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I prefer to do my reviews as bullet points in the form of pros/cons in the hopes it is easier to read. Bit of background on us as what one traveler prefers another may not. 47/58 yr old couple married 22 yrs and no kids. 21 cruises and have sailed 6 different cruise lines to compare to. We are active and not ones to sit in a lounge chair during the day. POSITIVES We always book balcony cabins, but on this ship the only balconies were jr suite/suites for a lot more $$. Booked an OV room and was apprehensive based on how much smaller they are than typical OV rooms. Pleasantly surprised. Of course, would have preferred more space and a balcony, but the smaller size was not as much of a concern as I anticipated. We were in Cabin 7518 and no issues with noise above or below us. Bathrooms seemed to be standard size ship bathrooms. Time in Havana extended. Was supposed to be 2 pm Fri - 8 pm Sat. Departure extended to 1 am Sat nt/Sun morning. Essentially giving us 2 overnights. Used the 2nd overnight to enjoy the Malecon by moonlight and a convertible ride thru Havana in the moonlight. Buffet offered a wide variety of options. Was the best dining option for us. However, the variety didn’t seem to change through out the wk if that makes sense. Each nt they had a different make your own station. One nt was pasta, another was quesadillas; another nt pizza, etc. Our travel mates didn’t care for the buffet in the evenings, though. They felt the buffet was more casserole like dishes and the food was not served warm enough. Perfect example of when you read reviews know that we all have different personalities/preferences and factor that in accordingly. Brunch in dining room offered 1 free mimosa or Bloody Mary per person on sea days. Have not seen a 1 free drink brunch offered on our other cruises. Was buffet style with more lunch than bkst options. Could get made to order omelettes. Had to request omelettes from your waiter. Service could be slow, though, depending on what time you went. Busy when we arrived, but slow when we left and they often gave us a 2nd drink for free. Easily able to maintain my vegetarian eating preferences. There is a vegetarian menu in the dining room if you request it. If I eat in the dining room I usually just request one side from one entree and another side from a different entree etc to make my own dish. No issues. One of our travel mates sleeps with a breathing machine. Sent RCL an email in advance and they had distilled water and an extension cord waiting for her in her cabin. First time to use the special needs email and was skeptical it would work. Pleasantly surprised. Variety of activities to do on board during the day and evening. Some of them the typical games and shows, but all are good. Love and Marriage has been around forever, but always hilarious. We never felt we we didn't have enough to do and we are busy bodies. Boarding process for us was a breeze! Walked right in at 1:30. Prefer to arrive earlier bc I’m always so excited. However, the no lines boarding process was much simpler for our group of 8 and many who were first time cruisers. Good shows in the evenings. Comedians were our favorite followed by the ventriloquist. We don’t lounge on the deck or by the pool, but seemed to be plenty of deck chairs throughout the ship. Enjoyed hammocks on Deck 11. Don’t think I’ve seen hammock on ships before? No kids on board. No offense to those with children. Saw probably less than half a dozen kids? Not an itinerary that I think kids would enjoy much? Didn’t seem to be much geared towards kids on port days either? Happy hour beer specials at pool bar during sail away from port. $4.99 domestic and $5.99 import. Day 5 they offered punch card for (10) 16 oz Heineken for $49. Pretty good deal by cruise standards. Also 2nd to last day offered 10 drinks for $79 + 18% gratuity of course. Customs at Debarkation was the quickest we’ve ever seen! Did self disembark. No customs forms to fill out. Didn’t need to use the customs app. No global entry line. Didn’t even have to scan our passports at any point. Flashed the passport to an officer, he asked no questions and away we went! NOTS SO POSITIVES Note that I labeled this section “not so positive” and did not say “negative”? There’s a difference. None of the below ruined our vacation or would cause me to hesitate to recommend this sailing to others. Gym was TERRIBLE! 1 elliptical, 3 bikes and 4 treadmills that worked. Several non working treadmills. Some of the treadmills appeared to be fixed mid wk? Free weights, weight machines, etc. Need more equipment even for a small passenger count. No rowing machine. There is room to add a few more ellipticals or bikes or row machine so not sure why they don’t. Walking track on deck 6 is an alternative option for those who like treadmills. Ship itself and crew had a lot of “polishing” to do. This sailing was primarily seasoned cruisers. Everyone we spoke to commented this was probably the worst RCL they have ever sailed. Would not hesitate to book again bc it provided the BEST Cuban itinerary (2 Cuban cities, 3 total days and 2 overnights in Havana) of all cruise lines. However, go in to it knowing many things may not be up to par with what you are used to with RCL. This trip was a perfect example of why I will NEVER say one line is better than another. It all depends on the ship, the crew, the itinerary and many other factors. Each line seems to have their pros/cons and we will never be loyal to a particular brand for many reasons. Dining room took 2 hrs for dinner. We only went the 1st and last nt for that reason. Seating was so tight our chairs touched the back of the chairs of the table behind us and we are not large people. In fact I’m 5 ft tall and 95 lbs. Too close for comfort. Rectangular table for 10 made it difficult for socializing with others. Small cabins compared to other ships. However I will say I was pleasantly surprised the smallness didn’t bother me like I thought. NO food options between 9-10:30 pm. Nothing. Not that we hadn’t eaten plenty. However, this is “different” than what we’ve experienced before on cruises. There is always something until at least midnight. Husband likes a snack when we go to the cabin for the night so learned to bring something back earlier in the day for bedtime in case we called it a night early during the "no food time zone". Not that we needed anymore food!

Disappointing ship with AMAZING itinerary!

Empress of the Seas Cruise Review by cpayne

2 people found this helpful
Trip Details
  • Sail Date: March 2019
  • Destination: Cuba
  • Cabin Type: Ocean View Stateroom
I prefer to do my reviews as bullet points in the form of pros/cons in the hopes it is easier to read. Bit of background on us as what one traveler prefers another may not. 47/58 yr old couple married 22 yrs and no kids. 21 cruises and have sailed 6 different cruise lines to compare to. We are active and not ones to sit in a lounge chair during the day.

POSITIVES

We always book balcony cabins, but on this ship the only balconies were jr suite/suites for a lot more $$. Booked an OV room and was apprehensive based on how much smaller they are than typical OV rooms. Pleasantly surprised. Of course, would have preferred more space and a balcony, but the smaller size was not as much of a concern as I anticipated. We were in Cabin 7518 and no issues with noise above or below us. Bathrooms seemed to be standard size ship bathrooms.

Time in Havana extended. Was supposed to be 2 pm Fri - 8 pm Sat. Departure extended to 1 am Sat nt/Sun morning. Essentially giving us 2 overnights. Used the 2nd overnight to enjoy the Malecon by moonlight and a convertible ride thru Havana in the moonlight.

Buffet offered a wide variety of options. Was the best dining option for us. However, the variety didn’t seem to change through out the wk if that makes sense. Each nt they had a different make your own station. One nt was pasta, another was quesadillas; another nt pizza, etc. Our travel mates didn’t care for the buffet in the evenings, though. They felt the buffet was more casserole like dishes and the food was not served warm enough. Perfect example of when you read reviews know that we all have different personalities/preferences and factor that in accordingly.

Brunch in dining room offered 1 free mimosa or Bloody Mary per person on sea days. Have not seen a 1 free drink brunch offered on our other cruises. Was buffet style with more lunch than bkst options. Could get made to order omelettes. Had to request omelettes from your waiter. Service could be slow, though, depending on what time you went. Busy when we arrived, but slow when we left and they often gave us a 2nd drink for free.

Easily able to maintain my vegetarian eating preferences. There is a vegetarian menu in the dining room if you request it. If I eat in the dining room I usually just request one side from one entree and another side from a different entree etc to make my own dish. No issues.

One of our travel mates sleeps with a breathing machine. Sent RCL an email in advance and they had distilled water and an extension cord waiting for her in her cabin. First time to use the special needs email and was skeptical it would work. Pleasantly surprised.

Variety of activities to do on board during the day and evening. Some of them the typical games and shows, but all are good. Love and Marriage has been around forever, but always hilarious. We never felt we we didn't have enough to do and we are busy bodies.

Boarding process for us was a breeze! Walked right in at 1:30. Prefer to arrive earlier bc I’m always so excited. However, the no lines boarding process was much simpler for our group of 8 and many who were first time cruisers.

Good shows in the evenings. Comedians were our favorite followed by the ventriloquist.

We don’t lounge on the deck or by the pool, but seemed to be plenty of deck chairs throughout the ship. Enjoyed hammocks on Deck 11. Don’t think I’ve seen hammock on ships before?

No kids on board. No offense to those with children. Saw probably less than half a dozen kids? Not an itinerary that I think kids would enjoy much? Didn’t seem to be much geared towards kids on port days either?

Happy hour beer specials at pool bar during sail away from port. $4.99 domestic and $5.99 import. Day 5 they offered punch card for (10) 16 oz Heineken for $49. Pretty good deal by cruise standards. Also 2nd to last day offered 10 drinks for $79 + 18% gratuity of course.

Customs at Debarkation was the quickest we’ve ever seen! Did self disembark. No customs forms to fill out. Didn’t need to use the customs app. No global entry line. Didn’t even have to scan our passports at any point. Flashed the passport to an officer, he asked no questions and away we went!


NOTS SO POSITIVES

Note that I labeled this section “not so positive” and did not say “negative”? There’s a difference. None of the below ruined our vacation or would cause me to hesitate to recommend this sailing to others.

Gym was TERRIBLE! 1 elliptical, 3 bikes and 4 treadmills that worked. Several non working treadmills. Some of the treadmills appeared to be fixed mid wk? Free weights, weight machines, etc. Need more equipment even for a small passenger count. No rowing machine. There is room to add a few more ellipticals or bikes or row machine so not sure why they don’t. Walking track on deck 6 is an alternative option for those who like treadmills.

Ship itself and crew had a lot of “polishing” to do. This sailing was primarily seasoned cruisers. Everyone we spoke to commented this was probably the worst RCL they have ever sailed. Would not hesitate to book again bc it provided the BEST Cuban itinerary (2 Cuban cities, 3 total days and 2 overnights in Havana) of all cruise lines. However, go in to it knowing many things may not be up to par with what you are used to with RCL. This trip was a perfect example of why I will NEVER say one line is better than another. It all depends on the ship, the crew, the itinerary and many other factors. Each line seems to have their pros/cons and we will never be loyal to a particular brand for many reasons.

Dining room took 2 hrs for dinner. We only went the 1st and last nt for that reason. Seating was so tight our chairs touched the back of the chairs of the table behind us and we are not large people. In fact I’m 5 ft tall and 95 lbs. Too close for comfort. Rectangular table for 10 made it difficult for socializing with others.

Small cabins compared to other ships. However I will say I was pleasantly surprised the smallness didn’t bother me like I thought.

NO food options between 9-10:30 pm. Nothing. Not that we hadn’t eaten plenty. However, this is “different” than what we’ve experienced before on cruises. There is always something until at least midnight. Husband likes a snack when we go to the cabin for the night so learned to bring something back earlier in the day for bedtime in case we called it a night early during the "no food time zone". Not that we needed anymore food!
cpayne’s Full Rating Summary
Enrichment Activities
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Cabin Review

Ocean View Stateroom
Cabin 4N 7518
Small, but workable. Was not as challenging as had expected. Missed not having shelves in the closet and the few drawers in the cabin were very small.
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