My wife, her sister and I have taken a Thanksgiving Day cruise for the last few years. In planning this year we planned on Cuba and Grand Cayman and found the Royal Caribbean had one aboard the Empress of the Sea. We booked a suite and were looking forward to it. Then the US Government banned cruises to Cuba. Royal contacted us and asked if we were interested in a full refund or take a new itinerary at half price. Although the new itinerary was not inspiring, Key West, Grand Cayman, and Labadee, we chose to stay with it since my sister in law had never swum with the Sting Rays.
Day one in Miami was well organized and we were on the ship in no time at all. The room was nice and had two balconies and a spacious, for a ship, bathroom.
We had chosen anytime dining and the food and service were very good.
The next morning I got up early and went to the Windjammer for some breakfast. It is small and was quite crowded. I am not big on breakfast food so I had some bacon and fruit.
During the cruise, we ate breakfast and lunch in the Windjammer except for one day when we ate breakfast in Chops. The food in Chops was better than the Windjammer but the service was very slow.
By and large, the food in the Windjammer, breakfast, and lunch was lacking. It was often cold to slightly warm at best.
The second day we had room service breakfast on the balcony. We stayed on the balcony for a couple of hours and went inside. We soon discovered we had a black substance on our clothes and we had tracked it inside as well. It was soot from the ship’s stack. Apparently, this was known to happen but we were never informed that the suite we had was one where it was best not to use the balcony. Not to be deterred however, we were given a large number of pool towels to put over the chairs when we wanted to use the balcony. Our clothes were taken to the laundry and cleaned complimentary. Or so we were told. Funny, there is a charge for laundry on my bill.
The real problem began early on Thanksgiving Day when the toilet became inoperative. Three visits from a plumber to no avail. We were forced to go up two floors or down two floors to use the facilities. At 4 am Friday morning I got up and dressed to go down two decks to use the facilities. When I went to wash my hands I discovered there was no water. I went to every public men's room on that ship, no water. I went to our cabin and sure enough no water. About 7 am there was water. However, while there was water, there was no hot water. I went to customer service and reported it and was told they would tell maintenance a couple of hours later, we had hot water.
Around noon we received a call from the Diamond Ambassador apologizing for all the issues. He informed us that they were still working on the toilet issue and would be giving us “a 20% discount on our next cruise”. Later that evening we received this discount offer in writing. It had become 20% of the cost of this cruise toward a future cruise booked within a year. That is less then what I spent on wine. Thanks but no thanks.
About 3 pm the toilet finally was operative.
Thankfully disembarking was very well organized and we were off the ship by 8:30.
There is more that could dwell on, such as the lack of enforcement in rules such as dress codes in the dining room or food in the hot tubs, but why? My wife and I quit counting the number of cruises we have been on when we hit 50. This will go down as one of the worst,
Large with separate sleeping and setting areas. Two balconies facing aft. BEWARE, soot from the stack rains down.