We chose this cruise for the itinerary and value. Only problem is that on this small vessel the only balcony cabins are mini suites and above. The ocean view cabins and inside cabins are pretty small. No couch or easy chair, only the bed and vanity chair to sit on. However, if you are out of your room enjoying the activities and only need to use the bathroom and the bed, it's OK. The ship itself is really nice for the smallest ship in the fleet. The crew does an outstanding job of keeping it well maintained and very clean. It only has one specialty restaurant; Chops, but that's OK too. The bar hubs are the Schooner, and Boleros, with the casino bar handling that area. Viking Crown lounge is not the greatest when comparing to larger ships but it is a very nice area to relax in during the day, unless it's being used for a kids activity or something like that. The fitness area is above the lounge on a balcony that runs around it, accessible only by stairs in the back of the lounge. No criticism, it is what it is.
Food: Our service and food in the main dining room was outstanding. We always choose my time dining so we can eat early, and we got the same table, same waiters and outstanding service every night. We didn't go to chops this time because we always enjoyed the menu the chef selected. Only downside was windjammer lunch. it was good but not outstanding. My breakfast is light, simple and was always good. One huge exception: Chef Kennedy on two days set up a hot dog station. Amazing!!! He makes the best sauce I've ever eaten in my life.
Shows: The production team does two shows. Baileros and Three. Don't miss them. The singers and dancers were amazing. I hope you get this crew. They sing with passion and power and don't scream. Costuming and choreography are perfect. the band is terrific. Our headliners were outstanding.
Cruise director and staff. Steve (from Canada) does a great job. He is experienced, funny, and very well prepared and informative, His activities director Tanya is in a word: "Special." Not short bus special, but she's crazy, fun, wild, outgoing and a great lady. She will make a great cruise director. One team member, Andy, from Great Britain does an Elton John show that will astound you.
Hotel Director John and his staff are to be highly commended for their efforts on keeping the ship clean, safe and sanitary. No one on this cruise came down with so much as a case of indigestion much less a virus. He and his officers were accessible and available for any questions or concerns, no matter how dumb. And believe me, on this cruise I did hear some dumb questions.
So to RCCL, the staff and crew of the Empress of the Seas: THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!!
Small but it serves the purpose. the bed is very comfortable, pillows nice. The only amenities in the bathroom are bar soap by the sink and combo shampoo/body wash in the shower. Bring your own if you want more. TV channels are marginal. But you aren't there to watch TV are you?
Key West is Key West. A great little town to take a long walk. Some nice things to see. Great Art stores down south on Duvall.
Some of the Best snorkeling in the world. However on our trip, the weather was crummy and prevented me from enjoying it. If you choose to do something else, book an excursion either locally or on the ship. If you choose to wander to down town, it's very third world. I didn't feel comfortable three blocks away from the port.
Some good shopping, a starbucks and nice pool. not much else. No big deal
Cozumel is Cozumel. Nothing great, nothing horrible. Once you've shopped the main avenue a few times, you can enjoy a great Starbucks and some good food and beverages. I've never taken an excursion. However if you are a young or young at heart couple and adventurous, rent a scooter. It's a blast.
You have to tender in. The excursions are all day. The cruise director said, and it is very true: "It will be the best port of call or the worst port of call." Belize city is nothing to see. And that's being kind. According to those that took excursions, Belize country is beautiful.