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Background. A coworker and I had agreed to take a short, last minute RCI cruise if we could find something around $200 per person. That’s a tough feat in itself, but it also had to be during certain times so we didn’t use much of our vacation time. After months of searching, this cruise to Cozumel popped up with a heavily discounted inside cabin guarantee rate 30 days prior to sailing. I had never done a guarantee room, nor had I sailed on Empress of the Seas before. I was a little apprehensive because my experience with Enchantment of the Seas in September was poor in comparison to Navigator of the Seas in December. I was starting to believe that one may have to pay more for better service on the larger, newer ships. However, for around $200 per person, we figured it had to be tolerable- especially with an ultimate drink package. Embarkation. This cruise departed from Port of Miami. We are no stranger to that Port, but it was the first time at terminal F. We parked in the garage adjacent to Terminal G and hoofed it a little ways. Porters greeted us promptly and took care of the bags and we got in line with boarding passes and passports in hand. Less than 10 minutes later, we were going upstairs for a security check. We breezed through that, made it to the counter to have SeaPass cards issued, and were on the ship within 30 minutes of parking the car! It was unbelievably fast and I was starting to like the concept of a ship that holds less passengers. Bars. On board, we entered the Centrum. We already had drink packages purchased and didn’t need to purchase any other add-ons offered when you board, so we moved into the adjacent Schooner Bar. It was busy, but the bartenders recognized that we didn’t have a drink and made a point to ask us what we would like. They were exceptionally attentive to everyone on board and this high level of service continued throughout our entire voyage. The same was true of the Pool Bar and Boleros Lounge. We never waited more than a couple minutes for a drink- even when the bars were crowded. We thought it was nice that the Schooner Bar spanned the entire width of the ship. There was plenty of seating available with ocean views, which was nice compared to the alcoves designated for these venues on other ships. Specialty Dining Package. After a couple cocktails, we started to explore the layout of Empress. We ended up walking past Chops Grille, which has a partitioned area for the Chef’s Table. Diana greeted us with a smile as we were perusing the menu. We explained that we had previously enjoyed the Chef’s Table on Navigator and had wanted to try Chops. She told us of a package deal for both, so we signed up. It was a quick interaction, but she remembered and greeted us throughout the cruise. I mention this because it came to be the standard of exceptional service that we experienced on Empress. Everyone made us feel welcomed and appreciated as guests. Nothing was strictly transactional. Windjammer: Lunch & Breakfast. It was time for lunch, so we headed up to deck 10 to find the Windjammer. It was a small ship, so I was expecting a crowded, rushed atmosphere. Fortunately, I was wrong. We grabbed some fresh paella and shrimp cocktail before sitting at a small table since it was just the two of us. Truth be told, we probably could have sat at a 6-top and no one would have noticed because there were plenty of available seats. Staff was attentive, grabbing plates shortly after we had finished and bringing us drinks as soon as the glasses were empty. The food was excellent, too. Breakfast at Windjammer during subsequent mornings offered similar pleasant experiences with a wide variety of breakfast foods to select from. Cabin. As mentioned before, we had an inside stateroom guarantee. Thank you to RCI, who upgraded us to an oceanview stateroom. We were assigned room 3524, which has a port hole and is a little longer than the average stateroom in its category. The layout was typical of most bargain staterooms I’ve stayed in. The drawers were a bit narrow, but there was a lot of closet space. Two of us were easily able to unpack and store everything for our 4 night cruise and use the suitcases as laundry hampers. The shower had hot water and water pressure that I felt was better than mine at home. We never had one plumbing problem. The location of this room was on the shoulder of the hull, so we did get a lot of splashing noise while at sea. We spoke to others on deck 3 and this seemed to be an issue isolated to our room. This can be a negative or a positive, since the sound was actually soothing white noise at times. Cabin Service. Sylvia was our cabin steward. She made a point to introduce herself and also greeted us whenever we saw her. One night, we skipped the traditional dining and opted for odd timed snacks. The room was still impeccably clean because it seemed that Sylvia cleaned it every time we left. Despite that, Sylvia asked us when it would be convenient for us for her to clean the room. We told her that it wasn’t necessary because she had been doing such a great job, but she insisted on making us a towel animal and told us to call if we needed anything. By far, this was the best cabin service received on any ship. Dinner Options: Dining Room, Chef’s Table, Windjammer, Chops. We only ate dinner in the dining room on the first night. Our table overlooked Empress’ wake, which was awesome. Service was excellent- including drink service- and so was the food. The only reason we didn’t return is because we had specialty dining reservations. The second night we attended the Chef’s Table for dinner. It was great, but unexpectedly offered the exact same menu we had at the Navigator of the Seas Chef’s Table in December. Therefore, we got to compare. Some of the courses were better, while others were not. Nonetheless, Josef provided excellent service throughout the multi-course meal with five glasses of wine included in the price. I stand by my previous recommendation that you must try the Chef’s Table for a unique culinary experience that is a great value. The third night we returned from Cozumel still full from fajitas and Coronas, so we skipped our assigned dinner and visited the Windjammer shortly before they closed. They had a great selection of food and the excellent service we came experienced there continued into the late night hours. The final night we finally got to try Chops. In a word, WOW! Melt-in-your-mouth cuts of meat with perfectly prepared sides. I’m not one to skip dessert, but I just couldn’t do it after finishing my meal because it’s so good you just can’t stop eating. We had Josef again, who provided exemplary service through multiple courses of dinner. Diana had us seated immediately- despite arriving slightly earlier than our reservation time. Itinerary and Excursion. For our purposes of an impromptu escape from work, the itinerary and ship was ideal. We had two days at sea and one day in Cozumel, which we got to explore in a Jeep with a tour guide named Pancho. I booked our excursion directly with CozumelJeepAndSnorkelTour.com and we saved a lot of money versus going with an equivalent RCI excursion. There’s always the risk that you may not make it back on time if you book privately, but we had plenty of time to spare. Also, they ensured me that we would customize our tour and Pancho came through. He showed us the typical stops they make and we altered it to our liking. For example, we didn’t care to hit the beach while red flags were out, but we did want to learn about Mayan culture. So, he told me how to get there and let me take the wheel throughout Cozumel. He also took us to Tortuga Beach Club for lunch, where we had some delicious fajitas compliments of Pancho. During the sea days, we mixed it up. We sat by the pool one day enjoying some Coronas. We tried to watch a movie on the big screen, but the audio was of poor quality because a few speakers appeared to not be working. We also did some trivia and cheered on other guests at karaoke. Either before or after breakfast, we would make our way to a Cuban coffee kiosk located inside Boleros Lounge for an iced Café con Leche, which was enjoyed while sitting on the deck listening to the sea breeze. Conclusion. Empress of the Seas does not have many of the modern technologies and venues that newer ships do. There’s no Flowrider. You won’t find a basketball court or mini golf course. Riding the carousel is not an option, nor is going down any slide. What you can do- and what Empress effectively forces you to do- is relax and mingle with friendly staff and other guests in a more traditional cruise experience while enjoying delicious food and quality cocktails. Being on a smaller ship, there was more motion than I'm used to, but not to the degree of causing us any sea sickness. Across the board, Empress of the Seas staff offered the most personal and attentive service that I have ever received on a cruise.

This ship rocks. Phenomenal service.

Empress of the Seas Cruise Review by Medic9701

5 people found this helpful
Trip Details
Background.

A coworker and I had agreed to take a short, last minute RCI cruise if we could find something around $200 per person. That’s a tough feat in itself, but it also had to be during certain times so we didn’t use much of our vacation time. After months of searching, this cruise to Cozumel popped up with a heavily discounted inside cabin guarantee rate 30 days prior to sailing. I had never done a guarantee room, nor had I sailed on Empress of the Seas before. I was a little apprehensive because my experience with Enchantment of the Seas in September was poor in comparison to Navigator of the Seas in December. I was starting to believe that one may have to pay more for better service on the larger, newer ships. However, for around $200 per person, we figured it had to be tolerable- especially with an ultimate drink package.

Embarkation.

This cruise departed from Port of Miami. We are no stranger to that Port, but it was the first time at terminal F. We parked in the garage adjacent to Terminal G and hoofed it a little ways. Porters greeted us promptly and took care of the bags and we got in line with boarding passes and passports in hand. Less than 10 minutes later, we were going upstairs for a security check. We breezed through that, made it to the counter to have SeaPass cards issued, and were on the ship within 30 minutes of parking the car! It was unbelievably fast and I was starting to like the concept of a ship that holds less passengers.

Bars.

On board, we entered the Centrum. We already had drink packages purchased and didn’t need to purchase any other add-ons offered when you board, so we moved into the adjacent Schooner Bar. It was busy, but the bartenders recognized that we didn’t have a drink and made a point to ask us what we would like. They were exceptionally attentive to everyone on board and this high level of service continued throughout our entire voyage. The same was true of the Pool Bar and Boleros Lounge. We never waited more than a couple minutes for a drink- even when the bars were crowded. We thought it was nice that the Schooner Bar spanned the entire width of the ship. There was plenty of seating available with ocean views, which was nice compared to the alcoves designated for these venues on other ships.

Specialty Dining Package.

After a couple cocktails, we started to explore the layout of Empress. We ended up walking past Chops Grille, which has a partitioned area for the Chef’s Table. Diana greeted us with a smile as we were perusing the menu. We explained that we had previously enjoyed the Chef’s Table on Navigator and had wanted to try Chops. She told us of a package deal for both, so we signed up. It was a quick interaction, but she remembered and greeted us throughout the cruise. I mention this because it came to be the standard of exceptional service that we experienced on Empress. Everyone made us feel welcomed and appreciated as guests. Nothing was strictly transactional.

Windjammer: Lunch & Breakfast.

It was time for lunch, so we headed up to deck 10 to find the Windjammer. It was a small ship, so I was expecting a crowded, rushed atmosphere. Fortunately, I was wrong. We grabbed some fresh paella and shrimp cocktail before sitting at a small table since it was just the two of us. Truth be told, we probably could have sat at a 6-top and no one would have noticed because there were plenty of available seats. Staff was attentive, grabbing plates shortly after we had finished and bringing us drinks as soon as the glasses were empty. The food was excellent, too. Breakfast at Windjammer during subsequent mornings offered similar pleasant experiences with a wide variety of breakfast foods to select from.

Cabin.

As mentioned before, we had an inside stateroom guarantee. Thank you to RCI, who upgraded us to an oceanview stateroom. We were assigned room 3524, which has a port hole and is a little longer than the average stateroom in its category. The layout was typical of most bargain staterooms I’ve stayed in. The drawers were a bit narrow, but there was a lot of closet space. Two of us were easily able to unpack and store everything for our 4 night cruise and use the suitcases as laundry hampers. The shower had hot water and water pressure that I felt was better than mine at home. We never had one plumbing problem. The location of this room was on the shoulder of the hull, so we did get a lot of splashing noise while at sea. We spoke to others on deck 3 and this seemed to be an issue isolated to our room. This can be a negative or a positive, since the sound was actually soothing white noise at times.

Cabin Service.

Sylvia was our cabin steward. She made a point to introduce herself and also greeted us whenever we saw her. One night, we skipped the traditional dining and opted for odd timed snacks. The room was still impeccably clean because it seemed that Sylvia cleaned it every time we left. Despite that, Sylvia asked us when it would be convenient for us for her to clean the room. We told her that it wasn’t necessary because she had been doing such a great job, but she insisted on making us a towel animal and told us to call if we needed anything. By far, this was the best cabin service received on any ship.

Dinner Options: Dining Room, Chef’s Table, Windjammer, Chops.

We only ate dinner in the dining room on the first night. Our table overlooked Empress’ wake, which was awesome. Service was excellent- including drink service- and so was the food. The only reason we didn’t return is because we had specialty dining reservations.

The second night we attended the Chef’s Table for dinner. It was great, but unexpectedly offered the exact same menu we had at the Navigator of the Seas Chef’s Table in December. Therefore, we got to compare. Some of the courses were better, while others were not. Nonetheless, Josef provided excellent service throughout the multi-course meal with five glasses of wine included in the price. I stand by my previous recommendation that you must try the Chef’s Table for a unique culinary experience that is a great value.

The third night we returned from Cozumel still full from fajitas and Coronas, so we skipped our assigned dinner and visited the Windjammer shortly before they closed. They had a great selection of food and the excellent service we came experienced there continued into the late night hours.

The final night we finally got to try Chops. In a word, WOW! Melt-in-your-mouth cuts of meat with perfectly prepared sides. I’m not one to skip dessert, but I just couldn’t do it after finishing my meal because it’s so good you just can’t stop eating. We had Josef again, who provided exemplary service through multiple courses of dinner. Diana had us seated immediately- despite arriving slightly earlier than our reservation time.

Itinerary and Excursion.

For our purposes of an impromptu escape from work, the itinerary and ship was ideal. We had two days at sea and one day in Cozumel, which we got to explore in a Jeep with a tour guide named Pancho. I booked our excursion directly with CozumelJeepAndSnorkelTour.com and we saved a lot of money versus going with an equivalent RCI excursion. There’s always the risk that you may not make it back on time if you book privately, but we had plenty of time to spare. Also, they ensured me that we would customize our tour and Pancho came through. He showed us the typical stops they make and we altered it to our liking. For example, we didn’t care to hit the beach while red flags were out, but we did want to learn about Mayan culture. So, he told me how to get there and let me take the wheel throughout Cozumel. He also took us to Tortuga Beach Club for lunch, where we had some delicious fajitas compliments of Pancho. During the sea days, we mixed it up. We sat by the pool one day enjoying some Coronas. We tried to watch a movie on the big screen, but the audio was of poor quality because a few speakers appeared to not be working. We also did some trivia and cheered on other guests at karaoke. Either before or after breakfast, we would make our way to a Cuban coffee kiosk located inside Boleros Lounge for an iced Café con Leche, which was enjoyed while sitting on the deck listening to the sea breeze.

Conclusion.

Empress of the Seas does not have many of the modern technologies and venues that newer ships do. There’s no Flowrider. You won’t find a basketball court or mini golf course. Riding the carousel is not an option, nor is going down any slide. What you can do- and what Empress effectively forces you to do- is relax and mingle with friendly staff and other guests in a more traditional cruise experience while enjoying delicious food and quality cocktails. Being on a smaller ship, there was more motion than I'm used to, but not to the degree of causing us any sea sickness. Across the board, Empress of the Seas staff offered the most personal and attentive service that I have ever received on a cruise.
Medic9701’s Full Rating Summary
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Cabin Review

Cabin 3524
We were assigned room 3524, which has a port hole and is a little longer than the average stateroom in its category. The layout was typical of most bargain staterooms I’ve stayed in. The drawers were a bit narrow, but there was a lot of closet space. Two of us were easily able to unpack and store everything for our 4 night cruise and use the suitcases as laundry hampers. The shower had hot water and water pressure that I felt was better than mine at home. We never had one plumbing problem. The location of this room was on the shoulder of the hull, so we did get a lot of splashing noise while at sea. We spoke to others on deck 3 and this seemed to be an issue isolated to our room. This can be a negative or a positive, since the sound was actually soothing white noise at times.
  Empress of the Seas Deck Plans

Port & Shore Excursion Reviews

  • Jeep Tour
    Booked with CozumelJeepAndSnorkelTour.com online before our trip. They said we could personalize the tour and we did. Pancho was fantastic at getting us everywhere we wanted to see in the time available. Returned to the ship with souvenirs after a great complimentary lunch and had plenty of time to spare.
    View All 133 Jeep Tour Reviews
  • Mayan Ruins
    Stopped here at the recommendation of Pancho, our Jeep tour guide. Well worth $15 and your time to learn about and experience Mayan culture.
    View All 372 Mayan Ruins Reviews
  • Tequila Tasting
    Nice overview of the Los Tres Tonos tequila making process. It's a great brand, but they ask a lot of money for it. Negotiate to get a better price.
    View All 118 Tequila Tasting Reviews
  • Miami
    Not bad this time. In and out pretty quickly. No vehicle damage while in the parking garage. A little difficult to navigate out of.
    View All 2,405 Miami Cruise Port Reviews
    View Cruise Critic's Miami Cruise Port Review