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!
Cabin was small, yes but the view was great. The beds were comfortable and there was plenty of closet space. Suitcases fit nicely under the beds.
Very cool port! We took the Jagua Fortress tour and it was very informative- we were never bored. Unfortunately we almost died from heat exhaustion. The only place you will encounter AC is on the bus and you actually spend very little time on the bus.