously, I had been on a number of cruises spanning 5 different cruise lines (RC, Celebrity, Carnival, Norwegian and Holland America), mostly sailing to Caribbean destinations. Despite not having cruised in a bit, my husband & I were able to distinctly see how the cruise lines seem to be cutting more and more corners. However, we took this particular cruise purely for the itinerary (the chance to visit Cuba!), so we weren't necessarily "let down" with our experience on the ship itself. Embarkation was a breeze - but I think this is because we arrived relatively late in the afternoon. Turns out, that's the perfect time to board a ship for a pleasant embarkation experience! It's not like we were itching to eat in the buffet, like many other people seem to want to do! The ship is nearly 30 years old and very "petite." If you are boarding this vessel expecting a myriad of activities, you will be vastly disappointed. It's also not the most pleasant-looking ship in the world. For lack of a better phrase, it is "old-school!" I was worried about feeling more movement on a smaller ship, but we were blessed with smooth sailing throughout (except for one somewhat rough evening). We had a mid-ship inside cabin and it was probably the smallest cruise cabin we've ever had. The cabin was a bit rough around the edges and I'm assuming all of the cabins could use a good refurbishment soon! Luckily, we had clean bedding (super important). Our cabin steward was really nice, as well! As far as food goes, I think the best thing I had on the entire cruise was a "warm cookie" dessert in the MDR one night. Otherwise, the food was just blah. I felt like everything was loaded with salt (or sugar!). The buffet was entirely unappealing to us (it usually is, no matter what cruise line we are on). Even breakfast was a bit of a letdown. On sea days, they have a buffet in the MDR. A buffet! The whole point of going to the MDR for breakfast is to have a sit-down breakfast. Obviously, this is a corner being cut! We have another RC cruise planned later this year (again, only because of the itinerary) on a larger ship, and we have higher hopes for that one. However, we might spring for the ultimate dining package since there are more specialty restaurants on board (the Empress only has Chops Grille, which we did not try). Generally, I got the feeling that the dining staff would all rather be on a newer, larger ship so they, too, can enjoy more pleasing dining experiences! Please, RC, improve the food! Offer better training to chefs and cooks. Do something! We booked our excursions for Cienfuegos and Havana through RC. In retrospect, for all that we got, the prices were quite reasonable. We opted for the "Culture and Beauty of Cienfuegos" and "Havana Bucket List Experience" tours, respectively. The Cienfuegos tour included a visit to the El Nicho waterfall (about an hour drive each way). There was also a brief stop in the city itself (which, is more like a town, really). Our tour guide in Cienfuegos was great! The Havana tour was even better! Obviously, Havana is the big city of Cuba and is more culturally sophisticated. Being in Havana was absolutely surreal. Our tour there was the entire day and provided a sweeping overview of the city's main points of interest. It also included an amazing lunch at one of the few privately-owned restaurants. Once again, our tour guide in Havana was awesome! We loved Havana, and would gladly visit again someday - assuming travel for U.S. citizens remains available! Oh, and we were so thrilled to get not one, but TWO passport stamps for Cuba - getting passport stamps on cruises is certainly a rarity. We did not have much interaction with other staff members on the ship. A few visits to the guest relations desk, a few visits to the shore excursions desk. We also visited the "next cruise" desk. One of the employees there was very polite and helpful. The other one was definitely not (and did not know English well enough to be in that particular position). We weren't blown away by anyone, and did not feel as though there was any "above and beyond" exceptional service. In fact, the automatic gratuity per day is kind of an outrage, but nothing negative happened, which might have prompted us to reduce it. I'd feel better if gratuities were just rolled into the price of the cruise so they aren't even noticed by anyone. Overall, we had a good enough time. Experiencing two destinations in Cuba compensated for any shortcomings in the cruise itself. Cuba is a do-not-miss destination, and cruising is an efficient way to visit! Read Less
7 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2019
We are retired and have never been to Cuba before. We thought this would be the perfect cruise for us. We couldn’t have been more wrong. Our first impression was great disappointment. The pool was netted and the water was green. The ... Read More
We are retired and have never been to Cuba before. We thought this would be the perfect cruise for us. We couldn’t have been more wrong. Our first impression was great disappointment. The pool was netted and the water was green. The hot tubs were netted and empty. This was to be the theme of our experience as there so many time things were out of order or closed for maintenance. The soft serve machine was down, three of the seven treadmills were inoperable and the gym was insufficient for the number of guests wanting to use it. We resorted to walking on the walking deck, which was also closed for maintenance in some areas. This ship just came out of dry dock and it was evident. The Windjammer and bars were lacking in supplies that had not been restocked in time for the cruise, but we’re eventually restocked by day five. The shore excursions left a lot to be desired as one was canceled just days before we boarded the ship. Actually after experiencing one of RCL tours with this cruise, we were blessed that it was canceled. We booked a tour for a night in Cuba with RCL and it was so bad, the majoryof people walked out. The music was amateurish at best. We paid $109 per person to walk to a local restaurant and get two drinks and an appetizer that consisted of sliced cold cuts, cheese, grated carrots, and lettuce. We walked across the courtyard to another restaurant had two drinks, an appetizer and tipped our server and the cost of that was about $35 total ( not per person). What a huge mark up for profit, especially when you can get a Lobster dinner in town between $12-15 per person. If anything we’ve reminded ourselves of why de shouldn’t book tours with the cruise line and continue booking thru Airbnb. Our tours in Cienfuegos and Havana that we booked thru them were simply amazing and so much more affordable. We had a three hour walking tour with a small group of five and the cost to us was $45. Our guide even bought us gelato and mojitos as we toured. We had breakfast in Chops and they were slow and didn’t listen to what I requested. I asked for an omelet with mushroom, bell peppers and cilantro and I got an oil covered omelet with tomatoes, onions, and spinach. I ended up not eating it. As we waited we observed ceiling that were missing, paint that was peeled or incomplete. The size of the ship was nice, however, as we didn’t feel overwhelmed by the number of passengers on the ship and there were plenty of areas to go for a quiet retreat if we needed it. With all that being said, I would probably sail again on this ship, but would wait a year so that all the issues could be resolved. I certainly WOULD NOT book another shore excursion thru the cruise line. Airbnb experiences had won my loyalty and business for shore excursions. 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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