1,538 Royal Caribbean Empress of the Seas Cruise Reviews

This was my 63rd cruise, itinerary is usually my main focus and wanting to visit Cuba there was only a few ship offerings. I have always had very good experiences sailing RCL and despite the numerous negative reviews and the size of the ... Read More
This was my 63rd cruise, itinerary is usually my main focus and wanting to visit Cuba there was only a few ship offerings. I have always had very good experiences sailing RCL and despite the numerous negative reviews and the size of the “Empress” I decide to give it a try, lucky my sailing was the last Cuba sailing before the new travel restrictions were put into place. Having recently sailed the mega ships the boarding process could not have been any easier. Navigating the ship is fairly easy and the hub of activity is on decks 5 and 6. Even-tough this is a small ship I found lots to do as there are numerous activities throughout the day. In the evening there was two venues with music and the usual fill of activities to participate. There were a number of bars, but “Balleros” was my main hangout plus the music was very good. I ate in main dining room , windjammer and the only specialty restaurant Chops, all were very good to excellent. Staff and service throughout were amazing. Even tough this was a small ship I never felt any rocking throughout the voyage. I did encounter that sewage smell on mid deck 8, but it was occasional. My only complaint was the cabin(the worst in 63 cruises.. but more below). Overall, the Empress is an underrated ship, it has much to offer, food, activities, staff and yes character. Read Less
Sail Date June 2019
We chose this cruise to go with a group of friends. The Ship: was nice for the most part. It was comfortable to be on. It generally handled the sea state pretty well. It was nice to not have to walk forever to get from one end to the ... Read More
We chose this cruise to go with a group of friends. The Ship: was nice for the most part. It was comfortable to be on. It generally handled the sea state pretty well. It was nice to not have to walk forever to get from one end to the other. The age of the ship did show though in some public areas. We went on the All Access tour and saw many of the behind the scenes areas. In general, the ship looked well cared for. Controls looked somewhat dated but that's fine since they seemed to work well. The Cabin: Here the disadvantage of an older ship shows. The cabin was small and had only a window. The general condition of the cabin was fine. The bathroom was tiny with a little shower tucked into a corner. You almost had to leave the door open to sit on the toilet. But the shower worked well and seemed to be in very good condition. Dining: Hmmm... Hit and miss. Some of the food was awful. Prime rib was the right color but missed badly on texture and taste. Beef medallions were the same. They did not taste roasted. Lobster bisque was horrific. Chicken was good. Most desserts were quite good. Pork was good and fish was fine. Civiche seemed to be just a kind of shrimp cocktail. The food in the buffet was generally OK if but over cooked. All that said, it wouldn't stop me from taking the ship again. Didn't pay any attention to the entertainment or activities. Service: Excellent all around Ports and Shore Excursions: Ports were good even if to almost seems 70% of the cruises I go in have stopped in Cozumel. Key West was good but the highlight of the cruise was the stop in Havana. The shore excursion of Old Havana was great. We got to see how Cubans actually live. Our tour guide was very open about conditions in Cuba and did not stray into politics or propaganda. I'd love to go back but, as Americans, we can't. WiFi: Hit and miss. Some areas of the ship had great wifi but in the cabin it worked ok for 1 device and poorly for the other. Read Less
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
Sail Date May 2019
Empress of the Seas is an older and smaller ship in the Royal Caribbean fleet. The ship was very well maintained. Rooms are very small by todays standards but they are functional. The food and service was up to Royal Caribbean ... Read More
Empress of the Seas is an older and smaller ship in the Royal Caribbean fleet. The ship was very well maintained. Rooms are very small by todays standards but they are functional. The food and service was up to Royal Caribbean standards. Very nice to have a ship that played Caribbean music by the pool when in the Caribbean. Making guests check out towels for pool and returning them worked real well. If some one left the pool they picked up the towels rather than leave them. That way you always knew if a lounge bed was available. Even on sea days this made lounges available by the pool all day. Life guards were great at keeping glass bottles from being taken into pool. No problem getting tables for 2 at anytime dining. Casino was small but adequate. Use of shuffling machines, 6 to 5 black jack payouts and no even money on black jack at black jack tables below $25 minimum is the main complaint. Missed diamond club area, which is not available on the ship. Biggest complaint was the lack of dress code enforcement at the main dining. People were admitted in shorts, tee shirts and tank tops, even on casual sheik night. Don't have a dress code if you're going to allow anything. A lot to see in Havana. Like stepping back in time 70 years. People were friendly. Felt very safe. Very clean. Easy to come and go through customs. Visa was easy with Royal Caribbean @ $75. Cigars were a great bargain. Make sure you buy in a national store or factory or you probably will get counterfeits. Price is the same in all stores. Know how to get to a store. They don't have easily noticed signs. You must use CUC Cuban money. Exchange rate for American money will cost you 13%. It will cost you 4% to change the money back to American. If you have Euro's or Canadian it is even. Exchange is fast and easy right at the cruise pier. Old Havana Heritage Walking Excursion booked with RC was good. It covered pretty much all of old Havana. We weren't happy that they added a bus portion to the tour. We were only told about this when our tickets arrived on board. We didn't want the bus tour but had to take it. It took up an hour of the tour. Cost $62 per person. Cafe Taberna Excursion booked with RC was good. Cost was $98 per person. 10 minute walk from cruise terminal. Nice show from 9:00 to 11:00 with band and dance couple that gets audience involved. 2 drinks and snack were included. Food is available at additional cost. Can get a little boring after 1 hour or so, especially if you don't know the language. You can leave and walk back to ship at any time if you want. Cuba's Classic Cars excursion booked through Vacations To Go, who we booked cruise through, cost $178 for 2 people and lasted about 3 hours. Very nice tour. Viewed most of the Havana Cuba highlights with stops at Revolution Square and Hotel Nacional. Half the cost of similar tour through cruise ship. All convertible cars were provided. Guide spoke English well. He was quite informative. Hotel Nacional was a great stop. Improvements to tour could be a little more time at hotel. Felt a little rushed at that stop. Tour included alcoholic drink at hotel. Meeting location was perfect. Easy to find and guides were there on time. A little disappointed with the fact that tour requires 4 per car. We were a couple and would have liked a car for 2. Maybe an option could be provided for this. If you just want to ride in the classic cars, there are plenty available outside of pier. You can rent them at $40 - $50 per hour for up to 4 people. Read Less
Sail Date May 2019
This is my 4th RC cruise. I chose this one because I would get two days in Havana. I really enjoyed this cruise, despite the ship's flaws. The itinerary was excellent (Key West, Labadee, and two days in Havana). The customer ... Read More
This is my 4th RC cruise. I chose this one because I would get two days in Havana. I really enjoyed this cruise, despite the ship's flaws. The itinerary was excellent (Key West, Labadee, and two days in Havana). The customer service was outstanding, including my awesome stateroom attendant. The food was generally bad, limited, and repetitive. This probably prevented me from gaining weight, though. There was a foul septic tank odor that permeated decks 5 and 6 for half of the cruise. I had to change staterooms (from third deck to 7160), because of a loud banging noise coming from an engine pump. I was very happy with 7160. This was the smallest ship I've been on, and I actually preferred the small size. However, I wish they offered Friday night Jewish services (I don't know if they even offered Sunday morning church), and I wish the entertainment was better (I enjoyed the comedians and the Marriage Game, but I walked out on the impressionist and the finale show). I also wished they showed more adult movies on the pool deck. I wish the solo traveler's get together was held at the sail-away party, so we could meet up earlier in the trip. Read Less
Sail Date May 2019
This was my first cruise. It was truly a wonderful experience and one that I would definitely do again! We chose this cruise for the two Cuban ports but also for the two sea days for relaxation. Cuba was quite the experience- a very ... Read More
This was my first cruise. It was truly a wonderful experience and one that I would definitely do again! We chose this cruise for the two Cuban ports but also for the two sea days for relaxation. Cuba was quite the experience- a very interesting, very HOT place. We learned a ton and are so grateful for the experience! I guess the Empress is a small ship but it felt plenty big to me as a new cruiser. I will first mention the best parts of the ship. The pool, I thought, was incredible. We never had a problem finding a place in the pool. It was clean and deep and quite lovely. We also never had a problem finding a place in the hot tubs in the evenings. Because the Empress is a small ship we were able to feel rocking when the wind and waves picked up but that was a very pleasant feeling for us- maybe not for others! The food in the MDR was SO GOOD. The service was ok- we had to ask for things (more than once on several occassions) but it was clear they were trying very hard. Our cabin steward, Kevin, on the other hand- was truly wonderful. He made sure there was ice in the cabin every evening for my mom to ice her injured knee. He was so friendly and really did a great job making us feel special. Ok, so now for the "not so great, but certainly didn't ruin our experience" parts. The stench of sewage in the middle of the ship on decks 5 and 6 was bad. Really bad. Like, made me want to lose my lunch bad. So we did our best to stay away from the middle of the ship on those decks. Also, my white swimsuit was stained yellow from the water in the pool and hot tubs. I haven't had a chance to really work on getting it white again but that's kind of disappointing. Evening activities were another somewhat disappointing fact on this cruise. We found that between the hours of 8pm and 10:30pm there was really nothing to do, or eat. We are not old folks by any sense of the imagination (mid 30's) but we don't like to stay up REAL late. There was never any dancing or fun stuff going on after dinner and the show. We wanted to go to some of the dance parties but most didn't start until 10:30pm that was just too late for us. Also, between the hours of 9 and 10:30 the Windjammer is closed. So, right at 9:30-10pm ish when you want a bedtime snack there is nothing except room service with a $7.95 charge. Another issue we had was finding places to lounge outside in the shade. The top decks are out because there is zero shade. Deck 6 is the only other place that has outdoor lounge chairs and they were mostly full all the time. Aside from that it truly was a great cruise!! If you want to go to Cuba it's a great deal I think. If you want to go for the sake of the ship, maybe not your best bet! Read Less
Sail Date May 2019
Chance to visit Cuba and feel safe about it. We just took the 5 night cruise to Cuba on the Royal Caribbean Empress of the Seas. I had read many of the reviews from past passengers and had a view of an old run down ship. This was our 20th ... Read More
Chance to visit Cuba and feel safe about it. We just took the 5 night cruise to Cuba on the Royal Caribbean Empress of the Seas. I had read many of the reviews from past passengers and had a view of an old run down ship. This was our 20th cruise but the 1st with Royal Caribbean and based on the reviews was not expecting much. This ship is old and small but really a nice ship. It is well maintained and good looking inside and out. The staff was wonderful and some of the friendliest of any ship we have been on. Our room steward Ike was the best we have ever had. The food and selection in the dining room was very good and some of the best compared to other shops we have sailed. Our waiter Leonard was fantastic. The buffet for breakfast was typical and good. But, the buffet for lunch was the disappointment when it came to food. Selection was small and mediocre to bad. On other ships we have been on, they have a grill for burgers and hot dogs that are quite good. This ship just served them from pans on the buffet and were not good. Other reviews made it sound like the seating in the buffet was tight and hard to find a seat. We did not encounter this. Activities were the usual trivia and games that were handled well. Shows were good. Especially the Lionel Richie cover singer Derik Floyd. Casino was small but not crowded. Several tables and a good variety of slots. Cocktails and drinks on the ship seemed more expensive than other shops we have been on. $8 for a beer plus tax and gratuity made it almost $10. Frozen drinks were typically $15. Maybe all cruise lines are like this now but 9 months earlier we paid about 6 for a beer and $10 for a frozen drink. We visited Cienfuegos and took a tour with Royal that was a typical excursion. Visited a fort, had lunch in a beautiful newer hotel, visited the city center square with several historic buildings. Not sure what we expected but reminded of somewhere in Mexico like Mazatlan. In Havana we did another Royal excursion. Again, not sure what I expected but the tour was fine but Havana reminded us of a post war war zone. The buildings are in total disrepair and look abandoned but yet people live in these buildings. Lines of people at bus stops. Lines to get into the grocery stores. Very sad and sorrowful. All in all, we really enjoyed our cruise and learned about Cuba. Encourage others to go. Read Less
Sail Date May 2019
We chose this particular cruise because it was one of the few seven-day cruises to Cuba...most were shorter. The good news was the itinerary and the Cuban ports as well as the Cuban tours. The shop’s casino was excellent and the ... Read More
We chose this particular cruise because it was one of the few seven-day cruises to Cuba...most were shorter. The good news was the itinerary and the Cuban ports as well as the Cuban tours. The shop’s casino was excellent and the public areas were very good. The bad news was that the food, specifically in the buffet was cheap, bland, and generally inedible. This was one of the few cruises we’ve lost weight. (The Chef’s Table was excellent, but exorbitantly priced at $85 a person.) The dining room was good, but not very good. The rooms are tiny in an effort to squeeze every foot of space into a profit producing area. We had a Junior Suite that was also tiny. The junior crew is willing to provide service, but are generally undertrained by the senior staff. The ship’s most senior officers were rarely seen and, when the made an appearance, made little eye contact with customers. The Crown and Anchor Society is also something of a joke...they offer little. The theater entertainment was very good four evenings; however, terrible on two nights. Because of the general reduction of amenities...no welcome drink...rancid toilet articles...few bar snacks...unappetizing food...and so forth...we do not plan to sail on Royal Caribbean in the future. Read Less
Sail Date May 2019
We wanted to go to Cuba and I had always loved RC. However, this was the a terrible ship. The smell of sewage was overwhelming. During the disembark the crew blamed the smell on Keywest. If I weren't a local Floridan I might have ... Read More
We wanted to go to Cuba and I had always loved RC. However, this was the a terrible ship. The smell of sewage was overwhelming. During the disembark the crew blamed the smell on Keywest. If I weren't a local Floridan I might have believed them. Also, it didnt explain the gut wrenching smell on the 4th floor at sea. The room was a interior nightmare. The ceiling was multi-colored stained old smoke room. The Anniversary package we purchased was late and left a lot to be desired. The AC was broken , except for 1 night out of 5. The bathroom , had old scum on the walls and the previous guest hair hanging from the shower head - upon arrival. The carpet was definitely in need of replacement. The door handle to the bathroom had several screws sticking out - that took the crew 3 days to repair. Into say the room was a let down was completely and understatement. The whole room needs a scrub down and new paint The ports were excellent . Keywest, cozumel and Cuba. The excursions we had to cancel because of running late / lack of information were quickly resolved and the staff were very helpful. The pool bars and staff were overwhelmed and it showed. The crew is usually upbeat and get the party started. Unfortunately, this crew looked over worked and stressed. They weren't going out of their way to show a smile or make you feel important. The wind jammer had standard cruise buffet food. The only happy person was the washy-washy young lady. They guarded the ice cream machine with the smallest cones, I'd ever seen. My poor boyfriend resorted to getting two at a time. The main dining room was just blah... the crew again looked stressed and asked me to give a positive review. Just kinda hoped for more since I'm a seasoned cruiser and this was my boyfriend's 1st cruise. Read Less
Sail Date April 2019
We booked this cruise because one of the ports was Havana. We knew it was a smaller, older ship, so we knew what to expect. Some of the reviews we had read before we sailed complained about cleanliness and the food. Our experience was the ... Read More
We booked this cruise because one of the ports was Havana. We knew it was a smaller, older ship, so we knew what to expect. Some of the reviews we had read before we sailed complained about cleanliness and the food. Our experience was the opposite ! The ship was very clean, and the food was wonderful. There was one evening in the main dining room that I didn't like my appetizer ( nothing wrong with it....it was something I tried for the first time) Our server, Emile was only too happy to suggest something else I might like. ( which I did) He and all the ship staff were super friendly and helpful. We had a cabin with a window. We knew it would be small, but it was clean and very comfortable. We don't overpack when we travel, so we had plenty of room for our clothes and toiletries. The only " negative" things I can say is that the Wifi was very slow, and although the shower curtain was clean, it had seen better days. Our room attendant ( can't recall his name) was very friendly and efficient. ( he gave us his card so we could call him anytime we needed anything ) The cruise company can't control the weather or ocean conditions, so we knew there was a chance we wouldn't get to all our 3 ports, but we were blessed with beautiful weather and smooth sailing. Key West and Cozumel were nice , but Havana was the icing on the cake. We had done some research , so we had an idea of what to expect. Never pleasant to see poor living conditions and stray dogs and cats ( in Old Havana). A tour of the city in one of the many classic cars ( make sure it has a Taxi sticker) is a must. There are many drivers looking for fares, so you can bargain with them. It was very hot, and we didn't want a full hour, so we made a deal..... $40 for 45 minutes. The entertainment on the ship was wonderful ... very talented musicians, singers and dancers. There were lots of choices of things to do/participate in on the ship. ( take a hi lighter to make it easier), as the list for each day is lengthy in the daily newsletter, the Cruise Compass. We really enjoyed our experience on Empress of the Seas. Read Less
Sail Date April 2019
We chose this cruise as a replacement for the trip that we were to take last year when I ended up in the ER. Trip did not start out well when they cancelled our flight at the last minute (Southwest). When we finally arrived at the ship we ... Read More
We chose this cruise as a replacement for the trip that we were to take last year when I ended up in the ER. Trip did not start out well when they cancelled our flight at the last minute (Southwest). When we finally arrived at the ship we were hungry and exhausted. We waited over 2 hours to be able to get to our room. We were very surprised when we saw how small the ship was and the fact that there was only 1 pool that could maybe hold 18 people at best. We never got to use the pool. My husband had always wanted to see Cuba which is why we took this trip. It would have been nice if the Cruise Line had told us that they had booked us a day in Cuba when everything was closed due to Holiday. Why would a cruise line book a day in a port where everything was closed? Unbelievable!!! This was supposed to be the high light of our trip. Our room was the smallest room that we have ever seen or been in, you could not even turn in the shower but the water was hot. Thank God. The Schoonover bar smelt like raw sewage for at least 2 days. I almost got sick from the smells. The food in dining room was about a 3. One night my ice cream was delivered to me soupy. I do not like to drink my ice cream. :(We were shorted our time in Key West. it started with 11 hours and ended up getting only 5 1/2 hours. felt very rushed. Thank God we had been there previously. The scheduled port times, the ship, the room and the food was the worst that we have ever had on any cruise that we been on. This girl may be done cruising. This was my 6th cruise and 4th with Royal. No longer Royal. Read Less
Sail Date April 2019
We chose this cruise as my husband is Cuban and we wanted to see and share in Cuba beauty. The Empress is the smallest ship but it is the best ship. The entertainment was fabulous along with the cruise Director (Elvis) the dinning and ... Read More
We chose this cruise as my husband is Cuban and we wanted to see and share in Cuba beauty. The Empress is the smallest ship but it is the best ship. The entertainment was fabulous along with the cruise Director (Elvis) the dinning and ship service was excellent. We did not utilize port of Miami destinations for either embarkation or debarkation only arrived to board the ship. We were celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary and chose Cuba since my husband is Cuban and we had heard a lot of beautiful stories from Cuba. Our first stop was Key West where my family is from and we took a trolley ride to the Southern most Point. Then the sail to Cuba was smooth and when we arrived everything went well from the exchanging of the monies to meeting our tour guide in Havana. In our second port we encountered an equally smooth transfer as with our 4th to Labadee. We even took a tour of the Ship which was amazing! Read Less
Sail Date April 2019
Let’s begin with what I now regard as a “Bait & Switch” maneuver from RCCL. They sold us a “Best of Cuba” cruise with three ports in Cuba including Santiago de Cuba, Cienfuegos and an overnight in Havana. Santiago ... Read More
Let’s begin with what I now regard as a “Bait & Switch” maneuver from RCCL. They sold us a “Best of Cuba” cruise with three ports in Cuba including Santiago de Cuba, Cienfuegos and an overnight in Havana. Santiago has been closed since the middle of 2018. We booked our cruise with these three ports advertised, in November of 2018. We were not notified of the change in itinerary. We only discovered the new itinerary in March of this year during our early check-in process. Of course, Royal Caribbean covers themselves through their cruise contract that states that Itineraries are subject to change at any time. But they are still selling (to this very day) a port that they know full well is not available to their ships! I find that to be deceitful. So, after day 4 of an 8-day cruise, we reach our first Cuban port of Cienfuegos. The original itinerary had us docking at 7:00am and so we booked a private tour to Trinidad with that in mind. We docked at 8:00am and were told that tender tickets would not be handed out before 9:00am and we would not be disembarking until 10:00am. The cruise line contracts with tour companies on the island that are owned and operated by the Cuban government, so the Shore excursions get priority over everybody else. After pleading with the Crown and Anchor manager, Andy, (our Elite Captain’s club status on Celebrity transferred to Diamond status on RCCL) and meeting with the guest relations supervisor, and several other pleadings, they agreed to let us off around 8:30am. Other passengers weren’t so lucky. We met a couple who didn’t get off until 11:00am and their tour basically consisted of a ride to Trinidad where they met our guide, had lunch and returned to the ship. Total time ashore – 7 hours. Day 5 at sea. Around 4 am we heard an emergency alert over the PA system of the ship. Later that morning, we learned it was a medical emergency and that we would have to turn around and head for Grand Cayman to medivac a passenger. New ETA to Havana 3:00pm; 8 hours later than planned. Day 6 of this 8 days “Best of Cuba” cruise, we finally arrive in Havana at 4:00pm. With the same departure time set for the following day. Total time in port – 24hrs. We stood in line for one and a half hours at the gangway on deck 5 before we could disembark in Havana. We met our guide at 5:00pm, 8 hours later than planned so our whole day Havana tour turned into 4 hours. In total we were in port 32 hours out of an 8 day “Best of Cuba” cruise that was scheduled for three ports including one overnight. Now to the ship. The Empress of the Seas. We did our research and read the review. We lowered our expectations knowing that the cruise ship wasn’t the object of this cruise. The Itinerary was. We expected the staterooms to be small, perhaps not as small and cramped as they were as one cannot get in the bed without ducking under the bunk upon each side of the walls or turn around in the tiniest of showers. You can’t open the bathroom door and the closet at the same time. One blocks the other. So I’m not going to whine about size. It seems that Royal Caribbean has put no effort and no money into maintaining this vessel. The lounge chairs with their plastic straps are straight out of an old Vegas off-strip motel poolside. The entertainment and activities for three and a half sea days was disappointing. The food in the dining room and in the buffet was mediocre at best and repetitive. The menus were misleading as their dishes are misnamed and therefore underwhelming. If you’re going to call something a Vol au vent and present a flat piece of soggy pastry in sauce on a plate, be prepared to disappoint. Same with describing a rum soaked sponge cake and serving a dinner roll soaked in syrup masquerading as a Baba au rum. This was our fifteenth cruise. Our first on Royal Caribbean, and also our last. We talked with several other frequent cruisers of other cruise lines and they had the same reaction as we had. Never Again. Read Less
Sail Date April 2019
I want to start this review with the statement that my wife and I are very hard to discourage on a cruise. We have cruise 19 times on many different cruise lines and yes some of them are LOW. Embarkation & Disembarkation, we ... Read More
I want to start this review with the statement that my wife and I are very hard to discourage on a cruise. We have cruise 19 times on many different cruise lines and yes some of them are LOW. Embarkation & Disembarkation, we arrived at 11 am, but we had a check in time for 12 30. They let us move right on in and check in was smooth and easy like always. Dis, we do express all the time, so we took our luggage down to the Theater and between 7 45 & 8 30 we were off the ship. Great. First, The Ship, I want to say, Yes the ship is old and small, but for getting around the ship was nice and quick. Yes were things that need fixing, and touch up, but what old things don't. Food, we don’t really like eating in the dinning room so I can’t really talk about that (we don’t like dressing up). On this cruise we ate in the Windjammer all the time. We like the variety of foods and if it wasn’t up to our taste, we went and got something else. But it seem that everything we picked up was very good. I also want to let you know that out of all the cruises or most of them, you need to try the “Fish Fingers” with the tartar sauces. Lite and fluffy, WOW. Who ever is the baker on that ship is doing a great job. They had a Large Cake just about every night, real Ice Cream !!! You got to try !!!! Over all we enjoyed all the foods and we did not go Home hungry. Entertainment, we went to a couple of the Head Liner, first day Andy Woodhull (okay), Juggling Randy Cabral (Great), Louis Johnson Comedy (Great), Jeff Tracta, singer/Impressionist (Great) Port Shopping, Cozumel, we”be been there about a half dozen times so we did nothing there. Cienfuegos Cuba, Royal Excursion, Cienfuegos Tobacco, small port, small town, we were the only ones in port and we thought that everyone else would be doing different parts of the town. NO, there were waiting lines on every tour we stopped at ??? 4-5 buses ?? I don’t think this was really planned out well by the Tour Guides. Nice to see everything about 3 to 4 times as you drive around. As we got back we didn’t have that much time to shop. Which was okay with us. We would have like to, but. We would have gone right to Havana but we had a “Heath Emergency” and go out to Carmen’s to deliver him to the hospital. So we spent the next day traveling to Carmen’s. Havana Cuba, My wife and I did not take an excursion. We decided to just go out on the town. We had from 4 pm one day to 4 pm the next. Our main thing was to get some Rum and Cigars. Rum, I will tell you try NOT to buy from the Hotels there prices are just a little bit higher a couple of CUC. Try to buy from the local stores, seem to be lower. Cigars & some Rums, I would Highly recommend this Cigar store in this Hotel, #24, Conde De Villanueva. Store, Trends De Habanos, I will tell you that it was by far the cheapest we found after walking all around. It was one of the taxi drivers that turn us on to it. Box of Chiba, 4 Romeo’s, and a couple of bottles of Havana 3, 7, 15. If you want to try some local foods you will have the opportunity any where in OLD Havana, and you can’t go wrong any where. Casino on Ship, YES, it’s small and very tight in some places to just to get to a seat. There were just 6 Video Poker machine, all were .25. I can honestly say that it was a VERY tight week, Yes we hit a couple of things at different times but that did not pay for the week. TIGHT !!! Most of the other cruises we have gone on they were just a little looser. Lots of Penny machines. Over all review, We enjoyed the cruise for the relaxation any where we wanted to go and do nothing. We seen Cuba had some great foods in Havana for 24 CuC. Yes, I would go back for a second visit just to eat some other stuff and get more Cigars & Rum. Read Less
Sail Date April 2019
Do not go the dirtiest ship ever! Upon entry carpets stained in common areas as well as rooms, outside decks filthy, old ship with visible rust, Horrible food, filthy, no one speaks English or knows anything on ship, over 100 sick with ... Read More
Do not go the dirtiest ship ever! Upon entry carpets stained in common areas as well as rooms, outside decks filthy, old ship with visible rust, Horrible food, filthy, no one speaks English or knows anything on ship, over 100 sick with virus that started many cruises before and has gotten worse as time went on, decks 6/7/8 smelled of sewer water for over 3 days. They knowingly had viruses from past cruises and still did not clean nor sanitize ship! This was told to me by medical staff. The worst cruise we have ever taken. They also try to buckle and dine you to death! Cocktails run 15.00 plus!! Most upscale restaurants do not charge that much for mixed drinks. Changed port to Cozumel that was surpassed to be Sante go de Cuba. This was a Cuban cruise which was advertised this way with that port even though they have not been there for over 8 months but knowing continued to advertise as such!! DO NOT GO!! Read Less
Sail Date April 2019
After promising three stops in Cuban Ports, Royal Caribbean promptly cancelled one port about three days after the final payment was made. When asked about cancelling the trip or taking a credit on another cruise, I was told sorry, ... Read More
After promising three stops in Cuban Ports, Royal Caribbean promptly cancelled one port about three days after the final payment was made. When asked about cancelling the trip or taking a credit on another cruise, I was told sorry, "you can cancel, but you will not get a refund". After taking at least 20 cruises on many different cruise lines, this one ranks as the worst. The food was barely edible. The food on the buffet was generally cold and when I brought it to their attention, they found a legion of middle managers who apologized profusely and then did nothing about it. In Cienfuegos, the crew was totally unprepared to handle the tender disembarking and return.They shuttled passengers back and forth with two small tenders. At least 1500 passengers were left outside in a pouring rain for two hours while they slowly brought people back to the ship. The only shelter from the rain was crowded with the ship staff. The passengers were so upset about conditions on this ship that they were yelling at the MC on the evening show. I would not recommend Royal Caribbean based on this experience. The ship is old but and poorly maintained, but if the ship was managed better, it would have been a much better experience. We have been to Cuba on other cruise ships and had a very enjoyable time. I agree with other customers. Choose another cruise line! Read Less
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 April 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
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
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
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
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
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
Empress of the Seas Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabin 3.0 N/A
Dining 3.0 3.9
Entertainment 3.0 3.9
Public Rooms 4.0 3.9
Fitness & Recreation 2.5 N/A
Family 2.0 3.4
Shore Excursions 4.5 N/A
Enrichment Activities 4.0 N/A
Service 4.5 4.3
Value for Money 4.0 N/A

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