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Empress of the Seas Cruise Review
3.0 / 5.0
Cruise Critic Editor Rating
1,390 Reviews

Extremely disappointing -- Empress needs to go back to dry dock!

Empress of the Seas Cruise Review by TravlGrl

33 people found this helpful
Trip Details
  • Sail Date: May 2016
  • Destination: the Western Caribbean
  • Cabin Type: Ocean View Stateroom

Quick background – This was my and my husband’s 11th Royal Caribbean cruise, and 37th cruise overall. Overall, this cruise was in our top 3-4 poorest cruises ever.

CABIN

We stayed in cabin 8000, a forward-facing oceanview stateroom. The location was fairly quiet in terms of isolation from any sounds from our neighbors, however, any time anyone was outside hanging out at the railing outside of our window, we could easily hear every conversation. We were awakened on two occasions in the middle of the night due to loud revelers, but it didn’t last long. There were other instances when we could hear the music coming from the pool deck, but it was never bothersome.

The biggest surprise in this cabin was the tiny shower. Ship cabins are rarely spacious unless booking a suite, but this was easily not just the smallest bathroom we’ve ever had, but it was absolutely the smallest shower situation. We are average-sized people and were challenged with turning around in the small shower.

It’s also important to note that this cabin sleeps four, and the bunk beds pull down from the upper walls right above the two beds pushed together on the floor. Those bunks hang over the pathway (slightly) to enter the lower beds. This translates to a few bumps in the middle of the night if you’re getting in/out of bed and forget that there is closed bunk bed above you. I can’t imagine if those bunk beds were folded down since it felt dangerous when they were folded up!

The toilet – oh, the toilet. Yes, this is an old ship, but one would think that three+ months in dry dock could have led to improved plumbing. Our toilet stopped flushing twice. When we told our cabin steward about it she told us that our group of six cabins have consistently had flushing issues. If this is a known issue, why wasn’t it fixed while in dry dock? Why were we forced to use a public restroom as opposed to our own toilet in our cabin?

And then there’s the AC. While our AC was not perfect, it was mostly cold during the day, and horribly hot during the night. Some on deck seven reported that their AC never worked day or night, on any day of the sailing.

FITNESS CENTER

Don’t bother. The fitness center is fairly non-existent. It is a platform within the Viking Crown Lounge and is accessed through the lounge by walking up the lounge’s internal stairway to the upper loft area. The area is so small and confined that I question why it even exists. For example, to grab a towel or free weights, we had to walk through a yoga class. There is no way around this. I was using one of the exercise balls as a balancing tool while lifting free weights, but there was no space to use an exercise ball without blocking people from accessing a machine. It is not a feasible fitness area and is a true embarrassment for the cruise line to even say they offer a fitness center. While in dry dock/refurbishments, Royal Caribbean could have built a ceiling to the Viking Crown Lounge that also served as a floor to a fitness center.

VITALITY SPA

We took the tour mostly because I was considering a reflexology treatment. Well, forget that. Reflexology was only offered as a portion of a regular massage. And when we asked what was included in the day pass, we were told that we could have access to receive a few minutes of acupuncture on our hands. What? Why would I pay $30/day for that? This is a very small ship that doesn’t offer anything for a day pass other than that, so why even offer a day pass? This was a joke. The Royal Caribbean website advertises a “Full-Service spa” on Empress. THERE IS NO FULL-SERVICE SPA!

FOOD

We all know this is a subjective topic, so I’m keeping it short but noting that the main dining room offered the smallest menu I’ve ever seen on a ship, ever. And note to Royal Caribbean – French Onion Soup is not a vegetarian item, though it was noted that way on the menu.

The buffet food was even worse, with very few options. This made us think that the galleys were just so small that they couldn’t offer any more food than they were.

The Room Service menu was out of certain menu items all week, and the ice cream machine did not work after the first day. How do you run out of menu items on the second day of the cruise?

ROYAL THEATER

On day one, my husband and I toured the theater just to scope out where we wanted to sit for any of the shows, especially comedy. We were shocked to find that the layout was terrible for viewing from 90% of the theater. At first look, it appears there are many good choices, but after literally seating in every section of the theater, we saw that the only seating that would provide a clear view of the stage would be in the first two rows, or in 2-3 seats on the upper level on the sides, in the middle. The railings obstruct most seating at the upper level, and at the lower level there is just not enough staggered seating or elevated seating to provide for a clear view. It is such a disappointment.

POOL AREA

Another disappointment here is that the kiddie pool is placed in the middle of the main pool area, across from the bar, and adjacent to the three hot tubs. This provides an easy entre’ for children to dominate the hot tubs before/after playing in the kiddie wading pool. Both the kiddie pool and the main pool are extremely small for a ship with maximum occupancy of over 1800 passengers.

Also in the pool area is the outdoor movie screen, but we did not get to enjoy any movies because the audio was broken. Therefore, silent movies were shown day and night

The entire duration of our sailing, maintenance was in the process of installing an outdoor shower. It was an eyesore in the middle of the day, and for the five days we sailed, this outdoor shower was never completed. It would have been a welcome relief after spending the entire day in port in heat and humidity in Key West and Grand Cayman.

LINES, LINES, LINES

Would you like to speak with someone from Guest Services? A short wait was 25 minutes.

Would you like to be seated shortly after your 7pm dining reservations in the Main Dining Room? How about a 1-hour wait, even with a reservation?

Would you like to grab a bite in the buffet? How about a line that extends all the way to the door?

Would you like a beverage at the pool bar? How about a consistent 15-20 minute wait every day, from day one through day five, no matter what time of day?

STAFFING

Overall, this cruise felt understaffed with too many passengers for the size of the ship. There were simply too many bodies crammed in small spaces. The ship’s capacity is 1800 plus, but it felt like it should have maxed out at about 1200. There were just too many people on a small vessel, yet not enough crew to manage everyone.

Would I sail Empress again even if some of the above “works itself out”? Not likely. Unless Empress re-constructs the layout of the open spaces, I’d not consider sailing again. I’d also need to know that the AC issues, toilet issues, lack of food choices and food inventory were all solved.

There’s just too much to fix to likely get me back on Empress of the Seas, no matter the itinerary…even Cuba.


TravlGrl's Full Rating Summary
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Value For Money
Embarkation
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Cabin Review

Ocean View Stateroom
Cabin I 8000

We stayed in cabin 8000, a forward-facing oceanview stateroom. The location was fairly quiet in terms of isolation from any sounds from our neighbors, however, any time anyone was outside hanging out at the railing outside of our window, we could easily hear every conversation. We were awakened on two occasions in the middle of the night due to loud revelers, but it didn’t last long. There were other instances when we could hear the music coming from the pool deck, but it was never bothersome.

The biggest surprise in this cabin was the tiny shower. Ship cabins are rarely spacious unless booking a suite, but this was easily not just the smallest bathroom we’ve ever had, but it was absolutely the smallest shower situation. We are average-sized people and were challenged with turning around in the small shower.

It’s also important to note that this cabin sleeps four, and the bunk beds pull down from the upper walls right above the two beds pushed together on the floor. Those bunks hang over the pathway (slightly) to enter the lower beds. This translates to a few bumps in the middle of the night if you’re getting in/out of bed and forget that there is closed bunk bed above you. I can’t imagine if those bunk beds were folded down since it felt dangerous when they were folded up!

The toilet – oh, the toilet. Yes, this is an old ship, but one would think that three+ months in dry dock could have led to improved plumbing. Our toilet stopped flushing twice. When we told our cabin steward about it she told us that our group of six cabins have consistently had flushing issues. If this is a known issue, why wasn’t it fixed while in dry dock? Why were we forced to use a public restroom as opposed to our own toilet in our cabin?

And then there’s the AC. While our AC was not perfect, it was mostly cold during the day, and horribly hot during the night. Some on deck seven reported that their AC never worked day or night, on any day of the sailing.


Port & Shore Excursion Reviews

Jet Ski Tour

Amazing time on this jet ski tour that took us around all of Key West. This was the highlight of our terrible cruise on Empress. It's the only positive that came out of our 5 days.

View All 16 Jet Ski Tour Reviews

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TravlGrl
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