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.
Rooms are very small by todays standards but they are functional.
Embarkation was OK. Disembarkation was terrible. Luggage handling was a disaster.
Lots to do. We took our own tour of the Truman white house. It was very good.
Nothing special. Nice day on a quiet island.